Characterization of Desert Sand for its Feasible Use as Thermal Energy Storage Medium

  • Miguel Diago Martinez

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The variability of solar power is an obstacle for its integration in the electrical network. Energy storage systems are being researched to address this issue. With an ideal implementation, the support of such systems can enable a solar power plant to generate a constant electric power output on a 24 hour basis. The most mature technologies used in concentrated solar power (CSP) plants are based on sensible heat thermal energy storage (TES) systems using molten salts. However, these have several limitations. Their upper temperature limit is relatively low, they have a risk of freezing inside the system and the piping material can be corroded over time. This Thesis researches the use of sand from the United Arab Emirates desert as a potential sensible heat TES material which overcomes these limitations. High temperature effects such as mass loss, agglomeration and the change in optical properties and particle size distribution are explored. Relevant thermal properties such as specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity are measured. These measurements are coupled with an elemental analysis in an X-ray diffractometer and X-ray fluorescence analyzer to estimate the actual composition of the samples. The results show that desert sand has promising properties which allow it to be used not only as a sensible heat TES material, but also as a solar absorber and heat transfer medium. This indicates that its implementation in CSP plants may help in the reduction of the cost of energy generation and may also increase the efficiency by operating at higher temperatures.
Date of AwardMay 2015
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorNicolas Calvet (Supervisor)


  • Thermal Energy
  • Desert Sand
  • Energy Storage
  • Solar Power
  • Electrical Power
  • Molten Salts
  • Thermal Properties
  • Heat Transfer.

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