Analytical Model of an Irrigated Packed-Bed Direct-Contact Heat Exchanger at High Temperature

    Research output: NRELTechnical Report


    This paper presents an analytical model of direct contact heat exchange (DCHX) in an irrigated packed bed at high temperatures. The specific application is heat exchange between molten salt and air where the molten salt is a sensible heat storage medium and high temperature air is required for an end process. The model defines several heat transfer mechanisms between the three components in thebed--the liquid, the gas, and the packing. It also includes the effect of conduction in the packing. Correlations found in the literature are used to calculate the associated heat transfer coefficients. The model is restricted to liquids that wet the packing material and to gas/liquid flow rates below the loading point. Three dimensionless equations describe the heat balance between the threebed components. The resulting dimensionless parameters reveal that for commercial DCHX systems, radiation heat transfer is unimportant relative to the convective heat transfer, which is consistent with previous experimental results for air/mercury and nitrogen/molten lead systems. The model also predicts volumetric heat transfer coefficients of about 10,000 W/mK, which is consistent withexperimental work.
    Original languageAmerican English
    Number of pages10
    StatePublished - 1986

    NREL Publication Number

    • NREL/TP-252-2976


    • heat transfer
    • molten salt
    • packed beds
    • solar thermal central receivers


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