A team at Georgia Institute of Technology, US has published advances in its development of liquid tin for use as a heat transfer agent in concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. CSP uses large scale arrays of reflectors of different kinds to concentrate heat from sunlight onto a heat transfer system, for example in a tower, containing a fluid that can be circulated through a heat turbine to generate electricity.

Tin can operate at higher temperatures than current systems based on molten salts or other fluids, increasing sunlight heat conversion efficiency to around 60%. Switching to tin from molten salts could decrease CSP costs by 30%. Together with partners from other US universities, the Georgia Institute team recently demonstrated suitable containment materials that don’t corrode and developed a ceramic pump that can be used to circulate the tin at up to 1,400°C.

CSP costs are economically competitive with fossil fuels in sun-rich regions such as Africa, Australia, South America and the Middle East and some reports suggest that the technology could account for around 10% of global energy supply by 2050.

Paper in Nature on liquid tin pump, October 2017
Paper in Solar Energy on containment materials for liquid tin, April 2018 (In Press)

Georgia Tech Library thesis summary on the cost benefit of tin in CSP, January 2016
International Energy Agency 2014 Roadmap for CSP technology

Photo credit: SOLUCAR PS10

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