Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Theodore Bergman; Tai-Hsi Fan

Field of Study

Mechanical Engineering


Master of Arts

Open Access

Open Access


An innovative, novel concept of combining heat pipes with latent heat thermal energy storage (LHTES) for concentrating solar power (CSP) applications is explored. The low thermal conductivity of phase change materials (PCMs) used in LHTES presents a design challenge due to slow heat transfer rates during heating and cooling of the material. Heat pipes act to decrease the thermal resistance in the PCM, increasing the overall heat transfer rate sufficiently for use in CSP. First, a laboratory scale experiment is presented to validate the concept of using heat pipes in LHTES to reduce thermal resistance in PCM. A commercial scale LHTES with embedded gravity assisted heat pipes is then modeled and a cost analysis is conducted to determine competitiveness with other forms of thermal energy storage currently used in the CSP industry.

LHTES utilizing heat pipes or fins is investigated experimentally. Photographic observations, melting and solidification rates, and PCM energy storage quantities are reported. A variable, heat pipe effectiveness, is defined and used to quantify the relative performance of heat pipe-assisted and fin-assisted configurations to situations involving neither heat pipes nor fins. For the experimental conditions of this study, inclusion of heat pipes increases PCM melting rates by approximately 60%, while the fins are not as effective. During solidification, the heat pipe-assisted configuration transfers approximately twice the energy between a heat transfer fluid and the PCM, relative to both the fin-assisted LHTES and the non-heat pipe, non-fin configurations.

Secondly, an economic evaluation of a LHTES system for large scale CSP applications is conducted. The concept of embedding gravity-assisted wickless heat pipes (thermosyphons) within a commercial-scale LHTES system is explored through use of a thermal network model. A new design is proposed for charging and discharging a large-scale LHTES system. The size and cost of the LHTES system is estimated and compared with a two-tank sensible heat energy storage (SHTES) system. The results suggest that LHTES with embedded thermosyphons is economically competitive with current SHTES technology, with the potential to reduce capital costs by at least 15%. Further investigation of different PCMs, thermosyphon working fluids, and system configurations has the potential to lead to designs that can further reduce capital costs beyond those reported in this study.

Major Advisor

Amir Faghri