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Hybrid Solar Thermoelectric and Adsorption

Cooling System

S.L. Leo, M.O. Abdullah, K. Y. Teoh, K.S. Ting, C.H. Tang

Faculty of Engineering,
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
94300 Kota Samarahan
Sarawak, Malaysia



Keywords: Adsorption; Thermoelectric; Activated carbon;
Solar energy

Abstract

This paper presents an experimental hybrid thermoelectric
and adsorption cooling system powered by solar energy. The
hybrid system consists of three solar vacuum tubes filled with
activated carbon, a flat plate photovoltaic (12V), a fin-type
condenser, valves, a cooling box with build-in thermoelectric
elements and an evaporator. During the daytime, cooling is
produced by using thermoelectric elements via peltier effect
and through adsorption process at night. For adsorption cycle,
palm oil activated carbon and methanol is used as a working
pair. The COP of the hybrid system that can be achieved is
approximately 0.03. It is feasible and practical to apply this
hybrid system for space cooling and refrigeration. The
working principle of the system is introduced and some
experimental results are present herewith.

1. Introduction

Solar powered coolers are devices that used directly the solar
energy radiated from the sun to produce cooling effect. Solar
energy is environmental friendly, free and available
adequately in almost every parts of world where people live.
Everyone, including the poor living far away from city, should
find no difficulty in obtaining solar energy. The only cost of
using solar energy is harnessing it from the sunlight. There are
several ways of using solar energy for cooling, namely
absorption cycle, adsorption cycle, vapour compression cycle
and thermoelectric cooler. Among these technologies,
adsorption and thermoelectric cooler has been chosen to be
implemented in this research. In recent years, solar adsorption
cooling system has witnessed an increasing interest in many
fields due to the fact that this system is quiet, long lasting,
cheap to maintain and environmentally benign [1]. Adsorption
cooling system can be classified into two main types; namely
intermittent adsorption system and continuous adsorption
system. In this present review most attention has been focused
on the intermittent cycles due to the limiting conditions
imposed by the use of solar adsorption. Adsorption cycle
powered by solar energy has been successfully used for ice
making and cold production. For example, solar activated
carbon-methanol adsorption ice maker [2], zeolitewater solar
cold storage system [3] and carbonammonia solar
refrigerator for vaccine cooling [4].

2. Solar Hybrid Thermoelectric-Adsorption
Cooler

The solar hybrid thermoelectric-adsorption cooler is actually
a combination of solar adsorption cooler and thermoelectric
cooler. The solar adsorption cooler is mainly consisting of a
collector containing the adsorber, a condenser, an evaporator,
a reservoir and an ice box. Adsorption is the fixation of gas
molecules on the surface of a solid, according to van der
Waals interaction. Since the interaction is weak, adsorption is
reversible and exothermic. It induces neither changes of solid
volume nor does it involve any chemical reaction.
Thermoelectric cooler, on the other hand, is a device that is
cold on one side and hot on the other. It is resulted from the
passage of a DC current through junctions of two different
materials. Heat is "pumped" from the cold side to the hot side.
The direction of current flow will determine which side to be
cold or hot.

The hybrid solar cooler built is having a few advantages over
the conventional cooling system. Firstly, it does not need to
be connected to power grid nor using any consumable fuel as
power source. This enables the solar cooler to be able to run
at any part of the world if provided with adequate sun light.
Secondly, reliability of the solar cooler is very high. There is
little moving mechanical part in the solar cooler because no
mechanical compressor is installed. Thus, little maintenance
is needed, and the chance for failure is low. Thirdly, no
operational cost is needed due to the fact that solar radiation
is free while fossil fuel is not.

3. Conceptual Design and Construction of the
Solar Hybrid Cooling System

Figure 1 showed the 3D modelling of conceptual design of
the hybrid cooling system by using CATIA. The solar cooler
consists of a few main components; these components are the
solar collector, a condenser, a reservoir, an evaporator, ice
box, needle valves and thermoelectric cooler. Solar collector,
as shown in Figure 2, is the most important and complex part
Figure 2: Sectional view of solar collector
Figure 3: 3D modelling of the condenser
in this system. It consists of solar vacuum glass tubes filled
with activated carbon, perforated tubes and a copper tank.
The function of solar collector is to harness solar radiation to
provide energy for the system to operate. Solar heat is needed
to release methanol from the activated carbon. Since the
boiling point of methanol is about 64.7 C or 337.8 K with 1
atmospheric pressure, heat trap is needed to maintain the
temperature of the adsorber. Solar vacuum glass tubes are
used to concentrate and trap solar radiation, which can be
easily reaching 100C. Cylinder copper tank is placed inside
each of the solar vacuum glass tube. Perforated tube is then
located at the centre of each cylinder copper tank acting as
mass flow channel for the methanol vapour. The total quantity
of activated carbon that can be filled into the cylinder copper
tanks was approximately 200g.
Figure 1: 3D modelling of conceptual design by using CATIA

