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Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176 DOI 10.1007/s00231-012-0972-3

ORIGINAL

 

Theoretical investigation on thermal performance of heat pipe flat plate solar collector with cross flow heat exchanger

Lan Xiao Shuang-Ying Wu Qiao-Ling Zhang You-Rong Li

Received: 17 November 2010 / Accepted: 4 January 2012 / Published online: 14 January 2012 Springer-Verlag 2012

Abstract Based on the heat transfer characteristics of absorber plate and the heat transfer effectiveness-number of heat transfer unit method of heat exchanger, a new theoretical method of analyzing the thermal performance of heat pipe flat plate solar collector with cross flow heat exchanger has been put forward and validated by com- parisons with the experimental and numerical results in pre-existing literature. The proposed theoretical method can be used to analyze and discuss the influence of relevant parameters on the thermal performance of heat pipe flat plate solar collector.

List of symbols

C p

 

D

G

I o

Solar

L

e

L

c

N

 

NTU

Nu

Pr

Re

S

Specific heat capacity at constant pressure (J kg - 1 K - 1 )

Heat pipe diameter (m) Mass flow rate of heated fluid, (kg s - 1 )

intensity (W m - 2 )

Length of heat pipe evaporator section (m)

Length of heat pipe condenser section (m) Heat pipe number Number of heat transfer unit Nusselt number Prandtl number Reynolds number

(W m - 2 )

Absorbed solar intensity

  • L. Xiao S.-Y. Wu (&) Q.-L. Zhang Y.-R. Li

Key Laboratory of Low-grade Energy Utilization Technologies and Systems, Ministry of Education, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, China e-mail: shuangyingwu@yahoo.com.cn

  • L. Xiao S.-Y. Wu Q.-L. Zhang Y.-R. Li

College of Power Engineering, Chongqing University,

Chongqing 400044, China

T a

T b

T hp

T i

U L

U

W

Greek symbols

a

Absorptivity

d

k

s

e

g

Ambient temperature (K) Wall temperature of heat pipe region (K) Working fluid temperature of heat pipe (K) Heated fluid inlet temperature (K)

Collector overall heat loss coefficient (W m - 2 K - 1 )

Heat convection coefficient, (W m - 2 K - 1 ) Pitch distance between the heat pipe (m)

Absorber plate thickness (m) Thermal conductivity (W m - 1 K - 1 ) Transmissivity of glass cover, local time (h) Heat transfer effectiveness Thermal efficiency

1 Introduction

Solar thermal utilization is of great importance for envi- ronmental protection and conventional energy saving. A variety of flat plate solar collectors and evacuated tubular solar collectors have been produced and applied around the world. However, these conventional solar collectors suffer from some drawbacks, such as reversed cycle during cloudy periods of the day and the night, high heat capacity, limited quantity of heat transferred by the fluid, high pumping requirements, scale formation, freezing and cor- rosion [1]. Heat pipes offer a promising solution to these problems. Heat pipes are devices of very high thermal conductance, which transfer thermal energy by two phase circulation of fluid, and can easily be integrated into most types of solar collector [2, 3]. The basic difference in thermal performance between a heat pipe solar collector

