High Performance Vacuum Flat Plate Solar Thermal Collectors for Hot Water and Process Heat

Lead Research Organisation: University of Ulster
Department Name: Sch of Built Environment


The aim of the proposed research is to provide the necessary knowledge to allow the development of a pre-prototype High Performance Vacuum Flat Plate Solar Thermal Collector with minimal materials content. The development of a thin evacuated solar collector offers new and exciting prospects for integrating solar collectors into building designs and for their use in medium temperature (100-200 Celsius) applications such as air conditioning or low temperature process heat. The research planned will develop technology for the effective utilisation of the solar energy resource and fits within EPSRC's Energy theme. Solar thermal energy is predicted to be a significant growth market with the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing fossil fuel use in the building energy sector. The research is targeted at providing new knowledge and techniques that will enable the advances in technology necessary for a step change in solar thermal collector performance to be realised and a range of new products and application areas developed. Such new products will encourage inward investment and lead to the creation of new companies that can contribute significantly to the transition to a low carbon society whilst maintaining and improving quality of life.


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Description Through fabrication and characterisation it has been demonstrated evacuated flat plate solar collectors have the potential to produce / achieve high temperature water for process heat and used for a range of building applications.
Edge seal design and enclosure cover support systems are critical constraints of system design and durability.
Two methodologies using glass/glass and glass/metal enclosure covers have been developed which enable the production of flat plate absorber vacuum solar collectors suitable for building integration.
Collectors have been fabricated and characterised under a solar simulator and guarded hotbox calorimeter.
A detailed analysis of absorber design, heat transfer characteristics and stress anaylsis were performed both theoretically and experimentally.
Key issues associated with achieving excellent long- term performance have been identified.
Exploitation Route The vacuum flat plate solar collector systems require further research and development to improve long-term durability and to optimise performance for specific applications prior to having a system that can be commercialised.
The compact thin nature of the prototypes will make them suitable for building facade integration. The aesthetical development of architecturally pleasing solutions is required particularly for key components such as the absorber design to enable wide market penetration and integration into landmark buildings.
The high optical and thermal efficiency and high temperatures possible make vacuum flat plate solar collectors suitable for combining with solar cooling systems and potentially thermochemical heat storage systems.
Sectors Construction,Education,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description There has been commercial interest in the developed technology from a major European Company working in the area of vacuum science. The technology and techniques developed for vacuum sealing has informed the development of further research studies into vacuum insulation products. This has included research topics for PhD students and research grant applications for further funding.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Energy