Figure 3 illustrates the 3D modelling of a condenser.
Condenser is a heat-exchange coil used to dissipate the heat
from methanol vapour and turn it into liquid form. Metal rods
are attached to the coil to improve the heat exchange surface.
In order to collect and store the liquid methanol from the
condenser, reservoir as shown in Figure 4 was design and
construct. It is made of copper tank and has two small copper
tubes inside the tank. The length of the copper tube
connecting to condenser is shorter than the one connecting to
evaporator. It is designed in such a way to guarantee the flow
of the liquid methanol in one direction only.



As shown in Figure 5, the construction of an evaporator is
fairly simply to be fit into the ice box. The evaporator consists
of an aluminium plate, a copper coil, an expansion valve and
a filter. Figure 6 illustrated the cold-side heat exchanger of
thermoelectric cooler indicated by the circle inside the ice
box. This cold-side heat exchanger is the component of
thermoelectric cooler that provide cooling effect to the ice
box during the day time. Beneath the cold-side heat
exchanger, there is a thermoelectric module. The
thermoelectric module is the core component that will
relocate the heat. The heat will travel from cold-side heat
exchanger to hot-side heat exchanger and then remove by
using a fan.

4. Experimental Setup

The hybrid system has been build successfully, as shown in
Figure 7. It was test for leakage and also vacuum proof for a
few days before it ready to be run. As mentioned by Lemmini
and Errougani [5], the system must be airtight in order for the
system to work properly. The present of air in the system will
affect the thermodynamic property of methanol and it will be
very difficult to modify the system after the introduction of
methanol. Therefore, more precaution has to be taken to
ensure no leakage especially at the welding parts and tubing
joints.
Figure 4: 3D modelling of the reservoir
Figure 6: 3D modelling of the thermoelectric cooler

5. Mathematic Modelling

The COP for adsorption cycle can be generally represented
by:

g
e
g p
e p
g
e
Ad
T
T
T c m
T c m
Q
Q
COP

= =
(1)

Whereas, the COP for thermoelectric cooler with solar
photovoltaic panel can be determined by:
Figure 5: 3D modelling of the evaporator

= =
dt G A
T mc
input Energy
effect Cooling
COP
P
load P
Pl
(2)

The equivalent of solar energy input that come from a 15%
efficiency solar photovoltaic panel for thermoelectric cooler
with power rating of 60W is:


1
1
4 . 0
15 . 0
60

= = = = kJs
Js
E
P
Efficiency
rating Power
Q
s
(3)

Thus, the COP for thermoelectric cooler can also be
calculated as:

t Q
T mc
COP
s
load P
Pl

=
(4)

Finally, the COP of hybrid cooler under different load
condition for adsorption cycle and thermoelectric cooler can
be expressed by:










( )

=
+ =
t Q
T mc
T
T
COP COP COP
s
load P
g
e
Pl Ad Hybrid
2
1
2
1
(5)

In order to aid the COP calculation process, a simple COP
calculator was developed using Visual Basic.Net as shown in
Figure 8.

6. Results and Discussions

Ice Box Test
In this test, the temperatures of the ice box and ambient were
recorded over a period of time as shown in Figure 9. The
figure showed that the change of ice box temperature is not
influenced by the ambient temperature as the ice box is well
insulated. Besides, the ice box temperature only varies
slightly compared to ambient temperature. The change of ice
box temperature is less than 0.5
o
C.
Figure 8: COP Calculator


Hybrid Thermoelectric-Adsorption Cooler

The system was charged with 70.0 ml of methanol and
exposed to solar radiation for few hours. Operating data such
as the ambient temperature, adsorber temperature and ice box
temperature was recorded. Table 1 and Table 2 showed the
data collected during daytime and night time operations,
respectively. Meanwhile, Figure 10 and Figure 11 presented
the corresponding results in graphically form.
Ice Box Test
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
10:00 12:00 14:00 16:00 18:00 20:00 22:00
Ti me
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e
Ambient IceBox







The cooling effect generated by the thermoelectric cycle was
instantaneous when electricity was supplied by the
photovoltaic during daytime. At the same time, adsorber
temperature can reach up over 100 C. This temperature is
much more than needed for the adsorption cycle to operate.
At night, the ice box temperature was varies almost 2 C after
Valve 2 and Valve 3 are opened in order to initiate the
adsorption process. The COP of the hybrid system was
approximately 0.03.