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and a conventional one lies in the heat transfer processes from the absorber tube wall to the energy-transporting fluid. In the case with a heat pipe, the process is evapora- tion–condensation–convection, while for conventional solar collectors, heat transfer occurs only in the absorber plate. Thus, solar collectors with heat pipes have a lower thermal mass, resulting in a reduction of start-up time. A feature that makes heat pipes attractive for use in solar collectors is their ability to operate like a thermal-diode, i.e., the flow of the heat is in one direction only. This minimizes heat loss from the transporting fluid, e.g., water, when incident radiation is low. Another advantage is redundancy, that is, a failure in one heat pipe would not have a major effect on the operation of the collector. Also, since heat pipes are sealed, by selecting suitable working fluids, compatible with wick and pipe materials, corrosion can be minimized. Furthermore, when the maximum design temperature of the collector is reached, additional heat transfer can be prevented. This would prevent over- heating of the circulating fluid. Freezing can be eliminated through working fluid selection, and, therefore only the heat exchanger section must be insulated. Numerous investigations on heat pipe solar collectors have been conducted over years. Hussein [4, 5] investi- gated theoretically and experimentally a thermosyphon flat plate solar collector. The transient thermal behavior of wickless heat pipe flat plate solar collectors was analyzed with regard to a range of parameters. The results revealed that the pitch distance limited the selection of an absorber plate to one having a high value of thermal conductivity. Also, from the theoretical analysis, it was accomplished that the condenser section aspect ratio and the heat pipe inclination angle had a considerable effect on the con- densation heat transfer coefficient inside the inclined wickless heat pipes. Later, a wickless heat pipes flat plate solar collector with a cross flow heat exchanger was investigated theoretically and experimentally under the meteorological conditions of Cairo, Egypt [6]. The exper- imental and theoretical results indicated that the number of wickless heat pipes has a significant effect on the collector efficiency. Furthermore, Hussein et al. [1] investigated experimentally the effect of wickless heat pipe cross sec- tion geometry and its working fluid filling ratio on the performance of flat plate solar collectors. The experimental results indicate that the elliptical cross section wickless heat pipe flat plate solar collectors have better performance than the circular cross section ones at low water filling ratios. The optimum water filling ratio of the elliptical cross section wickless heat pipe solar collector is about 10%, while it is very close to 20% for the circular cross section one. Much effort has been made on the design of heat pipe solar collectors in the past few years. Riffat et al. [7]

123

presented the results obtained from laboratory testing of four liquid flat plate collectors, i.e., a wavy fin collector, two flat plate heat pipe collectors, and a clip fin solar collector. Results showed the clip fin solar collector to be promising, with experimental efficiencies approaching 86%. An analytical model has been developed to investi- gate the performance of a ‘mini’ gravitational heat pipe and two ‘micro’ gravitational heat pipes of different sizes, using water as the refrigerant. In general, the modeling results indicate ‘micro’ gravitational heat pipes have higher heat transport limits than ‘mini’ heat pipes of the same cross-sectional area [8]. Riffat and Zhao [9] designed and constructed a hybrid heat pipe solar collector/CHP system based on the integration of a hybrid heat pipe solar col- lector, a turbine, a boiler, condensers and pumps. The evaluation of the system performance by a combination of theoretical modeling and experimental testing was also conducted. It demonstrated that using more collector units would help to improve the system’s energy efficiency [10]. Later, the same authors designed and constructed a thin membrane heat pipe solar collector to allow heat from solar radiation to be collected at a relatively high efficiency while keeping the capital cost low. The test efficiency was found to be in the range 40–70%, which is a bit lower than the values predicted by modeling. The factors influencing these results were investigated [11]. A two-phase closed thermosyphon flat plate solar collector with a shell and tube heat exchanger was designed, constructed, and tested at transient conditions to study its performance for different cooling water mass flow rates at different inlet cooling water temperatures [12]. Abu-Zour et al. [13] designed new solar collectors integrated into louvered shading devices. Various designs of solar louver collector were discussed and a new type of absorber plate based on heat pipe technology was investigated. The compatibility of louvers with different sizes and shapes could improve solar control and the aesthetics of building facades. Yu et al. [14] introduced and developed the prototype of a cellular heat pipe flat solar collector. Theoretical and experimental research showed that the thermal performance of the new solar heater is better than that of evacuated glass tube solar heater or ordinary flat plate solar heater. Experimental flat plate solar collector operating in conjunction with a closed- end oscillating heat pipe (CEOHP) or a closed-loop oscil- lating heat pipe with check valve (CLOHP/CV) offered reasonably efficient and cost effective alternatives to con- ventional solar collector system that use heat pipes [15, 16]. Efficiencies of about 62 and 76% were attained separately for the two systems, which are directly compa- rable to that of the solar collector by heat pipe. CEOHP and CLOHP/CV system offer the additional benefits of corro- sion free operation and absence of freezing during winter months.

Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176

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On the other hand, experiments were performed to find out how the thermal performance of a two-phase ther- mosyphon solar collector was affected by using different refrigerants [17]. Three refrigerants (R-134a, R407C, and R410A) were used in identical small-scale solar water heating systems, among which R410A was found to show the highest solar thermal energy collection performance. Flow and heat transfer of a plate heat pipe solar collector, of which the condenser has the shape of a rectangular channel, was modeled and the heat transfer coefficient assessed, using the Fluent code. Results showed that the Nusselt number is significantly higher than the one for forced convection in a rectangular channel with fully developed boundary layers. In order to enhance heat transfer, a modification to the rectangular channel was analyzed, using baffles to improve flow distribution and increase velocity [18]. Azad [19] investigated theoretically and experimentally the thermal behavior of a gravity assisted heat pipe solar collector. A theoretical model based on effectiveness-NTU method was developed for evaluating the thermal efficiency of the collector, the inlet, outlet water temperatures and heat pipe temperature. Optimum value of evaporator length to condenser length ratio was also determined. Also, the performance of a wick-assisted heat pipe solar collector was investigated theoretically and experimentally. The simulated useful heat flux, heat pipe temperature, water outlet temperature and efficiency were in good agreement with experimental results [20]. As seen from these extensive literature reviews, most investigations on the performance analysis of heat pipe solar collector have been accomplished by experimental and numerical methods. The well known Hottel-Willer equation [21], which was originally applicable to perfor- mance evaluation of conventional flat plate solar collectors, has been widely adopted for theoretical analysis on thermal performance of heat pipe solar collectors. In fact, the flow and heat transfer characteristic of heat pipe flat plate solar collector is quite different from that of conventional flat plate solar collector due to their disparate configurations. Typically, conventional solar collectors use pipes attached to the collecting plate where working fluid (water or air) circulates either naturally or forcibly and transfers heat, hence, the wall temperature of pipes gradually increases along the working fluid flow direction. However, for a heat pipe flat plate solar collector, the axial temperature dif- ference of each heat pipe is approximately zero because of heat pipe’s principle of vapor–liquid phase transition, whereas the water flowing through a rectangular cross-flow channel absorbs the heat from heat pipes, and the tem- perature of water increases. There is no doubt that the thermal performance of heat pipe solar collector should have its own rule which is unlike that of conventional

flat plate solar collectors. Therefore, in this paper, the derivation of new analytical solutions for thermal evalua- tion of the heat pipe flat plate solar collector with cross flow heat exchanger will be proceeded base on basic heat transfer process of collector and effectiveness-number of heat transfer unit (e-NTU) method of heat exchanger design.

2 Computational model and theoretical analysis

  • 2.1 Computational model

Figure 1 shows a heat pipe flat plate solar collector, which consists of N wickless heat pipes. The evaporator sections with length L e of the wickless heat pipes are welded to absorber plate made of copper sheets. The condenser sec- tions with length L c of the wickless heat pipes are immersed in a cooling manifold. The pitch distance between the heat pipe is W, the heat pipe diameter is D and the absorber plate thickness is d. The absorber plate and heat pipe are made of copper, and the thermal conductivity is k. The left and right sides of absorber plate which contain point B 0 and A 0 , respectively are adiabatic walls. The ambient temperature is T a . Solar intensity is I o , while the solar energy intensity absorbed by absorber plate is S (without glass cover: S = I o a; with glass cover:

S = I o (as), where a is absorptivity of absorber plate and heat pipe wall, s is transmissivity of glass cover. This study will discuss the case with glass cover). The wall temper- ature of each heat pipe region A 1 B 1 , A 2 B 2 , A 3 B 3 ,, A N B N is assumed to be uniform, which are T b1 , T b2 , T b3 , , T b N , respectively. All these temperatures are unknown and require to be solved. As displayed in Fig. 2, for a collector with N heat pipes, the heated fluid flows orderly through the condenser sec- tions from the 1st heat pipe to the Nth one in a crosswise manner. The heated fluid outlet temperature of the 1st condenser section of heat pipe equals to the heated fluid inlet temperature of the 2nd one, and so on. The final temperature of heated fluid through N heat pipes is T 0 N , which needs to be solved, and the heated fluid inlet tem- perature T i is a known quantity.

  • 2.2 Theoretical analysis

For the energy balance equation and its solution for the heat pipe collector as shown in Fig. 1, some hypotheses have been made:

The system is in quasi-steady state.

