Heat transfer to and from a reversible thermosiphon placed in porous media
The primary focus of this work is an assessment of heat transfer to and from a reversible thermosiphon imbedded in porous media. The interest in this study is the improvement of underground thermal energy storage (UTES) system performance with an innovative ground coupling using an array of reversible (pump-assisted) thermosiphons for air conditioning or space cooling applications. The dominant mechanisms, including the potential for heat transfer enhancement due to natural convection, of seasonal storage of “cold” in water-saturated porous media is evaluated experimentally and numerically. Winter and summer modes of operation are studied. A set of 6 experiments are reported that describe the heat transfer in both fine and coarse sand in a 0.32 cubic meter circular tank, saturated with water, under freezing (due to heat extraction) and thawing (due to heat injection) conditions, driven by the heat transfer to or from the vertical thermosiphon in the center of the tank. It was found that moderate to strong natural convection was induced at Rayleigh numbers of 30 or higher. Also, near water freezing temperatures (0°C-10°C), due to higher viscosity of water at lower temperatures, almost no natural convection was observed. A commercial heat transfer code, ANSYS FLUENT, was used to simulate both the heating and cooling conditions, including liquid/solid phase change. The numerical simulations of heat extraction from different permeability and temperature water-saturated porous media showed that enhancement to heat transfer by convection becomes significant only under conditions where the Rayleigh number is in the range of 100 or above. Those conditions would be found only for heat storage applications with higher temperatures of water (thus, its lower viscosity) and large temperature gradients at the beginning of heat injection (or removal) into (from) soil. For “cold” storage applications, the contribution of natural convection to heat transfer in water-saturated soils would be negligible. Thus, the dominant heat transfer mechanism for air conditioning applications of UTES can be assumed to be conduction. An evaluation of the potential for heat transfer enhancement in air-saturated media is also reported. It was found that natural convection in soils with high permeability and air saturations near 1 becomes more important as temperatures drop significantly below freezing.
University of Utah;
Air conditioning; Convection in porous media; Heat transfer in porous media; Thermal energy storage; Thermosiphon; Underground thermal energy storage