Nitrate salts have been used for decades in the concentrating solar power industry as heat transfer fluids and thermal storage media. For most of this time these inorganic fluids have been restricted to use in central receiver platforms due to the useful working temperature range of the most widely researched formulation, a near eutectic mixture of sodium and potassium nitrate, which melts at 220°C and is stable in air to nearly 580°C. Recent research efforts have led to the development of nitrate salt mixtures that melt at lower temperatures and are suitable for use in parabolic trough systems. These mixtures include three or more components and generally have melting points in the range of 100°C, with stability in air up to 500°C. The design of parabolic trough systems that utilize molten salt heat transfer fluids is complicated by the fact that the properties of these fluids are considerably different from the organic heat transfer fluids that they may replace. In this paper we present measured thermophysical property data for several commercial and non-commercial molten salt mixtures that can be used in the system level design of parabolic trough and central receiver power plants. The data presented include heat capacity, density, thermal conductivity, viscosity, all as a function of temperature, along with melting point and thermal stability limits. Some properties, such as density, can be predicted by simple mixing rules. The dependence of viscosity was strongly influenced by the composition of the molten salts and, particularly, the proportion of calcium nitrate.

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