Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical and Biomechanical Engineering

Major Advisor

Todd P. Otanicar, Ph.D. P.E.


Krishna Pakala, Ph.D.


David Estrada, Ph.D.


Solid particles are being considered in several high temperature thermal energy storage systems and as heat transfer media in concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. The downside of such an approach is the low overall heat transfer coefficients in shell-and-plate moving packed bed heat exchangers caused by the inherently low packed bed thermal conductivity values of the low-cost solid media. Choosing the right particle size distribution of currently available solid media can make a substantial difference in packed bed thermal conductivity, and thus, a substantial difference in the overall heat transfer coefficient of shell-and-plate moving packed bed heat exchangers. Current research exclusively focuses on continuous unimodal distributions of alumina particles. The drawback of this approach is that larger particle sizes require wider particle channels to meet flowability requirements. As a result, only small particle sizes with low packed bed thermal conductivities have been considered for the use in the falling-particle Gen3 CSP concepts. Here, binary particle mixtures, which are defined in this thesis as a mixture of two continuous unimodal particle distributions leading to a continuous bimodal particle distribution, are considered to increase packed bed thermal conductivity, decrease packed bed porosity, and improve moving packed bed heat exchanger performance. This is the first study related to CSP solid particle heat transfer that has considered the packed bed thermal conductivity and moving packed bed heat exchanger performance of bimodal particle size distributions at room and elevated temperatures. Considering binary particle mixtures that meet particle sifting segregation criteria, the overall heat transfer coefficient of shell-and-plate moving packed bed heat exchangers can be increased by 23% when compared to a monodisperse particle system. This work demonstrates that binary particle mixtures should be seriously considered to improve shell-and-plate moving packed bed heat exchangers.