The phase change of the working fluid inside the wickless heat pipe occurs at approximately constant

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Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176

Fig. 1

The heat pipe flat plate

solar collector. a The physical

model; b section AA

1170 Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176 Fig. 1 The heat pipe flat plate solar collector. a
1170 Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176 Fig. 1 The heat pipe flat plate solar collector. a

Fig. 2 Temperature variation of heated fluid in the condenser section of heat pipe

temperature and the temperature difference between the evaporator and condenser sections of the heat pipe is less than 2 C. The thickness of absorber plate with high heat conduction performance is much less than the width, so the temperature variation along the thickness of absorber plate is negligible. The overall heat loss coefficient between the absorber plate of collector and the external environment is treated as a constant. The heat pipe collector is well insulated and the heat loss through the insulation is neglected. Meanwhile, both end sides of the absorber plate are adiabatic.

Since the absorber plate is made of copper which is good conductor of heat, the temperature gradient of the absorber plate along the axial direction of heat pipe is negligible, therefore the heat transfer process in the regions B 0 A 1 , B 1 A 2 , B 2 A 3 , , B N A 0 of absorber plate is similar to the heat conduction problem of a fin.

2.2.1 The region B 0 –A 1

One-dimensional steady-state heat conduction of a fin with width of (W - D)/2 is assumed for the heat transfer pro- cess in the region B 0 A 1 of absorber plate. A differential element with width of dx, as shown in Fig. 3, is taken to analyze the energy balance. The assumption that the length of collector along the axial direction of heat pipe is set to be 1 are made. The net input heat rate from the solar irradiation Q net is

Q net ¼ q net dx ¼ ½S U L ðT T a Þ dx ð1Þ

where q net is the net input heat flux; U L is the collector overall heat loss coefficient. In terms of the heat transfer analysis of B 0 A 1 region, the heat transfer direction is parallel to ?x axes, thus the energy balance of the differential element control volume in Fig. 3 as a whole gives

1170 Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176 Fig. 1 The heat pipe flat plate solar collector. a

Fig. 3 The heat transfer process in B 0 A 1 region of absorber plate

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Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176

1171

Q x þ Q net ¼ Q xþdx

ð2Þ

In accordance with the Fourier’s law of heat conduction

and in combination with Eqs. 1, 2 would be

d 2 T

þ S U L ðT T a Þ

kd

dx

2

¼ 0

ð3Þ

The general solution of Eq. 3 is

T ¼ C 0;1 expðmxÞ þ C 0;2 expð mxÞþðS=U L þ T a Þ

ð4Þ

where

C 0,1

p ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi

U L =ðkdÞ .

and

C 0,2

are

integration constants, m ¼

The corresponding boundary conditions (the point B 0 is

coordinate origin) are

dT

dx

x¼0

¼ 0;

T j x¼ðW DÞ=2 ¼ T b1

Thus

C 0;1

¼ C 0;2 ¼

T b1 ðS=U L þ T a Þ

2chðmH =2Þ

where H = W - D.

ð5Þ

ð6Þ

Substituting Eq. 6 into Eq. 4, the final solution for the

temperature distribution is then

T ¼

chðmxÞ

chðmH =2Þ

½

T b1

ðS=U L þ

T a

Þ þ S=U L þ T a

ð7Þ

The heat flow rate which enters into the vertical plane

that contains point A 1 by conduction can be expressed as

Q A1 ¼ kdL e

dT

dx

x¼H =2

1

¼ 2 HL e F S

½

U L ðT b1

T a

Þ

ð8Þ

where F is the standard fin efficiency for straight fins with

rectangular profile, and obtained from F ¼ ½thðmH =2Þ =

ðmH =2Þ.

2.2.2 The region B 1 –A 2

When the heated fluid flows through the condenser of the

1st heat pipe to the Nth one successively, the temperature

of heated fluid gradually goes up. Accordingly, the working

fluid temperature of heat pipe rises up, from T hp1 to T hp n .

Heat flow directions of the regions B 1 A 2 , B 2 A 3 , B 3 A 4 ,

, B N - 1 A N are reverse to ?x axes. In a similar manner,

the heat transfer process in region B 1 A 2 of absorber plate

can be considered as one dimension steady-state heat

conduction problem of a fin with width of (W - D).

