Non-uniform heat flux profiles on circular tubes are found in a number of heat transfer
applications, including solar heating. In this numerical study the influence of the
circumferential angle spans of non-uniform heat flux distributions are considered on the
secondary buoyancy-driven flow, internal fluid heat transfer coefficients, and friction factors
in horizontal absorber tubes in parabolic trough solar collector applications for water heating
in the laminar flow regime. Inlet Reynolds numbers ranging from 130 to 2200 for 10 m long
tubes with different inner diameters were considered. Sinusoidal type incident heat flux
distributions, tube-wall heat conduction and heat losses were taken into account. It was found
that due to buoyancy-driven secondary flow, overall and local internal heat transfer
coefficients were increased significantly due to the non-uniformity of the incident heat flux.
Average internal heat transfer coefficient increased with the heat flux intensity, the incident
heat flux angle span and the inlet fluid temperature. The effective friction factor decreased
with an increase in the absorber tube inlet fluid temperature. It was found that improved
thermal efficiencies can be achieved for low mass flow rate water heating applications by
employing parabolic trough collector systems compared to flat plate systems.