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Thermodynamic cycles optimised for medium enthalpy units of concentrating solar power

Publication date: Available online 28 February 2014
Author(s): Antonio Rovira , Carlo Rubbia , Manuel Valdés , José M. Martínez-Val
Concentrated solar power presents the drawback of decreasing radiation capture efficiency as the temperature of the receiver increases, because thermal losses increase as well. Low temperature at the receiver is an advantage for radiation concentrators, as they present high capture efficiency, but this fact changes into a drawback because of the low efficiency of the thermodynamic cycles working with a low temperature heat source. An analysis is presented on the performance of real fluids working with such a type of heat sources that can be generated in simple solar thermal units. Both Joule–Brayton cycles and dry-turbine Rankine cycles are considered, using regenerative heat exchangers for heat recovering. The driving force of this research is to look for working fluids with actual thermodynamic characteristics which fit well with temperatures of the heat source and sink. Some unconventional substances, as refrigerant R-125 or SF 6 , show good performance. They may be suitable at certain regimes of Rankine and Brayton cycles and could work in fast-reacting systems. Of course, differences in the performance of Brayton and Rankine cycles convey differences in the complexity and cost of the components, but they offer a wide field for coherently choosing the working fluid and thermal conditions.

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