Combining the thermal conduction equation Eq. 3 with

boundary conditions x = 0, T = T b1 ; x = W - D,

T = T b2 , the integration constants of Eq. 4 are obtained

C 1;2 ¼

½T b1 ðS=U L þ T a Þ expðmH Þ

2shðmH Þ

½T b2 ðS=U L þ

T a Þ

2shðmH Þ

;

ð9Þ

C 1;1 ¼ T b1 C 1;2 ðS=U L þ T a Þ

The heat flow rate into the vertical plane that contains

point B 1 is calculated by

Q B1 ¼ kdL e

dT

dx

x¼0

¼ kdmL e ðT b1 2C 1;2 S=U L T a Þ

ð10Þ

On the basis of the temperature distribution of region

B 1 A 2 in absorber plate, the heat flow rate out of the

vertical plane that contains point A 2 is written as

Q A2 ¼ kdL e

dT

dx

x¼W D

¼ kdmL e C 1;1 expðmH Þ

C 1;2 expð mH Þ

2.2.3

The region A 1 –B 1 of No.1 heat pipe

ð11Þ

The gained solar energy in the region A 1 B 1 of No.1 heat

pipe is

Q A1B1 ¼ ðp=2ÞDL e ½

S

U L ðT b1

T a

Þ

ð12Þ

The useful energy obtained by the No.1 heat pipe is

Q hp1 ¼ GC p ðT 01 T i Þ

ð13Þ

where T 01 is heated fluid outlet temperature of No.1 heat

pipe.

The energy balance of the region A 1 B 1 of No.1 heat

pipe as a whole gives

Q A1 þ Q A1B1 þ

j

Q B1

j ¼ Q hp1

ð14Þ

Then the following equation can be obtained,

ð1=2ÞHL e F ½ S

U L ðT b1

T a

Þ þðp=2ÞDL e ½S U L ðT b1 T a Þ

þ kdmL e ðT b1 2C 1;2 S=U L T a Þ¼ GC p ðT 01 T i Þ

ð15Þ

Equation 15 contains unknown temperature T b1 , T b2 ,

T 01 .

2.2.4

The region A n –B n of No.n (n = 2, 3, 4,, N - 1)

heat pipe

For the region A n B n of No.n (n = 2, 3, 4,, N - 1) heat

pipe, the heat transfer process of each region is similar.

Applying the analysis method of the region A 1 B 1 , we also

have

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kdmL e ðT bn 2C n;2 S=U L

T a Þ

þ ðp=2ÞDL e ½S U L ðT bn T a Þ

¼ GC P ðT 0n T 0ðn 1Þ Þ þ kdmL e ½C n 1;1 expðmH Þ

C n 1;2 expð mH Þ

where

C n 1;2 ¼

½T bðn 1Þ ðS=U L þ T a Þ expðmH Þ

2shðmH Þ

½T bn ðS=U L þ T a Þ

2shðmH Þ

C n 1;1

C n;2 ¼

2shðmH Þ

 

 

2shðmH Þ

n 2 ð2; 3; 4; 5;

¼ T bðn 1Þ C ðn 1Þ;2 ðS=U L þ T a Þ

½T bn ðS=U L þ T a Þ expðmH Þ

½T bðnþ1Þ ðS=U L þ T a Þ

.; N 1Þ

ð16Þ

ð17aÞ

ð17bÞ

ð17cÞ

In which, T b( n - 1) is the region

A n - 1 B n - 1 temperature of

No.(n - 1) heat pipe; T b n is the region A n B n temperature

of No.n heat pipe; T b( n ? 1) is the region A n ? 1 B n ? 1

temperature of No.(n ? 1) heat pipe; T 0( n - 1) is heated

fluid inlet temperature of No.n heat pipe. T 0 n is heated fluid

outlet temperature of No.n heat pipe. Among these, T b( n - 1) ,

T b n , T 0( n - 1) and T 0 n are unknown.

