Energy and Climate
Energy and ClimateECEnergyRenewable EnergySolarConcentrating Solar PowerSandia Labs Harnesses the Sun’s Energy with Tiny Particles

Sandia Labs Harnesses the Sun’s Energy with Tiny Particles

Joshua Mark Christian (Concentrating Solar Technologies Dept.) working with the falling particle receiver, which more efficiently converts the sun’s energy to electricity in large-scale, concentrating solar power plants. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Joshua Mark Christian (Concentrating Solar Technologies Dept.) working with the falling particle receiver, which more efficiently converts the sun’s energy to electricity in large-scale, concentrating solar power plants. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Engineers at Sandia, along with part­ner institutions Georgia Tech, Bucknell University, King Saud University, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are using a falling-particle receiver to more efficiently convert solar energy to electri­city in large-scale, concentrating solar power (CSP) plants.

Falling-particle receiver technology is attractive because it can cost-effectively capture and store heat at higher temperatures without breaking down, which is an issue for conventional molten salts. The falling-particle receiver devel­oped at Sandia drops sand-like ceramic particles through a beam of concentrated sunlight, and cap­tures and stores the heated particles in an insulated container below.

The technique enables oper­ating temperatures of nearly 1,000 °C. Such high temperatures translate into greater availability of energy and cheaper storage costs because at higher temperatures, less heat-transfer material is needed.

Cliff Ho (Concentrating Solar Technologies Dept.), principal investigator of the Falling Particle Receiver project, will be available to discuss his work at the 2013 SolarPACES conference in Las Vegas (September 17–20). Dr. Ho recent­ly earned a R&D 100 Award for his Solar Glare Hazard Analysis Tool. Several Sandia researchers, in­cluding

  • Chuck Andraka (Concentrating Solar Technologies Dept., large-scale optical metrology and modeling) and
  • David Gill (Concentrating Solar Technologies Dept., thermal energy storage)

will also be available to discuss other Sandia innovations in CSP and ongoing work at the newly renovated National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF).

Read the Sandia news release.

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