Optical Properties Enhancement of Thermal Energy Media for Consistently High Solar Absorptivity: Article No. 112603

Kyu Han, Eunjin Jeon, Patrick Davenport, Jason Schirck, Michael Adams, Shannon Yee, Zhiwen Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to evaluate the optical properties of particles intended for use as thermal energy absorbers in generation 3 concentrated solar power systems. Their characterization involved UV-Vis NIR measurements with an integrating sphere for solar absorptivity, while a reflectometer was employed to measure thermal emittance. By combining absorptivity and emittance data, the solar absorption efficiency was calculated. Laser flash analysis, differential scanning calorimetry, and thermogravimetric analysis were utilized to determine thermal conductivity and specific heat. The solar absorptivity of the particles was initially measured at 0.90. After exposure to air at 1000 degrees C, it decreased to 0.73. However, following a reduction process, the particle recovered absorptivity of 0.90. The thermal aging and recovery were repeated multiple times, consistently achieving an absorptivity of 0.90. The thermal conductivity of the particles ranged from 0.50 to 0.88 W/(m-K). Solar absorptivity was found to be influenced by the types of iron oxide present in the particles. Particles with a predominance of hematite exhibited decreased solar absorptivity, while those containing magnetite, wustite, and iron showed increased absorptivity. The estimated cost of the developed particles was more than ten times lower than that of current products. Given that component costs significantly impact the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), this price reduction corresponded to an 8% decrease in LCOE compared to other products. The low-cost thermal energy media show great promise for contributing to a reduced LCOE in the third generation of concentrating solar power systems.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages10
JournalSolar Energy
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5700-90107


  • concentrating solar power
  • low cost
  • particle
  • thermal energy media


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