  • 2.2.5 The

region A N –B N of No.N heat pipe

Since the analysis method of the region A N B N of

No.N heat pipe is almost the same as that of the region A 1

B 1 of No.1 heat pipe except for different boundary condi-

tions, thus neglected for brevity’s sake. The right side

surface of absorber plate is adiabatic. The appropriate

boundary conditions (the point B N is coordinate origin)

would be

T j x¼0 ¼ T bN ;

dT

  • dx x¼ðW DÞ=2

¼ 0

ð18Þ

Therefore, application of the above boundary conditions

yields the integration constants of general solution Eq. 4 as

C N ;1

¼

T bN ðS=U L þ T a Þ

1

þ expðmH Þ

;

ð19Þ

C N ;2 ¼ T bN C N ;1 ðS=U L þ T a Þ

The heat flow rate into the vertical plane that contains

point B N is calculated by

Q BN ¼ kdL e

dT

  • dx x¼0

¼ kdmL e ðC N ;1 C N ;2 Þ

ð20Þ

The energy balance equation for the region A N B N of

No.N heat pipe is written as

j

Q BN

j þ Q ANBN ¼

j

Q AN

j þ Q hpN

ð21Þ

where Q ANBN is the gained solar energy in the region A N

B N of No.N heat pipe; Q AN is the heat flow rate out of the

vertical plane that contains point A N .

The useful energy gained by the No.N heat pipe is given

by

Q hpN ¼ GC p

T 0N T 0ðN 1Þ

ð22Þ

Combining Eqs. 20, 21 and 22 leads to:

kdmL e ð2C N ;1 T bN þ S=U L þ T a Þ

þ ðp=2ÞDL e ½S U L ðT bN T a Þ

¼ GC p ðT 0N T 0ðN 1Þ Þ þ kdmL e ½C N 1;1

expðmH Þ

C N 1;2 expð mH Þ

ð23Þ

It is clear that Eq. 23 contains unknown temperature

T b(N - 1) , T b N , T 0(N - 1) and T 0 N .

2.2.6 The relation T 0n with T bn

For No.1 heat pipe, the heat transfer effectiveness e 1 and

the number of heat transfer unit NTU c1 are defined as

e 1 ¼ 1 expð NTU c1 Þ; NTU c1 ¼ ðA c1 U c;01 Þ=ðGC P Þ

ð24Þ

where U c,01 is heat convection coefficient of heated fluid

and the condenser section, it can be obtained from

Nu = 0.26Re 0.6 Pr 1/3 [22]; A c1 is the heat exchange area of

heated fluid and the condenser section of heat pipe.

From e 1 ¼ ðT 01 T i Þ=ðT c;01 T i Þ, we have

T 01 ¼ T i þ ½1 expð NTU c1 Þ ðT c;01 T i Þ

ð25Þ

where T c,01 is the working fluid temperature of No.1 heat

pipe condenser section and equal to the working fluid

temperature of No.1 heat pipe T hp1 . Considering that phase

transition heat transfer coefficient of heat pipe is rather high,

and the temperature difference of phase transition heat

transfer is much smaller than that of single phase

convection heat transfer, namely, T c,01 = T hp1 & T b1 .

Therefore, Eq. 25 may be rearranged in the following form:

T 01 ¼ T i þ ½1 expð NTU c1 Þ ðT b1 T i Þ ð26Þ

Proceeding in a similar fashion,

for No.n heat

pipe

(n = 2, 3, 4,, N), it is readily shown that

T 0n

¼ T 0ðn 1Þ þ

½

1 expð NTU cn

Þ

T bn T 0ðn 1Þ

ð27Þ

Again,

e n ¼ 1 expð NTU cn Þ;

NTU cn ¼ ðA cn U c;0n Þ=ðGC P Þ

ð28Þ

It is assumed that each heat pipe is the same, namely

A c n = A c1 , U c,01 = U c,0 n , we have

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1173

e 1 ¼ e 2 ¼ e 3 ¼ e 4 ¼ ¼ e n ¼ e

ð29Þ

From

Eqs. 26

to

29,

the

following

equations

are

obtained:

 

T 01

¼

T i þ eðT b1 T i Þ ¼ eT b1 þ ð1 eÞT i

 

ð30Þ

T 02

¼

eT b2

þ ð1 eÞeT b1 þ ð1 eÞ 2 T i

ð31Þ

T 0n ¼ T i ð1 eÞ n þ ð1 eÞ n 1 eT b1 þ ð1 eÞ n 2 eT b2

þ þð1 eÞeT bðn 1Þ

þ eT bn

where n 2 ð2; 3; 4;

...;

N Þ.

