Heat generation depth and temperature distribution in solar receiver tubes subjected to induction

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Induction heating is commonly used in laboratory-scale facilities to replicate the heating conditions of the receiver tubes of concentrated solar power plants. This work aims at shedding light at the induction heating characteristics for such applications through the development of a multiphysics numerical model capable of replicating the experimental conditions of a molten salt loop locally heated by an induction heater. In the experiments, a stainless steel pipe is heated on its external surface by the induction heater, which is switched on and off during the experimental data acquisition while molten salts are continuously circulating in its interior. These conditions are replicated, for the first time, in a two-dimensional numerical domain fully coupling the electromagnetic and thermal physics, including thermally dependent material properties of the heated pipe. Once validated against the experiments, the numerical results revealed that the volumetric nature of the induction heating shall be considered for an accurate representation of the temperature profile inside the tube. As a novelty, different equivalent surface boundary conditions are presented and, despite the Gaussian-like behavior of the induction heating on the surface of the tube, the results indicate that there exists no equivalent wall boundary condition to fully replicate the temperature profile obtained with the induction heater. The effect of independently varying experimental parameters such as the geometry of the pipe (i.e., diameter and thickness) and its distance to the induction heating system is also evaluated. Using large diameters of the tube reduces the difference between the angular temperature profile obtained using induction heating and a simplified wall boundary condition. For small wall thicknesses, the induction heating is capable of penetrating along the whole thickness of the tube, the total heat generated in the volume of the tube being exposed to the counteracting effects of the volumetric generation and the enhancement of the heat dissipation by the molten salt, as both of them increase for small thicknesses. The distance of the inductor to the pipe wall appears to maintain the volumetric characteristics of the heating and only affects the induction heating magnitude and efficiency.
Solar power, Induction, Simulation, Multiphysics, Modeling
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Cano-Pleite, E., Fernández-Torrijos, M., Santana, D. & Acosta-Iborra, A. (2022). Heat generation depth and temperature distribution in solar receiver tubes subjected to induction. Applied Thermal Engineering, 204, 117902.