Phase change materials (PCMs) inside latent heat energy storage systems (LHESS) can be used to store large amounts of thermal energy in relatively small volumes. However, such systems are complicated to design from a heat transfer point of view since the low thermal conductivity of PCMs makes charging and discharging those systems challenging on a usable time scale.
Results of experiments performed on both a vertical and a horizontal cylindrical LHESS, during charging, discharging and simultaneous charging/discharging, are presented in this paper. Both LHESS are made of acrylic plastic, the horizontal LHESS has one 1/2″ copper pipe passing through its center. The vertical LHESS has two 1/2″ copper pipes, one through which hot water flows, and the other through which cold water flows. Each of the pipes has four longitudinal fins to enhance the overall rate of heat transfer to and from the PCM, therefore reducing the time required for charging and discharging.
The objective of this work is to determine the phase change behavior of the PCM during the operation of the LHESS, as well as the heat transfer processes within the LHESS. Natural convection was found to play a crucial role during charging (melting) and during simultaneous charging/discharging (in the vertical LHESS). However, during discharging, the effect of natural convection was reduced in both systems.