Figure 9: Ice box test




Figure 7: Hybrid cooling system
Temperature (
o
C)
Time
Ambient Adsorber Load
Remark
11:00 30.4 32.5 - -
11:15 30.5 92.3 -
Valve between adsorbent bed-
condenser (Valve 1) was opened.
Valve between condenser-evaporator
(Valve 2) and evaporator-adsorbent bed
(Valve 3) were closed
11:30 30.7 126.1 - -
11:45 31.0 124.3 - -
12:00 31.5 123.1 29.7 Add 375 ml of fresh water as load
12:15 32.3 118.1 27.0 -
12:30 33.6 115.7 24.3 -
12:45 33.7 113.6 21.4 -
13:00 35.1 110.9 19.4 -
13:15 36.9 113.7 18.2 -
13:30 37.0 104.2 16.5 -
13:45 38.1 106.8 15.6 -
14:00 38.2 102.4 14.5 -
14:15 37.5 92.8 13.6 Cloudy
14:30 37.5 100.3 12.7 Valve 1 closed and load was removed

Table 1: Hybrid cooler operation at daytime




Hybrid Cooler Daytime Operation
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
11:00 11:15 11:30 11:45 12:00 12:15 12:30 12:45 13:00 13:15 13:30 13:45 14:00 14:15 14:30
Time
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
D
e
g
r
e
e

c
e
l
c
i
u
s
)
Ambient Absorber Load






















Figure 10: Hybrid cooler operation at daytime




Temperature (
o
C)
Time
Ambient Adsorber Ice Box
Remark
20:00 24.5 25.9 27.0 Valve 2 and valve 3 opened
20:15 24.4 25.9 26.5 -
20:30 24.4 25.9 26.3 -
20:45 24.3 25.7 26.0 -
21:00 24.3 25.7 25.8 -
21:15 24.4 25.6 25.6 -
21:30 24.3 25.6 25.3 -
21:45 24.4 25.6 25.2 -
22:00 23.5 25.6 25.0 -

Table 2: Hybrid cooler operation at night





Hybrid Cooler Night Operation
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
20:00 20:15 20:30 20:45 21:00 21:15 21:30 21:45 22:00
Time
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
D
e
g
r
e
e

c
e
l
c
i
u
s
)
Ambient Adsorber Ice Box






















Figure 11: Hybrid cooler operation at night















7. Conclusions

As the conclusion, a solar hybrid thermoelectric-adsorption
cooler had been designed, fabricated and laboratory tested.
For designing task, CATIA 3D modelling software had been
used. The adsorption cycle operates intermittently, i.e. one
cycle is performed for a day. Therefore, cooling effect is
created only during the adsorption phase at night. Conversely,
the thermoelectric cooler operates using electric current. With
a solar photovoltaic panel, cooling effect can be created in the
ice box during day time. Now, with the combination of both
adsorption cycle and thermoelectric cooler, the cooling effect
can be achieved continuously day and night. Coefficient of
performance of the hybrid system is around 3%. However,
further improvement is needed before the hybrid cooling
system can put into practical use or commercialised.

References

[1] A.O. Dieng and R.Z. Wang, Literature Review on
Solar Adsorption Technologies for Ice-Making and Air
Conditioning Purposes and Recent Developments in
Solar Technology, Renewable and Sustainable Energy
Review, Vol. 5, pp. 313 342, 2001.

[2] Z.F. Li and K. Sumathy, A Solar Powered Ice-Maker
with the Solid Adsorption Pair of Activated Carbon
and Methanol, Internatioanl Journal of Energy
Research, Vol. 23, pp. 517 527, 1999.

[3] Y.Z. Lu, R.Z. Wang, M. Zhang and S. J iangzhou,
Adsorption Cold Storage System with ZeoliteWater
Working Pair used for Locomotive Air Conditioning,
Energy Conversion and Management , Vol. 44, pp.
1733 1743, 2003.

[4] R.E. Critoph, An Ammonia Carbon Solar Refrigerator
for Vaccine Cooling, Renewable Energy, Vol. 5, pp.
502 508, 1994.

[5] F. Lemmini and A. Errougani, Building and
Experimentation of a Solar Powered Adsorption
Refrigerator, Renewable Energy, Vol. 30, pp. 1989
2003, 2005.