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Applied Energy 93 (2012) 549555

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EffectivenessNTU correlation for low temperature PCM encapsulated in spheres

N.A.M. Amin a,b,, F. Bruno a, M. Belusko a
Barbara Hardy Institute, School of Advanced Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, South Australia 5095, Australia
School of Mechatronic Engineering, Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Main Campus, Ulu Pauh, 02600 Arau, Perlis, Malaysia

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The applicability of the effectivenessNTU method for characterising a PCM thermal energy storage sys-
Received 27 April 2011 tem was experimentally investigated. The system consisted of PCM encapsulated in spheres with a liquid
Received in revised form 16 November 2011 heat transfer uid. Freezing and melting tests have been carried out for a variety of conditions on a tank
Accepted 1 December 2011
lled with 60 spheres. The investigation demonstrated that a correlation existed between the effective-
Available online 26 December 2011
ness of heat transfer and the mass ow rate in accordance with the effectivenessNTU relationship for
condensers and boilers. It has been proven experimentally that the effectivenessNTU method is appli-
cable for PCM encapsulated in spheres in a tank.
Phase change material
Heat exchange effectiveness
2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Thermal energy storage

1. Introduction supercooling. While these models can predict the heat transfer
processes that occur within the PCM system very well, they can
Phase change materials (PCMs) are an effective thermal storage take considerable time to develop and also simulations can take
medium for low energy thermal systems [13]. The PCM thermal a very long time to run. Furthermore, although these models have
energy storage (TES) system consists of PCM separated from a heat proved useful in a parametric analysis they have not enabled an
transfer uid (HTF) which exchanges heat with the PCM at the effective characterisation of the heat transfer within the TES sys-
phase change temperature. The system takes advantage of the high tem to readily determine the useful energy from a PCM system
latent energy which exists within PCMs, and ultimately can or whether heat transfer enhancement is needed. The thermal en-
achieve high volumetric storage densities principally with systems ergy storage model by Cabeza et al. [17] and work completed with-
where the temperature difference between the heat source and in the International Energy Agency Solar Heating and Cooling
sink is low. However, unlike sensible energy storage systems, the Program (Task 32) [18] has demonstrated that the energy savings
useful energy that can be extracted is related to the thermal resis- of latent energy storage relative to the sensible energy storage
tance between the heat transfer uid and PCM [4]. Most PCMs with capacity of water, for domestic hot water storage, for the same vol-
high energy density have a very low thermal conductivity [5,6]. ume was negligible. In other research, Helm et al. [19] investigated
Various heat transfer augmentation techniques in latent heat ther- the use of a PCM-in-tank system as a heat rejection system in an
mal storage have been proposed. These include the use of ns with absorption chiller, based on a low temperature range. The study
different congurations [711], PCMs impregnated within a metal clearly demonstrated that the useable energy storage density
matrix [12], and micro-encapsulation of the PCM [13]. These meth- was signicantly higher than a sensible energy storage system.
ods have all reduced the thermal resistance within the PCM. How- Characterising a PCM storage system will highlight these design is-
ever, it is not clear what the benet to a TES system these methods sues and enable an effective storage system to be developed, which
present. is currently not the focus of existing numerical models.
The current evaluation of PCM systems involves the use of Ismail and Congalves [20] presented the performance of a
numerical models to determine the outlet conditions of the heat nned type PCM storage system in terms of heat exchange effec-
transfer uid [14,15]. A review of numerical models of PCM sys- tiveness. They presented a mathematical model based upon a
tems has recently been conducted [16]. These models take into ac- two dimensional formulation of the phase change heat transfer
count 3D conduction, natural convection, sensible storage and problem around an externally nned tube immersed in the PCM
while the working uid ows through it. The energy equation
was written in its enthalpic form and the heat and ow processes
Corresponding author at: Barbara Hardy Institute, School of Advanced Manu-
are coupled by an energy balance on the uid element owing in-
facturing and Mechanical Engineering, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes,
South Australia 5095, Australia. Tel.: +61 8 8302 3230; fax: +61 8 8302 3380. side the tube. The numerical solution is based upon the control vol-
E-mail address: (N.A.M. Amin). ume technique and nite difference representation. The results

