Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) is developing a cooling technology concept — the Sandia National Laboratories Natural Circulation Cooler (SNLNCC) — that has potential to greatly improve the economic viability of hybrid cooling for power plants. The SNLNCC is a patented technology that holds promise for improved dry heat rejection capabilities when compared to currently available technologies. The cooler itself is a dry heat rejection device, but is conceptualized here as a heat exchanger used in conjunction with a wet cooling tower, creating a hybrid cooling system for a thermoelectric power plant.
The SNLNCC seeks to improve on currently available technologies by replacing the two-phase refrigerant currently used with either a supercritical fluid — such as supercritical CO2 (sCO2) — or a zeotropic mixture of refrigerants. In both cases, the heat being rejected by the water to the SNLNCC would be transferred over a range of temperatures, instead of at a single temperature as it is in a thermosyphon. This has the potential to improve the economics of dry heat rejection performance in three ways: decreasing the minimum temperature to which the water can be cooled, increasing the temperature to which air can be heated, and increasing the fraction of the year during which dry cooling is economically viable. This paper describes the experimental basis and the current state of the SNLNCC.