Fabrication, Modeling, and Testing of a Prototype for Particle Thermal Energy Storage Containment: Paper No. ES2023-106662

Jeffrey Gifford, Patrick Davenport, Xingchao Wang, Zhiwen Ma

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Increasing penetration of variable renewable energy resources requires the deployment of energy storage at a range of durations. Long-duration energy storage (LDES) technologies will fulfill the need to firm variable renewable energy resource output throughout the year. Conventional electrochemical batteries (e.g., lithium-ion) are uneconomical in this role due to high energy capacity costs. Thermal energy storage (TES) is one promising technology for LDES applications because of its siting flexibility and ease of scaling. Particle-based TES systems use low-cost solid particles that have higher temperature limits than the molten salts used in traditional concentrated solar power systems. A key component in particle-based TES systems is the containment silo for the high-temperature (> 1100 degrees C) particles. This study combined experimental testing and computational modeling methods to design and characterize the performance of a particle containment silo for LDES applications. A containment silo prototype was built at a laboratory scale and used to validate a congruent transient finite element analysis (FEA) model. The validation compared the actual and predicted temperature profile through the prototype over six days as the particles cooled from their initial temperature. The performance of a commercial scale (> 5 GWhth) was then characterized using the validated model. The transient FEA model was subject to several charge-discharge cycles to mimic a possible operating schedule. The commercial-scale model predicted a storage efficiency in excess of 95% after five days of storage with a design storage temperature of 1200 degrees C. Insulation material and concrete temperature limits were considered as well. The validation of the methodology means the FEA model can simulate a range of scenarios for future applications. This work supports the development of a promising LDES technology with implications for grid-scale electrical energy storage, but also for thermal energy storage for industrial process heating applications.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5700-88279


  • finite element analysis
  • particle storage silo
  • particle thermal energy storage
  • thermal energy storage


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