Modeling of Falling-Particle Solar Receivers for Hydrogen Production and Thermochemical Energy Storage
Jackson, Gregory S.
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One of the most important components in a solar-thermal power plant is the central receiver where concentrated solar energy is absorbed in a medium for storage and eventual use in power generation or fuel production. Current state-of-the-art receivers are not appropriate for future power-plant designs due to limited operating temperatures. The solid-particle receiver (SPR) has been proposed as an alternative architecture that can achieve very high temperatures (above 1500 °C) with high efficiency, while avoiding many of the thermal stress issues that plague alternative architectures. The SPR works by having a flow of solid particles free-fall through a cavity receiver while directly illuminated to absorb the solar energy. Because of the high operating temperatures that can be achieved, along with the ability to continuously flow a stream of solid reactant, the SPR has the potential for use as a reactor for either chemical storage of solar energy or fuel production as part of a solar water-splitting cycle. While the operation of the SPR is relatively simple, analysis is complicated by the many physical phenomena in the receiver, including radiation-dominated heat transfer, couple gas-particle flow, and inter-phase species transport via reaction. This work aims to demonstrate a set modeling tools for characterizing the operation of a solid particle receiver, as well as an analysis of the key operating parameters. A inert receiver model is developed using a semi-empirical gas-phase model and the surface-to-surface radiation model modified to account for interaction with the particle curtain. A detailed thermo-kinetic model is developed for undoped-ceria, a popular material for research into solar fuel production. The inert-receiver model is extended to integrate this kinetic model, and further used to evaluate the potential of perovskite materials to enhance the storage capability of the receiver. A modified undoped ceria model is derived and implemented via custom user functions in the context of a computational fluid dynamics simulation of the receiver using the discrete-ordinates method for radiation transfer. These modeling efforts provide a basis for in-depth analysis of the key operating parameters that influence the performance of the solid-particle receiver.