Design of a Thermosyphon-Based Thermal Valve for Controlled High-Temperature Heat Extraction

Gregory Glatzmaier, Philip Parilla, David Ginley, Eric Toberer, Christopher Oshman, Corey Hardin, Jonathan Rea, Nathan Siegel, Michele Olsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus Citations


Conventional concentrated solar power (CSP) is a reliable alternative energy source that uses the sun's heat to drive a heat engine to produce electrical power. An advantage of CSP is its ability to store thermal energy for use during off-sun hours which is typically done by storing sensible heat in molten salts. Alternatively, thermal energy may be stored as latent heat in a phase-change material (PCM), which stores large quantities of thermal energy in an isothermal process. On-sun, the PCM melts, storing energy. Off-sun, the latent heat is extracted to produce dispatchable electrical power. This paper presents the design of a thermosyphon-based device with sodium working fluid that is able to extract heat from a source as demand requires. A prototype has been designed to transfer 37 kW of thermal energy from a 600 °C molten PCM tank to an array of 9% efficient thermoelectric generators (TEGs) to produce 3 kW of usable electrical energy for 5 h. This “thermal valve” design incorporates a funnel to collect condensate and a central shut-off valve to control condensate gravity return to the evaporator. Three circumferential tubes allow vapour transport up to the condenser. Pressure and a thermal resistance models were developed to predict the performance of the thermal valve. The pressure model predicts that the thermal valve will function as designed. The thermal resistance model predicts a 5500× difference in total thermal resistance between “on” and “off” states. The evaporator and condenser walls comprise 96% of the “on” thermal resistance, while the small parasitic heat transfer in the “off” state is primarily (77%) due to radiation losses. This simple and effective technology can have a strong impact on the feasibility, scalability, and dispatchability of CSP latent storage. In addition, other industrial and commercial applications can benefit from this thermal valve concept.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1141-1147
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Thermal Engineering
StatePublished - 5 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-67912


  • CSP
  • Heat pipe
  • PCM
  • Sodium
  • Thermal valve
  • Thermosyphon


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