In this paper, we investigate sensible and latent heat transfer through heat exchanger matrix structures containing phase change material (PCM) in the interstitial spacing. The heat transfer is driven by a temperature difference between fluid flow passages and the phase change material matrix which experiences sensible heat transfer until it reaches the phase change material fusion point; then it undergoes melting or solidification in order to store, or reject, energy. In prior work, a dimensionless framework was established to model heat transfer in a thermal energy storage (TES) device much like effectiveness-NTU analysis methods for compact heat exchangers. A key difference, however, is that in TES units, the overall heat transfer coefficient, U, within the phase change material matrix varies spatially in the unit and with time during storage or extraction. Determination of a mean U for these processes is a key challenge to applying the effectiveness-NTU analysis to design of a TES unit. This paper assesses and identifies strategies for determining the matrix overall heat transfer coefficient in a TES unit from model predictions or experiments. The sensitivity of the TES energy efficiency to the matrix overall heat transfer coefficient is also explored, and the implications for some typical applications are discussed.

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