Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Mechanical Engineering

Degree Granting Department

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

D. Yogi Goswami, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Muhammad M. Rahman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elias Stefanakos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Frank Pyrtle III, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andres Tejada-Martinez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

José Gonzalez-Aguilar, Ph.D.


Latent Heat, Natural Convection, Phase Change Material, Radiant Energy, Spherical Capsule


Capital investment reduction, exergetic efficiency improvement and material compatibility issues have been identified as the primary techno-economic challenges associated, with the near-term development and deployment of thermal energy storage (TES) in commercial-scale concentrating solar power plants. Three TES techniques have gained attention in the solar energy research community as possible candidates to reduce the cost of solar-generated electricity, namely (1) sensible heat storage, (2) latent heat (tank filled with phase change materials (PCMs) or encapsulated PCMs packed in a vessel) and (3) thermochemical storage. Among these the PCM macro-encapsulation approach seems to be one of the most-promising methods because of its potential to develop more effective energy exchange, reduce the cost associated with the tank and increase the exergetic efficiency. However, the technological barriers to this approach arise from the encapsulation techniques used to create a durable capsule, as well as an assessment of the fundamental thermal energy transport mechanisms during the phase change.

A comprehensive study of the energy exchange interactions and induced fluid flow during melting and solidification of a confined storage medium is reported in this investigation from a theoretical perspective. Emphasis has been placed on the thermal characterization of a single constituent storage module rather than an entire storage system, in order to, precisely capture the energy exchange contributions of all the fundamental heat transfer mechanisms during the phase change processes. Two-dimensional, axisymmetric, transient equations for mass, momentum and energy conservation have been solved numerically by the finite volume scheme.

Initially, the interaction between conduction and natural convection energy transport modes, in the absence of thermal radiation, is investigated for solar power applications at temperatures (300 - 400°). Later, participating thermal radiation within the storage medium has been included in order to extend the conventional natural convection-dominated model and to analyze its influence on the melting and freezing dynamics at elevated temperatures (800 - 850°). A parametric analysis has been performed in order to ascertain the effects of the controlling parameters on the melting/freezing rates and the total and radiative heat transfer rates at the inner surface of the shell. The results show that the presence of thermal radiation enhances the melting and solidification processes.

Finally, a simplified model of the packed bed heat exchanger with multiple spherical capsules filled with the storage medium and positioned in a vertical array inside a cylindrical container is analyzed and numerically solved. The influence of the inlet mass flow rate, inner shell surface emissivity and PCM attenuation coefficient on the melting dynamics of the PCM has been analyzed and quantified.