Solar energy is an abundant renewable energy resource that can be used to provide high process heat necessary to run thermochemical processes for production of various solar fuels and commodities. In a solar reactor, sunlight is concentrated into a receiver through a small opening called the aperture. However, obtaining and maintaining semiconstant high temperatures inside a solar reactor is a challenge. This is because the incident solar radiation can fluctuate depending on the position of the sun and the weather conditions. For fixed aperture size reactors, changes in incident solar flux directly affect the temperature inside the reactor. This paper presents a novel solar reactor with variable aperture mechanism that is designed and manufactured at our lab. Radiation heat transfer analysis of this reactor concept is studied via Monte Carlo (MC) ray tracing. MC ray tracing module is coupled to a steady-state one-dimensional energy equation solver. Energy equation is solved for the wall and gas, accounting for the absorption, emission, and convection. Incoming direct flux values for a typical day are obtained from National Renewable Energy Lab database. Results show that for a perfectly insulated reactor, the average temperature of the working fluid may be kept appreciably constant throughout the day if aperture diameter is varied between 3 cm and 1.5 cm for incoming fluxes starting with 400 W/m2 at 05:12 a.m., reaching peak value of 981 W/m2 at noon, and eventually receiving 400 W/m2 at 6:58 p.m., which can make the solar reactor run about 13 hr continuously at 1500 K semiconstant temperature.
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This publication was made possible by NPRP grant 09-670-2-254 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of the Qatar Foundation). The statements made herein are solely the responsibility of the authors.
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