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Title: Using Encapsulated Phase Change Material in Thermal Energy Storage for Baseload Concentrating Solar Power (EPCM-TES)

Terrafore successfully demonstrated and optimized the manufacturing of capsules containing phase-changing inorganic salts. The phase change was used to store thermal energy collected from a concentrating solar-power plant as latent heat. This latent heat, in addition to sensible heat increased the energy density (energy stored per unit weight of salt) by over 50%, thus requiring 40% less salt and over 60% less capsule container. Therefore, the cost to store high-temperature thermal energy collected in a concentrating solar power plant will be reduced by almost 40% or more, as compared to conventional two-tank, sensible-only storage systems. The cost for thermal energy storage (TES) system is expected to achieve the Sun Shot goal of $15 per kWh(t). Costs associated with poor heat-transfer in phase change materials (PCM) were also eliminated. Although thermal energy storage that relies on the latent heat of fusion of PCM improves energy density by as much as 50%, upon energy discharge the salt freezes and builds on the heat transfer surfaces. Since these salts have low thermal conductivity, large heat-transfer areas, or larger conventional heat-exchangers are needed, which increases costs. By encapsulating PCM in small capsules we have increased the heat transfer area per unit volume of saltmore » and brought the heat transfer fluid in direct contact with the capsules. These two improvements have increased the heat transfer coefficient and boosted heat transfer. The program was successful in overcoming the phenomenon of melt expansion in the capsules, which requires the creation of open volume in the capsules or shell to allow for expansion of the molten salt on melting and is heated above its melting point to 550°C. Under contract with the Department of Energy, Terrafore Inc. and Southwest Research Institute, developed innovative method(s) to economically create the open volume or void in the capsule. One method consists of using a sacrificial polymer coating as the middle layer between the salt prill and the shell material. The selected polymer decomposes at temperatures below the melting point of the salt and forms gases which escape through the pores in the capsule shell thus leaving a void in the capsule. We have demonstrated the process with a commonly used inorganic nitrate salt in a low-cost shell material that can withstand over 10,000 high-temperature thermal cycles, or a thirty-year or greater life in a solar plant. The shell used to encapsulate the salt was demonstrated to be compatible with molten salt heat transfer fluid typically used in CSP plants to temperatures up to 600 °C. The above findings have led to the concept of a cascaded arrangement. Salts with different melting points can be encapsulated using the same recipe and contained in a packed bed by cascading the salt melting at higher melting point at the top over the salt melting at lower melting point towards the bottom of the tank. This cascaded energy storage is required to effectively transfer the sensible heat collected in heat transfer fluids between the operating temperatures and utilize the latent heat of fusion in the salts inside the capsule. Mathematical models indicate that over 90% of the salts will undergo phase change by using three salts in equal proportion. The salts are selected such that the salt at the top of the tank melts at about 15°C below the high operating-temperature, and the salt at the bottom of the tank melts 15°C above the low operating-temperature. The salt in the middle of tank melts in-between the operating temperature of the heat transfer fluid. A cascaded arrangement leads to the capture of 90% of the latent-heat of fusion of salts and their sensible heats. Thus the energy density is increased by over 50% from a sensible-only, two-tank thermal energy storage. Furthermore, the Terrafore cascaded storage method requires only one tank as opposed to the two-tanks used in sensible heat storage. Since heat is transferred from the heat transfer fluid by direct contact with capsules, external heat-exchangers are not required for charging storage. Thus, the cost of the thermal storage system is reduced due to smaller containers and less salt. The optimum salt proportions, their melting temperature and the number of salts in the cascade are determined by raw materials costs and the mathematical model. We estimate the processing cost of the encapsulation to be low, where the major cost of the capsule will be the cost of the phase-change salt(s). Our economic analyses show that the cost of EPCM-TES is about $17.98 per kWh(t), which is about 40% lower than the $28.36 per kWh(t) for a two-tank sensible heat TES for a large scale CSP-TES design. Finally, additional improvements in the heat-transfer fluids, currently in development elsewhere will further improve the energy density to achieve the SunShot goal of $15 per kWh(t).« less
  1. Terrafore Technologies LLC, Minneapolis, MN (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
None; Final Report (Public)
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Terrafore Inc., Minneapolis, MN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
14 SOLAR ENERGY Encapsulated, Phase Change Material, Thermal energy storage, Cost-effective, high temperature PCM, Molten salt, Concentrating Solar Power CSP, Latent heat of fusion, EPCM, Terrafore