A Novel Dual Purpose Solar Collector Design

EPA Grant Number: SU839340
Title: A Novel Dual Purpose Solar Collector Design
Investigators: Yu, Yao
Current Investigators: Yu, Yao , Eichholz, Ben , Hu, Xiaoou , Miao, Rui , Sammartino, Rhys , Tangpong, Siwakorn , Wood, Mark , Xiang, Junlong , Zhang, Yan
Institution: North Dakota State University Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: February 1, 2018 through January 31, 2019
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Energy


In this proposed collector, a double-pane “window” will be used on top of a FPSC to replace the conventional single-pane glass cover, which allows water or other liquid flowing in the space between the two glazing panes to lose its heat through both long-wave radiation and convection. This research project aims to use the new type of collectors, as an alternative, to replace cooling towers and thus has the potential for reducing or even avoiding the negative effects of cooling towers, such as the unnecessary waste of condenser water, the urban heat-island effect, the threat of Legionnaires' disease, etc. Therefore, this proposed project may improve human health (People), encourage the use of renewable energy, protect the environment by effectively and efficiently using water and energy, reduce the associated greenhouse gas emissions (Planet), and increase the economic competitiveness of this new type of collector in the market due to its dual functions of both heating and cooling in a single unit (Prosperity). This research project will be supervised by three professors and one industry expert. The collaboration between academia and industry at the supervisor’s level allows student team members to obtain significant knowledge, experience, and expertise, necessary to complete this research project. Additionally, as an output of this project, a working prototype will be developed and then used as an example in an undergraduate course of Dr. Yu (P.I.) to teach students sustainability concepts and principles and then to encourage their engagement in sustainability practices.


A Flat Plate Solar Collector (FPSC) is a commonly used device to harvest solar energy. A FPSC is typically covered on top with a single-pane glass, known as a glazed FPSC, or uncovered with the absorber plate exposed to the outside, known as an unglazed FPSC that is usually used for swimming pool heating. A conventional glazed FPSC is usually used only for heat collection; while it is known that an unglazed FPSC is not only able to collect heat but also cold during nights. However, the application of a conventional unglazed FPSC for heating purposes is limited to low temperature differentials due to the absences of a glass cover and insulation materials. Moreover, it is inefficient in cold collection since its structure and materials are still subject to its original design concept, i.e. heat collection. Therefore, the purpose of this project is to develop an innovative design of a dual purpose glazed solar collector that is able to utilize sustainable energy, i.e. solar heat and night sky cooling, to accomplish heat and cold collection. This new collector will not only retain the functionality of a conventional glazed FPSC for heat collection, but also have an additional ability for cold collection with enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness compared with unglazed collectors.

Expected Results:

The expected research output mainly includes the successful development of a fully functional lab-scale prototype of the proposed collector for the purposes of heat and cold collection in a real environment where this collector is exposed to solar irradiation and cold night sky. Additionally, the result of its feasibility analysis and performance of this dual purpose solar collector will be demonstrated and used to measure the success of this project, which are expected to be superior to conventional glazed and unglazed FPSCs for both heat and cold collection.

Supplemental Keywords:

solar collector, solar thermal heating, radiation cooling, night sky cooling, renewable energy, energy savings

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report