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Thursday, January 30

Thermal Energy Storage for Concentrating Solar Power

Ranga Pitchumani,, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg
Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate Seminar
11:00 AM — 12:00 PM, Building 4500-N, Weinberg Auditorium
Contact: Tom King (, 865.574.0355


Concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies use mirrors to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver, from which a heat transfer fluid carries the intense thermal energy to a power block to generate electricity. A distinguishing feature of CSP is its ability to incorporate simple, efficient, and cost-effective thermal energy storage by virtue of converting sunlight to heat as an intermediate step to generating electricity. Apart from providing dispatchable power generation, CSP with thermal energy storage also enables greater incorporation of other variable generation sources such as photovoltaics and wind on the grid. The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative calls for an aggressive reduction in the overall costs by 75% to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy, without subsidies, by the end of the decade. The Initiative sets forth specific technoeconomic metrics for CSP subsystems, including thermal energy storage, so as to achieve the SunShot goal. Thermal energy storage for use in CSP systems can be one of sensible heat storage, latent heat storage using phase change materials (PCMs) or thermochemical storage. The talk will present an analysis and design of two latent thermal energy storage options based on the SunShot targets. The talk will also present a brief overview of selected other energy systems research in the Advanced Materials and Technologies Laboratory at Virginia Tech as well as the creation and fostering of a culture of intellectual excellence within an applied federal program and among its awardee base.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Pitchumani is the John R. Jones III Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, currently serving in an invitational role as the Chief Scientist and Director of the Concentrating Solar Power and the Systems Integration programs of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative. At DOE, he sets the science and technology directions for the programs, establishes funding priorities, directs a team of over 25 professionals (program managers and technical, financial, communications and support personnel), and oversees the portfolio of solar research and development programs at the Industry, National Laboratories and Universities, aimed at bringing the cost of solar-generated electricity down to grid parity by the end of the decade, without the assistance of federal or state subsidies. At Virginia Tech, Dr. Pitchumani directs the Advanced Materials and Technologies Laboratory with research in the areas of energy systems and sciences, materials processing and manufacturing, composite materials, microsystems and uncertainty quantification. Dr. Pitchumani is the author of about 200 refereed articles and book chapters, co-editor of 8 book volumes, and inventor on 2 patents or disclosures. He is an Associate Editor of Solar Energy, has been an Associate Technical Editor for the ASME Journal of Heat Transfer, and serves on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Thermoplastic Composite Materials, the Journal of Composite Materials, and Frontiers in Heat and Mass Transfer. Dr. Pitchumani has received many awards including the Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is an elected member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. Dr. Pitchumani holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.