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Solid particles are being considered in several high temperature thermal energy storage systems and as heat transfer media in a variety of advanced power generation systems, particularly in concentrated solar power plants. The downside of such an approach is the low overall heat transfer coefficients caused by the inherently low thermal conductivity values of the low-cost solid media when coupled to heat exchanger for the power cycle working fluid. Choosing the right particle size distribution, emittance, and material of the solid media can all make a substantial difference in packed bed thermal conductivity. Current research though exclusively focuses on continuous unimodal distributions of particles. Here, we propose the use of a binary particle system with a bimodal size distribution to significantly increase packed bed thermal conductivity by reducing packed bed porosity. This is the first study related to ceramic solid particle heat transfer that has considered the thermal conductivity of non-unimodal size distributions at room and elevated temperatures. The following study found that for the binary particle system using Carbo particles CP 16/30 - CP 70/140 where the large particle volume fraction was 50% there was an 17-47% increase in packed bed thermal conductivity when compared with a nearly unimodal particle size distribution of CP 16/30 between 50 and 300 °C. Two different porosity and effective thermal conductivity models were studied, with one providing better prediction of porosity but both effective thermal conductivity models providing less predictive capacity. Importantly this approach can have a substantial impact of thermal performance, with little to no impact on the particle cost.
particle; thermal conductivity; thermal energy storage; moving packed bed