In solar power plants, a molten salt receiver always works in unsteady state conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to research the thermal performance of a receiver in an unsteady state condition. For this purpose, an indoor testing system with a molten salt cavity receiver was developed. Experimental research was conducted to determine the thermal performance of a 100 kWt molten salt receiver. The effect of the input power and flow rate on the thermal performance of the receiver was investigated. In addition, a simple unsteady model was established to research the characteristics of the variation of the internal energy of the receiver and the characteristics of the heat loss. The results indicated that the efficiency of the receiver was in direct proportion to the flow rate. However, the influence was small. In the initial stage of the transient process, the increments of the internal energy of the receiver and the fluid were large (approximately 20% in the energy which is not removed by the mass flow of the fluid). Over time, the thermal inertia of the receiver decreased with the transient process. As a result, any energy not taken away by the fluid was transformed into heat loss. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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