International Journal of Energy Research, Vol.43, No.9, 4295-4311, 2019
Heat transfer analysis of receiver for large aperture parabolic trough solar collector
Parabolic trough solar collector (PTSC) is one of the most proven technologies for large-scale solar thermal power generation. Currently, the cost of power generation from PTSC is expensive as compared with conventional power generation. The capital/power generation cost can be reduced by increasing aperture sizes of the collector. However, increase in aperture of the collector leads to higher heat flux on the absorber surface and results in higher thermal gradient. Hence, the analysis of heat distribution from the absorber to heat transfer fluid (HTF) and within the absorber is essential to identify the possibilities of failure of the receiver. In this article, extensive heat transfer analysis (HTA) of the receiver is performed for various aperture diameter of a PTSC using commercially available computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software ANSYS Fluent 19.0. The numerical simulations of the receiver are performed to analyze the temperature distribution around the circumference of the absorber tube as well as along the length of tube, the rate of heat transfer from the absorber tube to the HTF, and heat losses from the receiver for various geometric and operating conditions such as collector aperture diameter, mass flow rate, heat loss coefficient (HLC), HTF, and its inlet temperature. It is observed that temperature gradient around the circumference of the absorber and heat losses from the receiver increases with collector aperture. The temperature gradient around the circumference of the absorber tube wall at 2 m length from the inlet are observed as 11, 37, 48, 74, and 129 K, respectively, for 2.5-, 5-, 5.77-, 7.5-, and 10-m aperture diameter of PTSC at mass flow rate of 1.25 kg/s and inlet temperature of 300 K for therminol oil as HTF. To minimize the thermal gradient around the absorber circumference, HTFs with better heat transfer characteristics are explored such as molten salt, liquid sodium, and NaK78. Liquid sodium offers a significant reduction in temperature gradient as compared of other HTFs for all the aperture sizes of the collector. It is found that the temperature gradient around the circumference of the absorber tube wall at a length of 2 m is reduced to 4, 8, 10, 13, and 18 K, respectively, for the above-mentioned mass flow rate with liquid sodium as HTF. The analyses are also performed for different HTF inlet temperature in order to study the behavior of the receiver. Based on the HTA, it is desired to have larger aperture parabolic trough collector to generate higher temperature from the solar field and reduce the capital cost. To achieve higher temperature and better performance of the receiver, HTF with good thermophysical properties may be preferable to minimize the heat losses and thermal gradient around the circumference of the absorber tube.