Convective air flows are a significant source of thermal loss from tubular cavity receivers in concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) applications. Reduction in these losses is traditionally achieved by tailoring the cavity geometry, but the potential of this method is limited by the aperture size. The use of active airflow control, in the form of an air curtain, is an established practice to prevent infiltration of cold air through building doorways. Its application in reducing solar receiver convective heat loss is new. In this study, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations are presented for the zero wind case, demonstrating that an optimised air curtain can readily reduce convective losses by more than 45%. A parametric investigation of jet direction and speed indicates that two distinct optimal air curtain flow structures exist. In the first, the jet reduces the size of the convective zone within the cavity by partially sealing the aperture. The optimum velocity range for this case occurs with a low strength jet. At higher jet speeds, the losses are generally set by the flow induced in the cavity and entrainment into the jet. However, a second optimal configuration is discovered for a narrow range of jet parameters, where the entrainment is reduced due to a shift in the stack neutral pressure level, allowing the jet to fully seal the cavity. A physical model is developed, based on the fluid physics of a jet and the ‘deflection modulus’ concept typically used to characterise air curtains in building heating and ventilation applications. The model has been applied to the solar thermal cavity case, and shows good agreement with the computational results.

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