0306-2619/$ - see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
550 N.A.M. Amin et al. / Applied Energy 93 (2012) 549555


e effectiveness () NTU number of transfer unit ()

e average phase change effectiveness () Qact actual stored energy (J)
ed discharging effectiveness () Q_ av e average heat transfer rate (W)
ec charging effectiveness () Qmax maximum/theoretical stored energy (J)
Euseful net useful energy (J) Qreq required stored energy (J)
hf latent energy density of the PCM (J/kg) Tin inlet temperature (C)
mpcm mass of PCM (kg) Tout outlet temperature (C)
mpcm_needed mass of the PCM needed to gain desired useful T time (s)
storage capacity (kg) treq time required to store desired useful storage capacity (s)
m_ mass ow rate of HTF supplied into the TES system

obtained show the effect of the geometrical parameters such as ing. This representation ignores sensible energy storage, which is
number of ns, n length, compactness ratio and the n thickness not the focus of latent energy storage systems. This heat exchange
on the solidied mass, NTU and effectiveness. effectiveness is totally dependent on the thermal resistances to
Belusko and Bruno [21] have expanded and applied the effec- heat transfer during the phase change time. However, as explained
tivenessNTU method to PCM encapsulated in plates, providing a by Belusko and Bruno [21], this resistance increases with time, and
clear measure of the heat transfer rate achievable from a specic therefore the effectiveness decreases with time. Therefore Eq. (1)
PCM design. Tay et al. [22] and Castell et al. [23] have experimen- represents the average effectiveness over the phase change pro-
tally applied this concept to develop empirical relationships for the cess, and can be a useful representation of the capability of a TES
effectiveness of a tube-in-tank system as a function of the ratio of system at storing and discharging thermal energy.
the mass ow rate to surface area. This ratio is directly propor-
tional to the NTU. These characterisations are 1-D and ignore sen-
ec;d Q act =Q max T in  T out =T in  T pcm 1
sible energy storage, natural convection and supercooling. As a Within the TES, heat ows from the HTF to the PCM and ex-
result they focus on the latent energy component. Furthermore, changes heat at the phase change temperature. At the phase
being temperature independent, optimising the effectiveness of a change temperature the specic heat of the PCM is innite and
design maximises the effectiveness for all conditions. It can be ar- therefore this process can be represented by the effectiveness
gued that for design purposes, the focus should be on the latent NTU equation for condensers and boilers (Eq. (2)) [28]. Again the
component of any PCM thermal storage system. Therefore investi- equation denes the average NTU over the phase change process
gating the applicability of the effectivenessNTU approach, could as the NTU is a function of the thermal resistance between the
represent a useful characterisation for a PCM in sphere system. PCM at the phase location of phase change and the HTF.
The applicability of the effectiveness method here will differ from
that applied to the tube-in-tank due to the different processes in-
e 1  expNTU 2
volved. In a tube-in-tank system the entire tank is an integrated The average effectiveness gives an indication of how much en-
PCM block which changes phase consistently throughout the tank ergy can be extracted from the TES system. However from a design
[22]. However studies have shown that PCM encapsulated in perspective the critical parameter is the effectiveness at the end of
spheres changes phase at different rates depending on the location the phase change process, as this determines the nal outlet tem-
of the PCM. perature from the storage system. Therefore design equations
PCM encapsulated in spheres is a well established TES system. reecting both the average and the end of phase change should
These systems have the advantage of achieving even ow distribu- be considered.
tion throughout the TES system [1,2,24]. Furthermore, PCMs
encapsulated in spheres have the advantage of potentially being 3. Experimentation
more resistant to segregation due to the reduced distance allowed
for separation [25,26]. Despite the fact that the total availability in An experiment was set up which consisted of PCM encapsulated
the bed increases with smaller spheres and a longer bed, the con- in 60 spheres, which were arranged randomly in a tank lled with
vective ow in the bed requires higher pumping power [27]. a liquid heat transfer uid (HTF). Fig. 1a shows a cross sectional
The current study aims to experimentally investigate the appli- view of a sphere encapsulated with PCM and Fig. 1b shows the
cability of effectiveness as a performance measure for a TES system TES system containing 60 spheres. The spheres were lled up to
with PCM encapsulated in spheres, and whether an empirical de- 95% of their volume. The PCM used was water (PCM0) with each
sign relationship can be developed. sphere containing 0.163 mL of the storage material. The encapsula-
tion is made from Medium Density Polyethylene with the internal
2. Heat transfer characterisation and outer radiuss being 0.0345 m and 0.037 m, respectively.
The TES system consisted of a 25 L polyethylene tank (Fig. 1b)
The PCM storage acts as a heat exchanger where heat is trans- with a diameter of 0.3 m. The spheres were held in place between
ferred between the HTF and the PCM. The effectiveness of this pro- 2 diffusers which were 0.403 m apart. The diffusers were 5 mm
cess is equal to the ratio of the actual heat transfer to the polyethylene plates with 28 holes of 4 mm diameter evenly dis-
maximum possible heat transfer [28], as presented in Eq. (1). The tributed. This storage system arrangement is smaller than that pre-
maximum possible heat transfer occurs when the outlet tempera- sented in literatures [1,2426] and was chosen to provide a wide
ture equates to the phase change temperature, at which point the range of values for effectiveness.
effectiveness equates to unity. Maximising the heat transfer is also On top of the tank, a perforated ring like hose was used as the
one of the most effective measures by which to reduce supercool- inlet, and the outlet was a single pipe at the centre of the bottom.
N.A.M. Amin et al. / Applied Energy 93 (2012) 549555 551

