In current designs of parabolic trough collectors for concentrating solar power plants, the absorber tube is manufactured in segments that are individually insulated with glass vacuum jackets. During the lifetime of a power plant, some segments lose vacuum and thereafter suffer from significant convective heat loss. An alternative to this design is to use a vacuum pump to actively maintain low pressure in a long section of absorber with a continuous vacuum jacket. A detailed thermal model of such a configuration is needed to inform design efforts for such a receiver. This paper describes a combined conduction, convection, and radiation heat transfer model for a receiver that includes the effects of nonuniform solar flux on the absorber tube and vacuum jacket as well as detailed analysis of conduction through the rarefied gas in the annular gap inside the vacuum jacket. The model is implemented in commercial CFD software coupled to a Monte Carlo ray-tracing code. The results of simulations performed for a two-dimensional cross-section of a receiver are reported for various conditions. The parameters for the model are chosen to match the current generation of parabolic trough receivers, and the simulation results correspond well with experimental measurements.

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