Performance comparison of latent heat storage systems comprising plate fins with different shell and tube configurations
Abstract For design and optimization purposes, understanding the performance characteristics of different configurations of PCM systems during charging and discharging processes is crucial, particularly for thermal storage in CSP. A numerical study using FLUENT has been performed to explore and compare the characteristics and behavior of PCM in different shell and tube configurations; namely counter flow and parallel flow in vertical and horizontal orientations. These designs have been compared with that of an alternative design using plate fins. The main practical advantage of the alternative design is decoupling the PCM location from the path of flow of the heat transfer fluid that reduces the constraints on the materials. Confined heating/cooling pipes in a channel at the bottom of the PCM enclosure makes it more flexible to match the required working pressures, and simplifies the design and material (PCM/plate) selection. This is a significant issue as higher temperatures and pressures are being required for improving the overall solar thermal system performance. Based on the same heat transfer area, amount of PCM and input energy, a performance comparison was determined based on exergy maximization. Using sodium nitrate as the PCM, the results show a higher heat transfer rate for the vertical arrangement of plate fins compared to the counter flow shell and tube configurations, as well as a more uniform heat transfer rate compared to all shell and tube arrangements for both the charging and discharging processes. The proposed design leads to less redundant PCM, as well as a smaller and more cost effective PCM system as a heat storage unit. Overall, the vertical plate fin configuration maximizes the useful heat that can be extracted for a given amount of heat and PCM, which has direct applicability to thermal storage solutions for CSP and other applications. Moreover, its modular design facilitates the selection and optimisation for different scales and applications e.g. as a heat storage for electricity production or as a protection system for a receiver from high thermal stresses in a CSP plant. Highlights Comprehensive thermal performance comparison of latent heat storage systems. Higher rate of natural convection and more uniform process in vertical fin plate. Better thermal performance in charging and discharging with fin plate system. Lower entropy generation in fin plate design, reducing system size and cost. New knowledge for design of a latent heat storage system for high working pressure.
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