FNR-The Development of Experimentally Validated Numerical Design Tools for Ideal Solar Selective Absorbers

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of Engineering

Abstract

This is a proposal for a joint research programme involving Swansea University (SU) and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)

The development of sustainable energy is one of the key scientific challenges of the 21st century. Environmental concerns have led to an increased interest in the use of solar energy as an alternative to fossil fuel based energy sources. In the solar energy field, significant research attention is being given to the processes of collection and storage, either in the form of heat or by direct conversion to electricity. The most important part of solar collectors is the solar selective coatings, which directly affect the efficiency of the system.

New nano-structured metamaterial based absorbers have many benefits over conventional absorbers, such as miniaturisation, adaptability and frequency tuning. However, there are two major challenges in producing these new metamaterial based absorbers. The first is to find the optimal nanostructure design, while the second is its synthesis within current nano-technological limits.

The project address the first challenge via a new multi-scale computational framework. Advanced computational techniques will be develop to perform the simulations at the nano-scale and explore the vast design space for the nano-structure. A novel methodology to couple the nano and micro scales will be developed and implemented and an optimisation technique applied at the micro scale to find the optimal nano-structure.

The second challenge will be addressed by employing the unique world prototype machine at LIST capable of fabricating/replicating nano/micro metallic structures by electrochemical deposition. The chemical stability of the materials employed at the nano-scale will also be considered with the objective to guarantee chemical stability at high temperatures, with the aim of boosting light absorption efficiency.

Planned Impact

Computational techniques are now routinely applied in a wide range of industrial applications, including engineering manufacturing and energy generation. This means that our project, which is related to the EPSRC strategic themes of Engineering, Energy and Manufacturing the Future, will impact on all these areas. Furthermore, the proposal meets the requirements of the EPSRC Delivery Plan in the areas of productivity (innovative product), resilience (sustainable energy) and health (cleaner environment). The potential industrial impact has been recognised by Tata Steel, who are involved in the design and production of solar panels and believe that the project success will improve the efficiency of their current technology.

In addition, this project will produce a computational platform that will ease the exploration of different designs in many engineering areas. Although the techniques proposed here target the particular field of solar selective absorbers, the ideas developed have the potential to revolutionise the use of computational engineering in the early design stages of many modern products and devices. Making the software available, as open source within the UK, will ensure that the exploitation and application in other areas will be substantially accelerated.

Publications

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