Thermal Optimization of Flat Plate PCM Capsules in Natural Convection Solar Water Heating Systems Conferences uri icon

  • Overview


  • This research is concerned with CFD modelling of thermal energy storage tanks containing water with submerged phase change materials (PCM). Under appropriate operating conditions, the energy density of this hybrid system can be significantly increased (two to five times) relative to a system containing water only. However, due to low thermal conductivity of phase change materials, the geometry and configurations of the PCM capsules in the tank should be optimized. This research focused on the assessment of flat plate PCM modules submerged in a rectangular water tank. The encapsulation of the PCM within the slender flat plates resulted in a large PCM surface area and a reduction in the internal heat transfer resistance. The water was heated by coils placed at the bottom of the tank. The resulting natural convection currents acted to transfer heat from the hot coils to the PCM modules which were treated as isothermal at the PCM melt temperature. It is concluded that the charge rate of the system increases to 2.8 times by increasing the PCM volume percentage from 2.5% to 15%. However for PCM volume percentages of more than 15%, the area of the PCM became much more than the area of the coil (around 15 times) in a way that the charge rate of the system started to be controlled by the coil. In this stage, the charge rate of the system remained constant, and adding modules to the system only increased the heat capacity of the system. Therefore the charge rate of the system could only increase if the coil surface area was increased. The heat transfer coefficients of the PCM modules and coil tubes were higher than those evaluated by the experimental correlations for natural convection. This was due to the recirculation of the flow in the tank “pumping effect” created by the coil for PCM modules and by the PCM modules for the coil. It was also concluded that superheating of the PCM surface temperature decreases the heat transfer rate to the PCM significantly, and the charge rate of the system varies linearly with the temperature difference between the PCM modules and the coil.

publication date

  • 2014