Solar power generation by use of Stirling engine and heat loss analysis of its cavity receiver

  • Tassawar Hussain

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Since concentrated power generation by Stirling engine has the highest efficiency therefore efficient power generation by concentrated systems using a Stirling engine was a primary motive of this research. A 1 kW Stirling engine was used to generate solar power using a Fresnel lens as a concentrator. Before operating On-Sun test, engine's performance test was conducted by combustion test. Propane gas with air was used to provide input heat to the Stirling Engine and 350W power was generated with 14% efficiency of the engine. Two kinds of receivers were used for On-Sun test, first type was the Inconel tubes with trapped helium gas and the second one was the heat pipe. Heat pipe with sodium as a working fluid is considered the best approach to transfer the uniform heat from the receiver to the helium gas in the heater head of the engine. A Number of On-Sun experiments were performed to generate the power. A minimum 1kW input power was required to generate power from the Stirling engine but it was concluded that the available Fresnel lens was not enough to provide sufficient input to the Stirling engine and hence engine was lagged to generate the solar power. Later on, for a high energy input a Beam Down system was also used to concentrate the solar light on the heater head of the Stirling engine. Beam down solar system in Masdar City UAE, constructed in 2009 is a variation of central receiver plant with cassegrainian optics. Around 1.5kW heat input was achieved from the Beam Down System and it was predicted that the engine receiver at beam down has the significant heat losses of about 900W. These high heat losses were the major hurdles to get the operating temperature (973K) of the heat pipes; hence power could not be generated even during the Beam Down test. Experiments were also performed to find the most suitable Cavity Receiver configuration for maximum solar radiation utilizations by engine receiver. Dimensionless parameter aperture ration (AR=d/D) and aperture position (AP=H/D) were used to characterize the different configurations of Cavity Receiver and it was found that the Cavity Receiver with AR=0.5 and AP=0.53 has the maximum capability to utilize the solar heat to attain the maximum temperature of the heat pipe receiver. Experimental heat loss analysis at low temperature for different configurations of the cavity receiver was performed and air film temperature profiles along the wall height (H) of the cavity receiver were determined. Since sodium heat pipes operate at high temperature (973K), there are huge possibilities of radiation and convection heat losses for direct solar heating of the heater head. Therefore mathematical modeling of heat loss analysis and its numerical solution at high temperature was also included in the research objectives. 2-D axisymmetric model with weakly compressible Navier Stokes equation and general heat conduction and convection equations were simultaneously solved using the finite element method approach. Computational fluid dynamics package COMSOL 3.5a was used as a numerical tool. The temperature, and flow field pattern inside the cavity receiver were also visualized by means of surface contours. Heat loss analysis were performed for different configurations of Cavity Receiver and the numerical solution of different configuration showed that the aperture ratio (AR) plays a significant role for convection and radiation heat losses whereas the aperture position (AP) effects are negligible.
Date of Award2012
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorIsoroku Kubo (Supervisor)


  • Applied sciences
  • Solar power plants
  • Stirling engines
  • Alternative Energy
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Energy
  • 0363:Alternative Energy
  • 0548:Mechanical engineering
  • 0791:Energy

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