Fig. 1. (a) Cross section of the encapsulated PCM in a sphere and (b) the TES system.

Table 1
provide qualitative information on the phase change process
Properties of heat transfer uid at different temperatures. within the storage system. They had an error of 1 C. For the in-
let and outlet HTF temperatures, 2 platinum 385 1/10th DIN
Temperature Dynamic Thermal Specic Density
Resistance Temperature Devices (RTDs) were used with an accu-
(C) viscosity conductivity (W/ heat (kJ/ (kg/m3)
(mPa s) m K) kg K) racy of 0.1 C. These sensors provided more accurate temperature
measurement and were used to determine the effectiveness. A
28 8.454 0.461 2.832 1342
0 3.919 0.489 2.889 1326 calibrated ow meter to measure the HTF ow rate was used
15 2.907 0.504 2.918 1318 with an accuracy of 2%.
Fig. 2 presents the testing arrangement. During charging or
freezing, heat transfer uid at 28 C was circulated through the
This system was developed to deliver even ow distribution of the TES at a constant ow rate until all the PCM was frozen. The heat
HTF. The HTF was a viscous uid capable of operating at 40 C. transfer uid was kept constant by a refrigeration unit. During dis-
The properties of this uid at various temperatures are presented charging or melting, the heat transfer uid was pumped through a
in Table 1. fan coil unit in a heated room providing a near constant tempera-
There were 4 T-type thermocouples located on each of three ture of 15 C. Tests were conducted at different inlet temperatures.
cross sectional planes of the tank (see Fig. 1b) near the inlet, The thermal losses through the tank has been measured to be less
middle and outlet of the TES tank. These thermocouples mea- than 3% of the minimum charging or discharging heat transfer rate,
sured temperature on the outer surface of individual spheres to and so can be ignored.

Fig. 2. Basic layout of the experimental test rig.

552 N.A.M. Amin et al. / Applied Energy 93 (2012) 549555

4. Experimental results on examining both the internal and outlet temperature of the HTF.
The end of the phase change process was dened by a distinct
Figs. 36 show the temperature measurements for both dis- change of gradient in the outlet temperature of the HTF out of
charging and charging with the phase change process indicated. the tank.
In all gures the phase change process is reected in the change At the lower ow rate the outlet temperature was closer to the
in the gradient of the temperature proles. The melting process freezing temperature. Interestingly, the temperature measure-
(Figs. 3 and 4) show how the temperatures dramatically change ments within the tank clearly show supercooling occurring by up
gradient at the melting temperature and show a less distinct to 6 C. This supercooling is occurring at different times throughout
change in gradient at the end of the phase change process. All tem- the tank with the crystallization occurring at the inlet, outlet and -
peratures apart from the inlet are similar, suggesting that phase nally the centre section. Collectively, no impact on the outlet tem-
change in all of the spheres occurred simultaneously. Fig. 5 pre- perature was observed, highlighting that the heat was absorbed
sents the temperature prole for a faster ow rate than Fig. 6 quickly once crystallisation was initiated. Furthermore, the end of
and produces a higher outlet temperature at the end of the phase the phase change process occurs approximately at the same time
change. The identication of the phase change start time was based suggesting that all the spheres are freezing over the same period.

