Applicability of nanofluids in high flux solar collectors

Robert A. Taylor, Patrick Phelan, Todd P. Otanicar, Chad A. Walker, Monica Nguyen, Steven Trimble, Ravi Prasher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

332 Scopus citations


Concentrated solar energy has become the input for an increasing number of experimental and commercial thermal systems over the past 10-15 years [M. Thirugnanasambandam, Renewable Sustainable Energy Rev. 14 (2010)]. Recent papers have indicated that the addition of nanoparticles to conventional working fluids (i.e., nanofluids) can improve heat transfer and solar collection [H. Tyagi, J. Sol. Energy Eng. 131, 4 (2009); P. E. Phelan, Annu. Rev. Heat Transfer 14 (2005)]. This work indicates that power tower solar collectors could benefit from the potential efficiency improvements that arise from using a nanofluid working fluid. A notional design of this type of nanofluid receiver is presented. Using this design, we show a theoretical nanofluid enhancement in efficiency of up to 10% as compared to surface-based collectors when solar concentration ratios are in the range of 100-1000. Furthermore, our analysis shows that graphite nanofluids with volume fractions on the order of 0.001% or less are suitable for 10-100MWe power plants. Experiments on a laboratory-scale nanofluid dish receiver suggest that up to 10% increase in efficiency is possible (relative to a conventional fluid)-if operating conditions are chosen carefully. Lastly, we use these findings to compare the energy and revenue generated in a conventional solar thermal plant to a nanofluid-based one. It is found that a 100MWe capacity solar thermal power tower operating in a solar resource similar to Tucson, AZ, could generate ∼$3.5 million more per year by incorporating a nanofluid receiver.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number023104
JournalJournal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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