Develop a Concentrated Solar Power-based Thermal Cooling System via Simulation and Experimental Studies

EPA Grant Number: SU835493
Title: Develop a Concentrated Solar Power-based Thermal Cooling System via Simulation and Experimental Studies
Investigators: Tang, Yan , Boetcher, Sandra , Compere, Marc , Engblom, William
Current Investigators: Tang, Yan , Atticks, Kendra , Boetcher, Sandra , Compere, Marc , Engblom, William , Judson, Zachary , Kasper, Kirsten , Wood, Nicholas
Institution: Embry - Riddle Aeronautical University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Our objective is to design and test a 300W solar cooling system with the coefficient-of-performance (COP) of 0.6 using a parabolic trough. The system will capture the sun’s heat with a parabolic trough, a line-focus high-temperature concentrating collector, to heat the circulating collector-loop fluid, store the heat in a storage unit, and drive an absorption cooling cycle with the stored heat. A simulation tool will be developed to simulate the time-dependent thermal and hydraulic performance of all major elements in the proposed system based on classic empirical and analytical models. Results will be used to guide and support the selection of system components to meet design goals. We will evaluate the COP of the system via simulation and experimental studies. This project will serve as a preliminary study for achieving our ultimate research goal: develop a tri-generation system which produces electricity, hot water and cooling. The primary end-users are developing countries and off-grid rural areas.


The CSP-based thermal cooling system is designed to collect heat to power a thermally-driven cooling cycle with 300W cooling capacity. This is comparable to a typical US full size home refrigerator.  It consists of a parabolic trough, a thermal storage unit, and an absorption refrigerator. The heat collection fluid temperature and mass flow rate will be determined by thermal needs of the absorption chilling cycle. The heat transfer fluids on both the collector side and absorption chiller side, plus the thermal storage unit will be designed to meet these requirements. The cooling system’s COP evaluation and the cost analysis will be conducted to investigate the feasibility at different implementation scales. A simulation tool will be developed and refined to assist system design and optimization. The proposed project will serve as preliminary study for developing a tri-generation (electricity, heating, and cooling) system which can be used in small communities in developing countries at off-grid sites.

We have gained intensive experiences and expertise required to complete the proposed project. Students on Clean Energy Systems track in Mechanical Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) have worked on several projects related to CSP.  Supported by the EPA’s P3 Phase I award, a group of students are working on solar thermal energy storage to store daytime heat captured by CSP collectors and supply thermal driven applications as needed after dark. The Senior Design students have developed a parabolic trough characterization system which can determine optimal working parameters such as heat transfer fluids and mass flow rate for applications using CSP. The system can be connected to a steam power generation system or a thermal storage system to utilize CSP.  In ME 408 Clean Thermal Power Systems, a Matlab simulation code has been developed to investigate the feasibility and COP of a CSP-based refrigeration system.

Through the support of the EPA’s P3 program (SU836025 and SU835290) and a variety of resources we have a growing movement of students working to address the pressing need for clean water in Haiti. We have successfully installed three water purification systems in Haiti. The proposed project could be used as an integrated solution along with the developed water purification system to provide basic daily needs and improve living conditions for people in developing countries like Haiti.

Expected Results:

A small scale CSP-based cooling system prototype (300W cooling capacity) and the system performance simulation tool will be developed as a proof of concept. Practical issues will be identified to improve our design.

Supplemental Keywords:

concentrated solar power, solar cooling, parabolic trough, absorption, modeling;

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • P3 Phase II:

    Develop a Concentrated Solar Power-based Thermal Cooling System via Simulation and Experimental Studies