Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New material, manufacturing process use sun's heat for cheaper renewable electricity

22.10.2018

Solar power accounts for less than 2 percent of U.S. electricity but could make up more than that if the cost of electricity generation and energy storage for use on cloudy days and at nighttime were cheaper.

A Purdue University-led team developed a new material and manufacturing process that would make one way to use solar power - as heat energy - more efficient in generating electricity.


A recent development would make electricity generation from the sun's heat more efficient, by using ceramic-metal plates for heat transfer at higher temperatures and at elevated pressures.

Credit: Purdue University illustration/Raymond Hassan

The innovation is an important step for putting solar heat-to-electricity generation in direct cost competition with fossil fuels, which generate more than 60 percent of electricity in the U.S.

"Storing solar energy as heat can already be cheaper than storing energy via batteries, so the next step is reducing the cost of generating electricity from the sun's heat with the added benefit of zero greenhouse gas emissions," said Kenneth Sandhage, Purdue's Reilly Professor of Materials Engineering.

The research, which was done at Purdue in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, published in the journal Nature. A YouTube video is available at https://youtu.be/PMC3EE19ouw.

This work aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration, acknowledging the university's global advancements made for a sustainable economy and planet as part of Purdue's 150th anniversary. This is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration's Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

Solar power doesn't only generate electricity via panels in farms or on rooftops. Another option is concentrated power plants that run on heat energy.

Concentrated solar power plants convert solar energy into electricity by using mirrors or lenses to concentrate a lot of light onto a small area, which generates heat that is transferred to a molten salt. Heat from the molten salt is then transferred to a "working" fluid, supercritical carbon dioxide, that expands and works to spin a turbine for generating electricity.

To make solar-powered electricity cheaper, the turbine engine would need to generate even more electricity for the same amount of heat, which means the engine needs to run hotter.

The problem is that heat exchangers, which transfer heat from the hot molten salt to the working fluid, are currently made of stainless steel or nickel-based alloys that get too soft at the desired higher temperatures and at the elevated pressure of supercritical carbon dioxide.

Inspired by the materials his group had previously combined to make "composite" materials that can handle high heat and pressure for applications like solid-fuel rocket nozzles, Sandhage worked with Asegun Henry, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to conceive of a similar composite for more robust heat exchangers.

Two materials showed promise together as a composite: The ceramic zirconium carbide, and the metal tungsten.

Purdue researchers created plates of the ceramic-metal composite. The plates host customizable channels for tailoring the exchange of heat, based on simulations of the channels conducted at Georgia Tech by Devesh Ranjan's team.

Mechanical tests by Edgar Lara-Curzio's team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and corrosion tests by Mark Anderson's team at Wisconsin-Madison helped show that this new composite material could be tailored to successfully withstand the higher temperature, high-pressure supercritical carbon dioxide needed for generating electricity more efficiently than today's heat exchangers.

An economic analysis by Georgia Tech and Purdue researchers also showed that the scaled-up manufacturing of these heat exchangers could be conducted at comparable or lower cost than for stainless steel or nickel alloy-based ones.

"Ultimately, with continued development, this technology would allow for large-scale penetration of renewable solar energy into the electricity grid," Sandhage said. "This would mean dramatic reductions in man-made carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production."

###

A patent application has been filed for this advancement. The work is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, which has also recently awarded additional funding for further development and scaling up the technology.

ABSTRACT

Ceramic-metal composites for heat exchangers in concentrated solar power plants

M. Caccia1#, M. Tabandeh-Khorshid1#, G. Itskos1#, A. R. Strayer1#, A. S. Caldwell1, S. Pidaparti2, S. Singnisai1, A. D. Rohskopf2, A. M. Schroeder3, D. Jarrahbashi2, T. Kang2, S. Sahoo1, N. R. Kadasala1, A. Marquez-Rossy4, M. H. Anderson3, E. Lara-Curzio4, D. Ranjan2, A. Henry2, K. H. Sandhage1*

1Purdue University
2Georgia Institute of Technology
3University of Wisconsin-Madison
4Oak Ridge National Laboratory
#These authors contributed equally to this work.

*Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to K.H.S. (e-mail: sandhage@purdue.edu)

http://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0593-1

The efficiency of generating electricity from heat using concentrated solar power plants (which use mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight in order to drive heat engines, usually involving turbines) may be appreciably increased by operating with higher turbine inlet temperatures, but this would require improved heat-exchanger materials. By operating turbines with inlet temperatures above 1,023 kelvin using closed-cycle high-pressure supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) recompression cycles instead of using conventional (such as subcritical steam Rankine) cycles with inlet temperatures below 823 kelvin1-3, the relative heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency may be increased by more than 20 per cent. The resulting reduction in the cost of dispatchable electricity from concentrated solar power plants (coupled with thermal energy storage4-6) would be an important step towards direct competition with fossil-fuel-based plants and a large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions7. However, the inlet temperatures of closed-cycle high-pressure sCO2 turbine systems are limited8 by the thermomechanical performance of the compact, metal-alloy-based, printed-circuit-type heat exchangers used to transfer heat to sCO2. Here we present a robust composite of ceramic (zirconium carbide, ZrC) and the refractory metal tungsten (W) for use in printed-circuit-type heat exchangers at temperatures above 1,023 kelvin9. This composite has attractive high-temperature thermal, mechanical and chemical properties and can be processed in a cost-effective manner. We fabricated ZrC/W-based heat-exchanger plates with tunable channel patterns by the shape-and-size-preserving chemical conversion of porous tungsten carbide plates. The dense ZrC/W-based composites exhibited failure strengths of over 350 megapascals at 1,073 kelvin, and thermal conductivity values two to three times greater than for iron- or nickel-based alloys at this temperature. Corrosion resistance to sCO2 at 1,023 kelvin and 20 megapascals was achieved10 by bonding a copper layer to the composite surface and adding 50 parts per million carbon monoxide to sCO2. Techno-economic analyses indicate that ZrC/W-based heat exchangers can strongly outperform nickel-superalloy-based printed-circuit heat exchangers at lower cost.

Media Contact

Kayla Wiles
wiles5@purdue.edu
765-494-2432

 @PurdueUnivNews

http://www.purdue.edu/ 

Kayla Wiles | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0593-1

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Nano-scale process may speed arrival of cheaper hi-tech products
09.11.2018 | University of Edinburgh

nachricht Nuclear fusion: wrestling with burning questions on the control of 'burning plasmas'
25.10.2018 | Lehigh University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

Im Focus: Nanorobots propel through the eye

Scientists developed specially coated nanometer-sized vehicles that can be actively moved through dense tissue like the vitreous of the eye. So far, the transport of nano-vehicles has only been demonstrated in model systems or biological fluids, but not in real tissue. The work was published in the journal Science Advances and constitutes one step further towards nanorobots becoming minimally-invasive tools for precisely delivering medicine to where it is needed.

Researchers of the “Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems” Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, together with an international...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Peptides, the “little brothers and sisters” of proteins

12.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Materials scientist creates fabric alternative to batteries for wearable devices

12.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

A two-atom quantum duet

12.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>