Optical and Thermal Analysis of a Heteroconical Tubular Cavity Solar Receiver

Master Thesis

2018

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The principal objective of this study is to develop, investigate and optimise the Heteroconical Tubular Cavity receiver for a parabolic trough reflector. This study presents a three-stage development process which allowed for the development, investigation and optimisation of the Heteroconical receiver. The first stage of development focused on the investigation into the optical performance of the Heteroconical receiver for different geometric configurations. The effect of cavity geometry on the heat flux distribution on the receiver absorbers as well as on the optical performance of the Heteroconical cavity was investigated. The cavity geometry was varied by varying the cone angle and cavity aperture width of the receiver. This investigation led to identification of optical characteristics of the Heteroconical receiver as well as an optically optimised geometric configuration for the cavity shape of the receiver. The second stage of development focused on the thermal and thermodynamic performance of the Heteroconical receiver for different geometric configurations. This stage of development allowed for the investigation into the effect of cavity shape and concentration ratio on the thermal performance of the Heteroconical receiver. The identification of certain thermal characteristics of the receiver further optimised the shape of the receiver cavity for thermal performance during the second stage of development. The third stage of development and optimisation focused on the absorber tubes of the Heteroconical receiver. This enabled further investigation into the effect of tube diameter on the total performance of the Heteroconical receiver and led to an optimal inner tube diameter for the receiver under given operating conditions. In this work, the thermodynamic performance, conjugate heat transfer and fluid flow of the Heteroconical receiver were analysed by solving the computational governing Equations set out in this work known as the Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) Equations as well as the energy Equation by utilising the commercially available CFD code, ANSYS FLUENT®. The optical model of the receiver which modelled the optical performance and produced the nonuniform actual heat flux distribution on the absorbers of the receiver was numerically modelled by solving the rendering Equation using the Monte-Carlo ray tracing method. SolTrace - a raytracing software package developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), commonly used to analyse CSP systems, was utilised for modelling the optical response and performance of the Heteroconical receiver. These actual non-uniform heat flux distributions were applied in the CFD code by making use of user-defined functions for the thermal model and analysis of the Heteroconical receiver. The numerical model was applied to a simple parabolic trough receiver and reflector and validated against experimental data available in the literature, and good agreement was achieved. It was found that the Heteroconical receiver was able to significantly reduce the amount of reradiation losses as well as improve the uniformity of the heat flux distribution on the absorbers. The receiver was found to produce thermal efficiencies of up to 71% and optical efficiencies of up to 80% for practically sized receivers. The optimal receiver was compared to a widely used parabolic trough receiver, a vacuum tube receiver. It was found that the optimal Heteroconical receiver performed, on average, 4% more efficiently than the vacuum tube receiver across the temperature range of 50-210℃. In summary, it was found that the larger a Heteroconical receiver is the higher its optical efficiency, but the lower its thermal efficiency. Hence, careful consideration needs to be taken when determining cone angle and concentration ratio of the receiver. It was found that absorber tube diameter does not have a significant effect on the performance of the receiver, but its position within the cavity does have a vital role in the performance of the receiver. The Heteroconical receiver was found to successfully reduce energy losses and was found to be a successfully high performance solar thermal tubular cavity receiver.
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