Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Power Generation Using Megnetohydrodynamic Generator with a Circulation Flow Driven by Solar-Heat-Induced Natural Convection

EPA Grant Number: SU833525
Title: Power Generation Using Megnetohydrodynamic Generator with a Circulation Flow Driven by Solar-Heat-Induced Natural Convection
Investigators: Li, Peiwen , Chan, Cho-Lik
Current Investigators: Li, Peiwen , Barry, Greg , Castellanos, Sergio , Chan, Cho-Lik , Do, Kevin , Gamez, Carlos , Kuhn, Jason , Leon, Andre
Institution: University of Arizona
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: August 30, 2007 through August 29, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability



The team in this project will model, design, and test a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) power generation system. Electricity is produced by flowing conductive fluid through a permanent magnetic field, while the fluid flow is induced by solar heating. The goal of the project is to utilize solar energy to generate electrical power in a cheap, clean, and sustainable way. Disciplines involved in the development of the prototype power generator will include: magentohydrodynamics, solar energy collection, natural convective heat transfer, flow instability and control. Students will have hands-on experience of design, optimization, and manufacturing of innovative energy systems for sustainability of environment and economy. The project is intrinsically multi-physics and multi-disciplinary.


In the innovative system, a conductive fluid in an annulus circulation channel is heated up by the solar heat on the front side and is then cooled down on the back side. Consequently, the flow can circulate continuously in an annulus, as long as the warming up and cooling down processes keep to be applied, and as the result, power generation is made possible based on solar energy. The team will design and prototype a model, which is on the basis of optimization design, manufacturing techniques and materials, to convert heat from solar energy into electrical power.

Since the system using a unique concept to convert solar energy into electrical power in a relatively cheaper way, opportunities of sustainable development of using this technique for solar energy harvest are enormous. Although multi-disciplines are involved in such a system, which makes the design and analysis challenging, the manufacturing and implementation of the system is relatively easy and cost effective. To build a prototype system, the team will consider radiation heat transfer for effective collection of solar energy. Particularly, we will use analytical, numerical, and experimental approaches to study the flow field and its interaction with magnetic field, when the heat fluxes given by solar energy heating and ambient air-cooling vary in the system.

Solar energy, abundant in southern Arizona, is sustainable and clean energy. Students who participate in this project will get education and inspiration to make innovations in energy technologies especially the harvest and utilization of solar energy.

Supplemental Keywords:

Sustainable Development, Innovative Technology, Renewable, Magnetohydrodynamic, Solar Energy, Solar Thermal Collection, Energy and Power, Electricity Production, Natural Convection and Heat Transfer, Multi-Physics, Multi-Disciplinary,

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report