Thermal performance enhancement in parabolic trough solar collectors by using an absorber tube with spherical pins

Belkacem Agagna, Omar Behar, Arezki Smaili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Improving the overall performance of parabolic trough collectors (PTCs) represents the best method to reduce the cost of energy produced. The goal is to increase their potential to generate more useful heat, particularly at high ranges of temperatures. Therefore, various techniques have been thoroughly examined in the literature. Indeed, the non-uniform heat flux on the PTC receivers induces overheating of the absorber tube and significant thermal stress, which requires the use of expensive materials. It also reduces the overall thermal performance of the system. To overcome these issues, practical solutions must be introduced. In this paper, integrated spherical pins are used and different configurations have been proposed and investigated. To do so, a numerical model that combines optical and thermal aspects has been developed. For this, the Monte Carlo ray tracing technique (MCRT) is coupled with the finite volume method (FVM). Also, experimental tests on the MicroSol-R platform have been used to validate the numerical models. A number of energetic and exergetic performance indices are used to analyze the potential improvements due to the use of spherical pins. The analysis showed that the use of pins increases the heat transfer coefficient by up to 27.2% and reduces the heat loss by up to 9.32% compared with conventional smooth tubes. Moreover, it is found that the performance evaluation criterion (PEC) can be enhanced by up to 24.92%. Consequently, when using a solar receiver with five pins (which was selected as the best configuration among the examined configurations), the overall efficiency and the exergetic efficiency are increased by up to 4.1% and 2.2%, respectively. Indeed, the use of pins inside the solar receiver is a practical solution to improve the efficiency of the PTC system and has the potential to reduce the thermal stress on the receiver thanks to the high heat transfer coefficient. It also helps prevent overheating and reduce thermal losses by keeping the maximum temperature within a suitable operational range.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8161-8183
Number of pages23
JournalEnergy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization, and Environmental Effects
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 8 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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