Purdue University Graduate School
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Numerical and Experimental Investigation of Heat Transfer to Flowing Particles for Energy Storage

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posted on 2022-12-07, 15:50 authored by Jason T SchirckJason T Schirck

The use of renewable energy systems is ever-growing in today's electricity grid to reduce the carbon footprint on the environment. However, a problem with wind and solar renewable energy systems is availability. Wind and solar energy production are entirely dependent on the weather, whereas global electricity demands have no such limitation. A cost-effective solution to the energy availability problem is to incorporate energy storage systems. The Economic Long-Duration Electricity Storage by Using Low-Cost Thermal Energy Storage and High-Efficiency Power Cycle (ENDURING) system developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a potential  energy storage system. In the ENDURING system, particles are heated via renewable energy or off-peak grid electricity and stored in large silos. When the electricity needs to be regenerated, the hot particles are passed to a Pressurized Fluidized Bed Heat Exchanger (PFB-HX), which heats air, and the hot pressurized air flows to a turbine and generator to produce electricity. The focus of this dissertation is on two components within the ENDURING system: the particle heater and the PFB-HX.

First, the heat transfer within the particle heater is investigated numerically via Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) coupled with Discrete Element Modeling (DEM). Although heat transfer to traditional molecular fluids such as liquids and gases are well characterized, the heat transfer to flowing particles is less understood. The heater surface angle, particle-particle and particle-wall friction coefficients, and contact resistance are parametrically varied to discover their individual effects on the heat transfer process. A separate set of simulations is conducted to compare against an experimental particle heater built at NREL. In addition to elucidating the heat transfer performance, the simulations also reveal oscillatory flow patterns. It is discovered that such turbulent behavior is related to the geometry of the heater elements.

Second, a laboratory-scale experimental setup of the PFB-HX is built. The temperature, pressure drop, and minimum fluidization velocity are used to characterize the heat transfer and assess the capabilities of the PFB-HX. High-temperature fluidized bed experiments with an initial temperature gradient are performed. The bed becomes fluidized, but temperature gradients remain, and the bed is not fully mixed. At sufficient superficial velocity, the bed temperature becomes uniform. CFD-DEM coupled simulations are performed to investigate the temperature distributions more precisely. Initial bed temperature differences of 100, 300, and 500K are simulated with varying superficial velocities to create a regime map. The purpose of the regime map is to determine when the fluidized bed temperature becomes fully mixed for different initial conditions and gas velocities. The overall goal of this work is to understand the heat transfer processes of the flowing particles in both the particle heater and the PFB-HX to aid in the design of the ENDURING system.




Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Aaron Morris

Additional Committee Member 2

Jun Chen

Additional Committee Member 3

Amy Marconnet

Additional Committee Member 4

Carl Wassgren