Similarity and generalized analysis of efficiencies of thermal energy storage systems

Peiwen Li, Jon Van Lew, Cholik Chan, Wafaa Karaki, Jake Stephens, J. E. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


This paper examined the features of three typical thermal storage systems including: 1) direct storage of heat transfer fluid in containers, 2) storage of thermal energy in a packed bed of solid filler material, with energy being carried in/out by a flowing heat transfer fluid which directly contacts the packed bed, and 3) a system in which heat transfer fluid flows through tubes that are imbedded into a thermal storage material which may be solid, liquid, or a mixture of the two. The similarity of the three types of thermal storage systems was discussed, and generalized energy storage governing equations were introduced in both dimensional and dimensionless forms. The temperatures of the heat transfer fluid during energy charge and discharge processes and the overall energy storage efficiencies were studied through solution of the energy storage governing equations. Finally, provided in the paper are a series of generalized charts bearing curves for energy storage effectiveness against four dimensionless parameters grouped up from many of the thermal storage system properties including dimensions, fluid and thermal storage material properties, as well as the operational conditions including mass flow rate of the fluid, and the ratio of energy charge and discharge time periods. Engineers can conveniently look up the charts to design and calibrate the size of thermal storage tanks and operational conditions without doing complicated individual modeling and computations. It is expected that the charts will serve as standard tools for thermal storage system design and calibration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-402
Number of pages15
JournalRenewable Energy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Analysis
  • Concentrated solar thermal power
  • Design
  • Similarity
  • Thermal storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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