Fig. 3. Temperatures during discharging with the mass ow rate of 0.0169 kg/s.

Fig. 4. Temperatures during discharging with the mass ow rate of 0.0137 kg/s.
N.A.M. Amin et al. / Applied Energy 93 (2012) 549555 553

5. Effectiveness analysis average effectiveness, consistent with heat exchanger theory. The
NTU is a function of the thermal resistance in the PCM. During
Phase change effectiveness is measured using Eq. (1) with Tpcm charging this is driven by the thermal conductivity of the solid
xed at 0 C. In Fig. 3, the discharging effectiveness (ed) was mea- PCM which marginally varies over the temperature ranges used.
sured to be 0.412 with the mass ow rate of 0.0169 kg/s supplied During melting the temperature difference affects the level of
to the TES system during discharging. The discharging effective- natural convection which occurs within the PCM, which will change
ness value (0.478) is higher for the low ow of 0.0137 kg/s the NTU. However due to the relative small diameter of the sphere,
(Fig. 4). Therefore, charging effectiveness calculated from Figs. 5 the variation in the natural convection had a negligible impact on
and 6 are 0.477 and 0.541 for 0.0186 kg/s and 0.0152 kg/s, the thermal resistance in the PCM. The effectiveness for freezing
respectively. is higher than the effectiveness for melting. This is expected as
Table 2 summarises the results obtained from all the experi- the thermal conductivity of ice is 2.2 W/m-K whereas for the
ments. In the table, the average heat transfer rate (Q av e ) has been thermal conductivity for water is 0.626 W/m-K [5]. Bdcarrats
determined from the measurements taken during the experiments. et al. [24] identied an effective conductivity, including natural
Figs. 7 and 8 show the measured average effectiveness with convection, of 1.1 W/m-K when water was used as the PCM, which
respect to ow rate for discharging and charging respectively. Both is still lower than the conductivity of ice. Overall the average effec-
graphs show how increasing the mass ow rate reduces the tiveness can be readily represented by the empirical equations. The

Fig. 5. Temperatures during charging with the mass ow rate of 0.0186 kg/s.

Fig. 6. Temperatures during charging with the mass ow rate of 0.0152 kg/s.
554 N.A.M. Amin et al. / Applied Energy 93 (2012) 549555

Table 2
Parameters and results for all experiments.

Process Mass ow rate (kg/s) Tin Tout Phase change time (min) e Q_ av e (W) Euseful (kJ)

Discharging 0.0101 27.01 11.10 83.67 0.589 460 1923

0.0137 15.49 8.09 88.92 0.478 289 1561
0.0169 15.09 8.87 60.67 0.412 300 1345
0.0195 23.01 14.01 58.67 0.391 502 1277
0.0211 18,051 11.97 50.67 0.353 394 1153
0.0248 12.11 8.19 91.02 0.323 276 1055
0.0257 26.61 18.52 37.67 0.315 596 1029
0.033 20.51 15.13 70.92 0.262 507 855
Charging 0.0105 24.7 9.39 78.92 0.62 449 2024
0.0152 29.3 13.45 60.92 0.541 670 1766
0.0186 29.6 15.48 58.92 0.477 730 1557
0.0197 27.7 15.51 60.67 0.44 668 1437
0.0221 27.8 16.4 60.67 0.41 701 1339
0.0257 28.8 18.49 36.67 0.358 736 1169
0.027 30.4 19.64 45.67 0.354 806 1160
0.0329 25.2 17.94 44.67 0.3 665 980

Fig. 7. Discharging effectiveness versus mass ow rate.

Fig. 8. Charging effectiveness versus mass ow rate.

discharging and charging effectiveness can be calculated using Eqs. same temperature differences as presented in the paper, so that a
(3) and (4) below, respectively. These equations are only applicable similar level of natural convection is obtained in the sphere. Never-
for the sphere size presented here and can be translated to larger theless, it was found that an inlet temperature difference of 2 C
tanks for freezing. For melting, testing should be completed at the had no effect on phase change. Also, the correlations conrm that
N.A.M. Amin et al. / Applied Energy 93 (2012) 549555 555

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