For companies who have started using them, heat exchangers play a pretty important role. For those who haven’t started utilizing this powerful tool, though, it’s certainly technology you may want to consider, and with good reason. Heat exchangers offer higher efficiency ratings without the clogging problems so many other technologies experience, and they’re getting some real attention lately thanks to a U.S. Department of Energy grant that focuses research on how to concentrate solar power technology. The grant went to Purdue University, and the goal is to test the real limits of essential components found in big solar power plants. The single most important component in the research? The heat exchanger.
In a setting like this one, a heat exchanger deals with high temperature fluids, often reaching nearly 600 degrees Celsius, but the research needs to make them reach 800 degrees Celsius if it’s going to produce a more efficient system. The problem, however, is that today’s typical metal alloys just can’t withstand temperatures at those levels. The heat exchanger itself is designed to melt components that are salt based, then move the resulting liquid to a heat exchanger where the heat is transferred to super critical carbon dioxide that powers the turbines, and eventually, runs the generators.
The hope of the research behind this project is to create electricity at a cost of just 6 cents per kilowatt hour. That makes it far more competitive with the cost of today’s fossil fuels. Additionally, researchers will have to make almost anything they do scalable for all applications and as risk free as possible. They have just three years to come up with the technology to make it work.
Heat exchangers are some of the most powerful equipment on the planet, and research like this is only going to further that.