Thermal Energy Storage Using Phase Change Materials in Corrugated Copper Panels



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Thermal energy storage systems, precisely latent thermal energy storage (LTES), are systems capable of recovering and storing thermal energy from waste processes, including hot exhaust gases out of combustion engines, or even renewable sources of energy like solar energy. LTES rely on phase change materials (PCMs) to store a significant amount of thermal energy in a relatively small volume. With limited volume and at almost constant temperature, they are capable of storing a large amount of thermal energy, mainly latent energy. Studies of LTES systems have focused primarily on system and process optimization including transient behavior as well as field performance. A major drawback in the development of the use of PCM in LTES has been the low thermal conductivity characteristic of most PCMs. Thus, there is a need to enhance heat transfer using reliable techniques, with the goal of reducing the charging and discharging times of PCM in LTES systems. Some approaches that have been studied in the past include use of finned tubes, insertion of metal matrix into PCM, and microencapsulation of PCM. The performance of TES configurations in forced convection have been characterized using Reynolds numbers (Re), and Stefan numbers (Ste) of the heat transfer fluid (HTF) for different enhancement techniques. The goal of this study is to experimentally investigate the effectiveness of corrugated PCM panels with high surface-to-volume ratio in forced convection as a function of HTF mass flow rate, charging temperature, and flow direction through a corrugated TES unit. The PCM (octadecane) has been segmented using sealed corrugated panels containing several channels immersed in the HTF stream. With this approach, the author expects that the charging and discharging times will be substantially reduced due to the high surface-to-volume ratio of the PCM panel for heat transfer. Of the three conditions examined, the HTF direction influenced the charging and discharging times the most with significant reductions in these times observed when the HTF flow direction through the TES was upwards. Buoyancy effects, observed at high Stefan numbers, were important during the charging (melting) process and greatly influenced the temperature profiles along each channel. Results indicate that the devised TES is more effective than some other TES systems in the literature.