Evaluation of External Tubular Configurations for a High-Temperature Chloride Molten Salt Solar Receiver Operating Above 700 °C

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Next-generation concentrating solar power (CSP) tower technologies target operating temperatures exceeding 700 °C to increase the thermal-to-electric conversion efficiency. Molten chloride salts are one possible alternative to current commercial molten nitrate salts to enable the higher operating temperature. This paper analyzes the predicted optical, thermal-fluids, and structural performance of traditional external tubular solar receiver configurations applied with a chloride salt heat transfer fluid (HTF) and inlet/outlet temperatures of 500 °C/735 °C, and considers sensitivity analysis and optimization relative to receiver sizing, tube sizing, number of panels, flow circuit configurations, and solar flux concentration under constraints on internal velocity, pressure drop, wall thickness, and required creep-fatigue lifetime. The high temperature conditions increase the significance of inelastic deformation mechanisms such as creep relative to that expected in commercial 565 °C nitrate salt designs. High-temperature creep and creep-fatigue damage in the metal alloy tubes are the key factors that limit allowable solar flux concentration and achievable receiver thermal efficiency at the near-800 °C wall temperature conditions. For a traditional external cylindrical receiver configuration, the design parameters and conditions capable of satisfying all constraints produced, at best, a design point receiver efficiency of 78.2%, or 80.5% when excluding receiver intercept efficiency. Variation in the optimal receiver performance relative to uncertainty in the binding maximum velocity, minimum wall thickness, and minimum lifetime constraints is presented.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)115-128
Number of pages14
JournalSolar Energy
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 International Solar Energy Society

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5700-78102


  • Concentrating solar power (CSP)
  • Heat transfer
  • Molten salt
  • Solar receiver
  • Thermal stress


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