Sandia’s NSTTF to test new particle receiver technology

September 16, 2020 6:58 pm Published by

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions recently awarded $750,000 to Sandia National Laboratories to help test German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) Centrifugal Receiver (The CentRec).

“DLR has tested The CentRec at low power levels, but not the higher levels that the NSTTF can provide,” said Joshua Christian, Test Operations Engineer at the National Solar Thermal Testing Facility (NSTTF). “We can bring The CentRec to our facility, test it in high heat flux conditions and gather performance data that we can take back to industry for advancing the commercialization of solar concentrating power technology.”

The CentRec setup at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Image courtesy of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

DLR developed the rotating receiver, which sits at the top of a solar tower and uses centrifugal force to control particle flow as the dark bauxite particles are directly irradiated from the solar flux, Christian said.  When heated, the particles can be used to generate power, used in process heat, or used to store heat for future electrical demand.

Today’s CSP power plants use molten salt or steam to transfer heat to power facilities and generate electricity, Christian said, however, these fluids function at much lower temperatures (500°C-600°C), due to the risk of corrosion or decomposition of materials.

The CentRec’s high-temperature potential using particles could one day help to reduce power production costs between 10% and 20%, as well as improve efficiency in storage, the engineer said.

“The ability to heat particles to extremely high temperatures, up to 1000°C, can enable higher efficiency power cycles, which reduces the cost of electricity production,” Christian said.

The planning process to move and assemble The CentRec started this summer (June-July 2020) and testing is expected to start during the second half of 2021.

To learn more about the NSTTF/CentRec project, contact Principal Investigator Henk Laubscher. For more information on concentrating solar power and the NSTTF, visit Read more about The CentRec at DLR.

The CentRec receiver at the solar tower in Julich, Germany. Image courtesy of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).