The U. S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has awarded $3.4 million to the Georgia Institute of Technology as part of the agency's goal to advance high-temperature concentrating solar power (CSP) systems research. The university was one of eight recipients selected to develop either component-level technology or utilize cross-cutting research capabilities that support the creation of a successful, integrated testing site.
Five faculty members of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering submitted the award-winning proposals: Assistant professor Shannon Yee (principal investigator) and Research Engineer Andrey Gunawan will receive $2 million. The Solar Energy Technologies Office will also fund research led by assistant professor Peter Loutzenhiser (principal investigator), associate professor Devesh Ranjan, and professor Zhuomin Zhang with an award of $1.4 million.
The Solar Energy Technologies Office supports the development of research that seeks to lower costs, increase efficiency, and improve the reliability of solar energy technologies. Concentrated solar power technologies collect the sun's energy as heat that can be stored and used to produce power at a later date. In addition to providing energy storage options, CSP technologies are also moving into emerging markets that include process heat, solar fuels, and desalination. In short, according to the Department of Energy, concentrating solar power could provide the flexibility and reliability the nation's electric grid needs.
"The energy sector is undergoing one of its greatest transformations in history, with dramatic growth in high-efficiency, low-cost, clean technologies. Our Georgia Tech energy researchers are successfully developing innovative new ways to harness the power of the sun to produce renewable energy supplies at an affordable price," said Tim Lieuwen, Strategic Energy Institute executive director. "This research funded by this award is particularly beneficial to our state. Georgia is the 8th largest producer of solar energy in the U.S. and is among the top three in solar installations, giving rise to the need for research that supports and utilizes this growth."
Loutzenhiser and Ranjan are leading research that will address a knowledge gap within the field of particulate flows for CSP applications. The team will characterize the flow and heat transfer of particulate media over a range of operating conditions, including temperature, particle size, and construction material. Yee and Gunawan were recognized for their efforts in researching thermophysical property measurements of heat transfer media and containment materials that will ultimately provide the necessary data to design and operate a future Gen 3 CSP system. This team will look at thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity, and specific heat across the range of temperatures and materials of interest to Gen 3 CSP systems.
"Much of the Gen3 thermal system relies on accurate knowledge of thermophysical properties that are not readily available in current literature and appropriate measurement techniques that are not commercially available," said Andrey Gunawan, who works closely with Assistant Professor Shannon Yee to research concentrated solar power. "This project brings the fundamental science and thermal engineering innovations necessary to realize these techniques, complete detailed thermal-composition studies, and compile the results into an open and freely accessible public database – essentially a go-to resource for high-temperature thermophysical properties."
The total amount of funding from the Department of Energy for new projects to advance high-temperature CSP technologies is $72 million. These projects will extend previous research on high-temperature components, develop them into integrated assemblies, and test these components and systems through a wide range of operational conditions.
Read more about the Gen3 CSP funding program