Research: Concentrating Sunlight
Advanced heat transfer fluids for concentrated solar power (CSP)
To make CSP technology cost competitive with traditional energy generation technologies, researchers are pursuing several strategies to increase the overall efficiency and reduce costs. One such area is in the development of advanced heat transfer fluids (HTFs) and thermal storage systems. Current high temperature energy storage fluids such as molten salts or organics are limited in terms of their thermal energy storage capacity. When the sun sets each evening demand for electricity persists, and with CSP systems that electricity can be generated at night by thermally storing the energy captured during the day. To make CSP cost competitive, it is estimated that an average of 16 h of storage would be required. Development of HTFs with enhanced heat transfer properties, superior solar (optical) to thermal energy conversion characteristics, and high heat capacity thermal storage fluids will have several beneficial effects. Advanced HTFs will reduce the overall thermal storage costs, increase system efficiency, reduce structural storage volume, and contribute in bringing solar power generation costs in line with other conventional power generation sources. In this regard, Argonne scientists are developing next generation HTFs by incorporating multifunctional, engineered nanoparticles and incorporating them in a HTF. These advanced HTFs as a single medium will play the dual role of an efficient heat transfer fluid as well as a thermal energy storage system.