Chemical Perspectives on Salts for Concentrated Solar Power Applications

One of the most economically viable solar technologies is concentrating solar power, which utilizes a molten salt as a heat transfer fluid. Although there are a number of such plants in operation, new designs hope to operate at higher temperatures in order to improve power cycle efficiency. The authors examine two potential heat-transfer fluid classes, nitrate and nitrite salts of alkali and alkaline earth metals.

(De Gruyter) – In order for concentrating solar power to become even more cost-competitive with fossil-fuel burning as a source of electricity, new plant designs based on high efficiency power cycles are being developed. Although these plant designs would produce more electricity for less money, they also require a new generation of high-temperature, low-reactivity, and low-cost salts for use as heat transfer fluids. The author summarizes a large body of literature surrounding the properties of nitrate and nitrite alkali and alkaline earth metals, with the aim of informing intelligent heat transfer fluid selection in the design of these plants.

A major concern related to the high-temperatures involved in these plants relates to an elevated rate of decomposition of salts. The author draws on a variety of work in this area, determining qualitatively that drastic increases in decomposition rate could occur with only slight increases in working temperature. Ultimately, he concludes that it is essential to better study and understand the kinetics of thermal stability at play prior to any major plant redesigns.

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The original full article can be found at De Gruyter here.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/green-2012-0026
Green. 2013, 3 (1), 9–18.

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