Vinod Narayanan Receives $2.2M Department of Energy Grant

uc davis mechanical aerospace engineering department energy solar grant 2018
Professor Vinod Narayanan (center) and associate development engineers Caton Mande (left) and Erfan Rasouli (right) at the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center, where the research will be conducted.

Professor Vinod Narayanan’s project, “Additively-Manufactured Molten Salt-to-Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Heat Exchanger,” received $2.2 Million from the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technology Office program (SETO), which supports early-stage research and development on the improvement of solar technologies on the grid.

The project will focus on concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) systems, which capture and convert thermal energy from the sun into usable forms of energy, such as electricity.

In CSP systems, mirrors collect and concentrate sunlight and direct it towards a receiver. In most CSPs, a liquid with heat-transfer properties in the receiver absorbs the heat and flows through the receiver until the thermal energy and steam are released, the liquid cools and the cycle starts over again.

Narayanan’s team is working to create a 3D-printed high-pressure heat exchanger that can transfer heat from molten salt at 720°C to supercritical carbondioxide, a high-pressure working fluid that will power future solar thermal power plants. To do so, the team will study the exchanger’s response to corrosion, the thermofluidics of the transfer liquid, projected costs and potential impact on the solar energy market.

Though the project is led by Narayanan, he has enlisted collaborators from UC Davis, Carnegie Mellon University, the National Renewable Energy Lab and four companies across the country.

The grant is part of the Department of Energy’s SETO FY2018 funding program, which gave out over $53 million in grants to projects around the country to reduce the cost of solar energy technology by 2030. Narayanan’s team was one of two funded to develop new tools for improving the power cycle, and one of 15 researching CSP systems.

Learn more about the grant and Professor Narayanan’s project at the UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute and the Department of Energy websites.