Research Papers

Trends and Opportunities in Direct-Absorption Solar Thermal Collectors

[+] Author and Article Information
Patrick Phelan

School for Engineering of Matter,
Transport & Energy,
Arizona State University,
501 E. Tyler Mall, ECG 303,
Tempe, AZ 85287-6106
e-mail: phelan@asu.edu

Todd Otanicar

Mechanical Engineering Department,
University of Tulsa,
800 South Tucker Drive,
Tulsa, OK 74104-3189
e-mail: todd-otanicar@utulsa.edu

Robert Taylor

School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering,
University of New South Wales,
UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
e-mail: Robert.Taylor@UNSW.edu.au

Himanshu Tyagi

School of Mechanical, Materials & Energy Engineering,
Indian Institute of Technology Ropar,
Nangal Road,
Rupnagar-140001 (Punjab), India
e-mail: himanshu.tyagi@iitrpr.ac.in

Manuscript received October 3, 2012; final manuscript received February 26, 2013; published online May 17, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Srinath V. Ekkad.

J. Thermal Sci. Eng. Appl 5(2), 021003 (May 17, 2013) (9 pages) Paper No: TSEA-12-1166; doi: 10.1115/1.4023930 History: Received October 03, 2012; Revised February 26, 2013

Efficient conversion of sunlight into useful heat or work is of increasing global interest. Solar-to-thermal energy conversion, as opposed to solar-to-electricity, is enabled by solar thermal collectors that convert sunlight into heat at some useful temperature. We review here recent developments in solar thermal energy conversion. Our emphasis is on “direct-absorption” solar thermal collectors, in which incident sunlight is absorbed directly by a working fluid. This contrasts with conventional solar thermal collectors where the sunlight strikes and is absorbed by a solid receiver, which then transfers heat to the working fluid. Both liquid-based and gas-based direct-absorption collectors are described, although liquid-based systems are emphasized. We propose that if “direct-absorption” technologies could be developed further, it would open up a number of emerging opportunities, including applications exploiting thermochemical and photocatalytic reactions and direct absorption of a binary fluid for absorption refrigeration.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Common base fluids used in heat transfer applications—most are transparent

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Techno-economic trends with temperature for direct-absorption systems, where ηcollection is collection efficiency and ηconversion is conversion efficiency

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Concept demonstrated by Adleman et al. [108] for reformation of ethanol

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Proposed concept using nanofluid for direct absorption of sunlight and subsequent reformation of ethanol

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Schematic of photocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons using solar energy proposed by Varghese et al. [115] and Roy et al. [116]

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Proposed direct-absorption generator for absorption cooling



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