A solar simulator was used to test whether a carbon black additive could increase the solar absorption of a low temperature organic PCM (consisting of a eutectic mixture of palmitic acid and stearic acid).
Various PCM and carbon black composites (0.01 % to 6 %) were tested, with the 0.06 % carbon black composites showing the fastest temperature increase, reaching 75 °C much quicker (350 % faster) than the pure PCM. All of the tested PCM composites reached 75 °C in less than half the time it took the pure PCM. It can therefore be seen that carbon black is very effective at increasing the solar absorption of the PCM.
The carbon black did not have a negative impact on the melting/solidifying onset temperature or the latent heat of the PCM. This proves that at these low concentrations carbon black can help reduce the shortcomings of the PCM without adversely affecting its energy storage properties.
The optimal carbon black concentration changes with the size of the PCM: a shallow PCM layer (2 cm) showed the fastest temperature increase at higher concentrations (between 0.06 % and 0.5 % carbon black), while the deep PCM layer (9 cm) showed the fastest temperature increase at lower concentrations (between 0.01 % and 0.08 % carbon black).
The poor optical properties of the PCM were vastly improved by the carbon black, making the composite an effective direct solar absorber. The carbon black, however, does not provide meaningful thermal conductivity enhancements. Therefore additional heat transfer enhancements (like graphite) are needed if this novel PCM composite is to be used in a combined system (direct solar absorber, heat transfer fluid and energy storage system).
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2017.