ð32Þ

From the relation T 0 n with T b n , it is shown that Eqs. 15,

16 and 23 consist of N equations which contain N unknown

quantities. Obviously, closed form solutions can be

obtained from these equations. Namely, we can gain the

temperature T b1 , T b2 , T b3 ,, T b N of region A 1 B 1 , A 2 B 2 ,

A 3 B 3 ,, A N B N of the heat pipes. Meanwhile, the heated

fluid outlet temperature of each heat pipe T 01 , T 02 , T 03 ,,

T 0 N can be found out. Further, the thermal efficiency of the

heat pipe flat plate solar collector g can be calculated as [6]

g ¼

GC p ðT 0N T i Þ

I 0 A coll

ð33Þ

where A coll is area of collector, A coll = NWL e .

3 Results validation

Take the collector parameters in Ref. [6], the heat pipe was

made of copper with length of 0.92 m and outer diameter

D of 0.0127 m. The lengths of evaporator and condenser

section, i.e., L e and L c are 0.75 and 0.1 m, respectively. The

glass cover plate was sized in 0.76 m 9 1.9 m 9 0.004 m,

of which the transmissivity s is 0.9. The absorber plate was

made of copper with size of 1.89 m 9 0.75 m and it was

coated with anodic alumina spectral selective absorption

material of which the absorptivity a is 0.94. The condenser

section of heat pipe is placed in the heated fluid channels of

1.9 m 9 0.1 m 9 0.03 m. The heated fluid, namely water

flows in succession over the condenser section of the heat

pipe in a crosswise manner. The heat loss coefficient

between the absorber plate and environment U L is 8.6

W/m 2 K [23]. Other parameters, such as solar intensity I o

and ambient temperature T a are from Ref. [6]. Initial wall

temperature distributions were assumed for each heat pipe,

then the Gauss–Seidel iteration method was employed to

solve the above mentioned N equations, and the calculation

results are discussed in the following. For the convenience

of illustration and comparison, ‘‘th’’ means the theoretical

calculations in this paper; ‘‘exp’’ and ‘‘nu’’, respectively

denote the experimental and numerical results in Ref. [6].

The theoretical water outlet temperature in this paper is

compared with the experimental and numerical values in

Ref. [6] when the water flow rate G = 0.0458 kg/s, as

presented in Fig. 4a. Very small relative deviation (only

-0.1 to 0.4%) has been detected. Figure 4b demonstrates

comparisons of the collector thermal efficiency for the

same case. The relative deviation between theoretical and

experimental values is only -1.7 to 7.5%, while the rela-

tive deviation between the numerical and experimental

values in Ref. [6] was found to be -4.5 to 6.6%.

Similarly, Fig. 5a gives the comparisons of the theo-

retical water outlet temperature in this paper with the

experimental and numerical values in Ref. [6] when the

water flow rate G = 0.0125 kg/s. Again, minor relative

deviation exists between the two, which is only -1 to

0.8%. Figure 5b presents the collector thermal efficiency

comparisons. The theoretical values obtained in this paper

Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176 1173 e ¼ e ¼ e ¼ e ¼ ¼ e

Fig. 4 The water outlet temperature and collector thermal efficiency at G = 0.0458 kg/s in comparison with the experimental and numerical results in Ref. [6]

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Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176

1174 Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176 Fig. 5 The water outlet temperature and collector thermal efficiency

Fig. 5 The water outlet temperature and collector thermal efficiency at G = 0.0125 kg/s in comparison with the experimental and numerical results in Ref. [6]

agree well with the experimental values with relative

deviation of -5.2 to 5.8%. Whereas, the relative deviation

of the numerical and experimental values in Ref. [6] was

-4.9 to 29.2%.

According to the above analysis, fairly good agreements

have been observed in the theoretical and experimental

results, especially the water outlet temperature. This con-

firms that the theoretical method raised in this paper is

feasible and effective, and can be used with confidence for

the thermal performance analysis of heat pipe flat plate

solar collector.

