Investigation of a novel heat pipe solar collector/CHP system
The European Union has an ongoing commitment to reducing CO2 emission as highlighted by its agreement at the Kyoto Summit. One approach to achieving these reductions would be to develop alternative energy sources for major energy demanding sectors. In the EU, about 40% of all energy consumed is associated with buildings and of this, about 60% is utilised in the housing sector. A major part of the energy demand of buildings could be met by utilising renewable energy sources, e.g. solar energy. Existing large-scale plants for power generation prevent efficient utilisation of the waste hot water produced. This means that to meet electricity demand, vast quantities of fossil fuels are burnt releasing unwanted pollutants (e.g., CO2 and NOx) into the atmosphere. Over the last decade, small-scale CHP plants have been introduced for many applications with proven environmental and economic benefits. In addition, solar energy has been used to generate electricity and provide hot water in conjunction with the CHP plants. Investigation of a hybrid heat pipe solar collector/CHP system was carried out in this research. The system is powered by solar and gas energy as well as the boiler waste heat to provide electricity and heating for residential buildings. Compared to the relevant system configurations, this system has the following innovative features: The solar collector was integrated with exhaust flue gas channels that allowed both solar energy and waste heat from exhaust gas to be utilised. Heat pipes as high efficiency heat transfer devices were incorporated in the collector panel. Both miniature and normal heat pipes were investigated, and this resulted in two types of collectors, e.g., thin membrane heat pipe solar collector, and hybrid heat pipe solar collector, to be produced for this application. A compact, lightweight turbine was applied in this system. Novel refrigerants, including n-pentane and hydrofluoroethers (HFEs), were employed as the working fluids for the CHP system. Use of the system would save primary energy of approximately 3,150kWh per year compared to the conventional electricity and heating supply systems, and this would result in reduction of CO2 emission of up to 1.5 tonnes. The running cost of the proposed system would also be lower. The research initially investigated the thermal performance of several heat pipes, including micro/miniature heat pipes, normal circular and rectangular heat pipes, with/without wicks. An analytical model was developed to evaluate the heat transport capacity for these heat pipes. A miniature heat pipe with parallel piped channel geometry was proposed. The variation of heat transport capacity for either micro/miniature or normal heat pipes with operation temperature, liquid fill level, inclination and channel geometry were investigated. Investigation of the operating characteristics of the selected heat pipes, e.g., two miniature and one mini heat pipes, and two normal heat pipes, was then carried out using both the numerical technique and experimental testing. It was found that the results from tests were in good agreement with the numerical predictions when the test conditions were close to the simulation assumptions. The research work further involved the design, modelling, construction and tests of two innovative heat pipe solar collectors, namely, the thin membrane heat pipe solar collector and the hybrid heat pipe solar collector. A computer model was developed to analyse the heat transfer in the collectors. Two collector efficiencies, η and η1, were defined to evaluate their thermal performance, which were all indicated as the function of a general parameter (tmean-ta)/In. Effects of the top cover, manifold as well as flue gas temperature and flow rate (for hybrid collector only) on collector efficiencies were investigated using the computer model developed. Laboratory tests were carried out to validate the modelling predictions and experimentally examine the thermal performance of the collectors. Comparison was made between the modelling and testing results, and the reasons for error formation were analysed. The research then considered the issues of the micro impulse-reaction turbine, which was another part of the integrated system. The structure configuration, coupling pattern with the generator as well as internal geometry contour of the turbine were described. The velocity, pressure and turbulent kinetic energy of the flow in the turbine were determined using numerical CFD prediction. In addition, experimental tests were carried out using a prototype system. The results of CFD simulation and testing show good agreement. This indicates that CFD can be used as a tool of optimizing turbine geometry and determining operating conditions. The research finally focused on the integrated system which brought the heat pipe solar collector, boiler and micro turbine together. The individual components, configurations and layout of the system were illustrated. Theoretical analysis was carried out to investigate thermodynamic cycle and heat transfer contained in the combined system, which is based on the assumption that the system operated on a typical Rankine cycle powered by both solar and gas energy. Tests for the prototype system was carried out to realistically evaluate its performance. Two types of turbine units were examined; one is an impulse-reaction turbine, and the other is a turbo-alternator. The turbo-alternator was found to be too small in capacity for this system thereby affecting its output significantly. The micro impulse reaction turbine was considered a better option. A typical testing showed that the majority of heat required for the turbine operation came from the boiler (7.65kW), and very little (0.23kW) from the solar collector. The gas consumption was 8.5kW. This operation resulted in an electricity output and domestic hot water generation, which were 1.34kW and 3.66kW respectively. The electrical efficiency was 16% and the thermal efficiency was 43%, resulting in an overall efficiency of 59%. Increasing the number of the collectors used would result in reduced heat output from the boiler. This would help in improving system performance and increasing efficiencies. In this application, number of collectors used would be 4 as the flue gas flow rate would only be sufficient to provide 4 to 5 such collectors for heat recovery. The research resulted in the proposal of another system configuration. The innovative concept is illustrated in Chapter 8, and its key technical issues are discussed.