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

Delcie Durham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elias Stefanakos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Frank Pyrtle, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Viktoria Martin, Ph.D.


Cascaded storage, Economic Study, High Temperature Phase Change, Molten Salt CSP, Thermal Energy Storage


Though economically favorable when compared to other renewable energy storage technologies, thermal energy storage systems for concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) plants require additional cost reduction measures to help transition CSP plants to the point of grid-parity. Thermocline packed bed storage is regarded as one potential low cost solution due to the single tank requirement and low cost storage media. Thus sensible heat storage (SHS) and latent heat storage (LHS) packed bed systems, which are two thermocline varieties, are frequently investigated. LHS systems can be further classified as single phase change material (PCM) systems or cascaded systems wherein multiple PCMs are employed.

This study compared the performance of SHS, single PCM, and cascaded PCM direct storage systems under the conditions that may be encountered in utility-scale molten salt CSP plants operating between 565°C and 288°C. A small-scale prototype SHS packed bed system was constructed and operated for use in validating a numerical model. The drawbacks of the latent heat storage process were discussed, and cascaded systems were investigated for their potential in mitigating the issues associated with adopting a single PCM. Several cascaded PCM configurations were evaluated. The study finds that the volume fraction of each PCM and the arrangement of latent heat in a 2-PCM and a 3-PCM system influences the output of the system, both in terms of quality and quantity of energy. In addition to studying systems of hypothetical PCMs, real salt PCM systems were examined and their selection process was discussed.

A preliminary economic assessment was conducted to compare the cost of SHS, single-PCM LHS, cascaded LHS, and state-of-the-art 2-tank systems. To the author's knowledge, this is the first study that compares the cost of all three thermocline packed bed systems with the 2-tank design. The SHS system is significantly lower in cost than the remaining systems, however the LHS system does show some economic benefit over the 2-tank design. If LHS systems are to be viable in the future, low cost storage media and encapsulation techniques are necessary.