In addition, seen from the theoretical values of water

outlet temperature and the collector thermal efficiency in

this paper and the experimental values in Ref. [6], the

relative deviation of collector thermal efficiency is always

greater than that of water outlet temperature. For example,

at 16:00 in Fig. 4, the water outlet temperature calculated

in this paper is only 0.3% higher than the experiment value

in Ref. [6], while the relative deviation of thermal effi-

ciency is enlarged to 7.5%. This is due to that, for the

calculation of relative deviation of water outlet tempera-

ture, it is defined as the calculated and experimental water

outlet temperature difference divided by the experimental

value. The relative deviation of collector thermal efficiency

is defined as the calculated and experimental water outlet

temperature difference divided by the actual water tem-

perature rise. Because the water temperature rise in actual

process is not too much (in Ref. [6], it is only several

Celsius degree), a small deviation of water outlet temper-

ature will result in great thermal efficiency deviation,

especially for the cases of weak solar radiation or increased

water mass flow rate. Compared Fig. 4 with Fig. 5, it is

noticed that as the water mass flow rate increases, the

thermal efficiency deviation of the theoretical and experi-

mental value increases, which is owning to that the

increase of water mass flow rate leads to the decrease of

water temperature rising. This also confirms the above

analysis.

To further validate the theoretical method proposed in

this paper, comparisons of water outlet temperature and

collector thermal efficiency between the theoretical and

experimental results in Ref. [6] for the collector with dif-

ferent heat pipe number and the water mass flow rate

G = 0.0292 kg/s have been presented in Fig. 6. It suggests

that as the heat pipe number increases, the theoretical

results obtained by the present method become closer to the

experimental results in Ref. [6]. With N = 10, 12 and 14,

the relative deviations of water outlet temperature are 1.56

to 2.4%, -0.83 to -1.97%, -0.91 to 1.4%, and the relative

deviations for collector thermal efficiency are 16.7 to 38%,

-8 to -14%, -6.8 to 13.9%. It should be noted that, the

collector thermal efficiency showed the highest when

N = 12 in Ref. [6]. However, the theoretical results in this

paper reveal that, the collector thermal efficiency increase

slightly as the heat pipe number decreases, namely, the

collector thermal efficiency does not change significantly if

the heat pipe number changes a little. Take the moment of

12:30 as an example, for the collector with N = 10, 12 and

14, their thermal efficiencies are 64, 63, 61%, respectively;

however, the results in Ref. [6] stated that the collector

thermal efficiencies respectively are 54, 70, and 64% with

N = 10, 12 and 14, which shows much more significant

change than that of this paper.

4 Conclusions

The equations describing the temperature distributions of

the absorber plate and the relationships between each heat

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Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176

1175

Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176 1175 Fig. 6 The water outlet temperature and collector thermal efficiency

Fig. 6 The water outlet temperature and collector thermal efficiency at N = 10, 12, 14 in comparison with the experimental and numerical results in Ref. [6]

pipe wall temperature and the water temperature rise in the

process of flowing over the condenser section of each heat

pipe were derived. The theoretical values of water outlet

temperature and the collector thermal efficiency have been

calculated when the relevant parameters, such as the solar

intensity, water inlet temperature and environmental tem-

perature are known. On the basis of present analysis it is

concluded that:

  • 1. Using the present theoretical method, the values of water outlet temperature and the collector thermal efficiency agree well with those in Ref. [6], especially the water outlet temperature values. Because of the collector thermal efficiency definition, the relative deviation of

collector thermal efficiency is generally greater than that

of water outlet temperature.

  • 2. As an increased the heated fluid temperature rise can reduce the relative deviation of water outlet temper- ature and collector thermal efficiency, this theoretical method is more suitable for the collector under certain conditions, i.e., intense solar radiation, small heated fluid mass flow rate, and a collector with more heat pipes.

  • 3. The theoretical method proposed in this paper can be used for heat pipe flat plate solar collector performance analysis and assessment. It is an efficient approach to analyze and discuss the influences of solar intensity, water inlet temperature, environmental temperature, heated fluid mass flow rate and collector’s structure parameters on the heat pipe flat plate solar collector performance.

Acknowledgments This work is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No.51076171). The authors also wish to thank the support from Natural Science Foundation Project of CQ CSTC (CSTC, 2010BB6062) and Project No. CDJXS 10141147 supported by Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.

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