High temperature latent heat thermal energy storage technology is a promising option for future cost reduction in parabolic trough or tower power plant. However, low thermal conductivity of phase-change material (PCM) is the major shortage of latent heat thermal energy storage. This paper proposed a new thermal energy storage system (TESS) that metal foam and fins were used to enhance the effective conductivity of PCM. Three-dimensional physical model was established for representative element extracted from TESS. Considering the natural convection in the liquid part of PCM, volume-averaged mass and momentum equations were employed with the Brinkman-Forchheimer extension to Darcy law to simulate the porous resistance. A local thermal equilibrium model was developed to obtain temperature field. The governing equations were solved with finite-volume approach and enthalpy method was employed to account for phase change. The model was firstly validated against low temperature experiments from the literature and then used to predict the charging and discharging behavior of the present TESS. The position of solid/liquid interface was explored and the effects of design parameters, including that of metal foam pore density and porosity, configuration of fin and Rayleigh number, on melting and solidifying rate and energy stored in each time step were revealed and discussed. The results indicate that metal foam and fins can effectively improve the heat transfer performance for thermal storage system and decrease charging and discharging time. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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