Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176 DOI 10.1007/s0023101209723
ORIGINAL 
Lan Xiao • ShuangYing Wu • QiaoLing Zhang • YouRong Li
Received: 17 November 2010 / Accepted: 4 January 2012 / Published online: 14 January 2012 SpringerVerlag 2012
Abstract Based on the heat transfer characteristics of absorber plate and the heat transfer effectivenessnumber of heat transfer unit method of heat exchanger, a new theoretical method of analyzing the thermal performance of heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector with cross ﬂow heat exchanger has been put forward and validated by com parisons with the experimental and numerical results in preexisting literature. The proposed theoretical method can be used to analyze and discuss the inﬂuence of relevant parameters on the thermal performance of heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector.
List of symbols 

C _{p} 

D 

G 

I _{o} 
Solar 

L 
_{e} 

L 
_{c} 

N 

NTU 

Nu 

Pr 

Re 

S 
Speciﬁc heat capacity at constant pressure (J kg ^{} ^{1} K ^{} ^{1} )
Heat pipe diameter (m) Mass ﬂow rate of heated ﬂuid, (kg s ^{} ^{1} )
intensity (W m ^{} ^{2} )
Length of heat pipe evaporator section (m)
Length of heat pipe condenser section (m) Heat pipe number Number of heat transfer unit Nusselt number Prandtl number Reynolds number
(W m ^{} ^{2} )
Absorbed solar intensity
L. Xiao S.Y. Wu (&) Q.L. Zhang Y.R. Li
Key Laboratory of Lowgrade Energy Utilization Technologies and Systems, Ministry of Education, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, China email: shuangyingwu@yahoo.com.cn
L. Xiao S.Y. Wu Q.L. Zhang Y.R. Li
College of Power Engineering, Chongqing University,
Chongqing 400044, China
T _{a} 

T _{b} 

T _{h}_{p} 

T _{i} 

U _{L} 

U 

W 

Greek symbols 

a 
Absorptivity 
d 

k 

s 

e 

g 
Ambient temperature (K) Wall temperature of heat pipe region (K) Working ﬂuid temperature of heat pipe (K) Heated ﬂuid inlet temperature (K)
Collector overall heat loss coefﬁcient _{(}_{W} _{m}  2 _{K}  1 _{)}
Heat convection coefﬁcient, (W m ^{} ^{2} K ^{} ^{1} ) Pitch distance between the heat pipe (m)
Absorber plate thickness (m) Thermal conductivity (W m ^{} ^{1} K ^{} ^{1} ) Transmissivity of glass cover, local time (h) Heat transfer effectiveness Thermal efﬁciency
1 Introduction
Solar thermal utilization is of great importance for envi ronmental protection and conventional energy saving. A variety of ﬂat plate solar collectors and evacuated tubular solar collectors have been produced and applied around the world. However, these conventional solar collectors suffer from some drawbacks, such as reversed cycle during cloudy periods of the day and the night, high heat capacity, limited quantity of heat transferred by the ﬂuid, high pumping requirements, scale formation, freezing and cor rosion [1]. Heat pipes offer a promising solution to these problems. Heat pipes are devices of very high thermal conductance, which transfer thermal energy by two phase circulation of ﬂuid, and can easily be integrated into most types of solar collector [2, 3]. The basic difference in thermal performance between a heat pipe solar collector
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and a conventional one lies in the heat transfer processes from the absorber tube wall to the energytransporting ﬂuid. In the case with a heat pipe, the process is evapora tion–condensation–convection, while for conventional solar collectors, heat transfer occurs only in the absorber plate. Thus, solar collectors with heat pipes have a lower thermal mass, resulting in a reduction of startup time. A feature that makes heat pipes attractive for use in solar collectors is their ability to operate like a thermaldiode, i.e., the ﬂow of the heat is in one direction only. This minimizes heat loss from the transporting ﬂuid, e.g., water, when incident radiation is low. Another advantage is redundancy, that is, a failure in one heat pipe would not have a major effect on the operation of the collector. Also, since heat pipes are sealed, by selecting suitable working ﬂuids, compatible with wick and pipe materials, corrosion can be minimized. Furthermore, when the maximum design temperature of the collector is reached, additional heat transfer can be prevented. This would prevent over heating of the circulating ﬂuid. Freezing can be eliminated through working ﬂuid selection, and, therefore only the heat exchanger section must be insulated. Numerous investigations on heat pipe solar collectors have been conducted over years. Hussein [4, 5] investi gated theoretically and experimentally a thermosyphon ﬂat plate solar collector. The transient thermal behavior of wickless heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collectors was analyzed with regard to a range of parameters. The results revealed that the pitch distance limited the selection of an absorber plate to one having a high value of thermal conductivity. Also, from the theoretical analysis, it was accomplished that the condenser section aspect ratio and the heat pipe inclination angle had a considerable effect on the con densation heat transfer coefﬁcient inside the inclined wickless heat pipes. Later, a wickless heat pipes ﬂat plate solar collector with a cross ﬂow heat exchanger was investigated theoretically and experimentally under the meteorological conditions of Cairo, Egypt [6]. The exper imental and theoretical results indicated that the number of wickless heat pipes has a signiﬁcant effect on the collector efﬁciency. Furthermore, Hussein et al. [1] investigated experimentally the effect of wickless heat pipe cross sec tion geometry and its working ﬂuid ﬁlling ratio on the performance of ﬂat plate solar collectors. The experimental results indicate that the elliptical cross section wickless heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collectors have better performance than the circular cross section ones at low water ﬁlling ratios. The optimum water ﬁlling ratio of the elliptical cross section wickless heat pipe solar collector is about 10%, while it is very close to 20% for the circular cross section one. Much effort has been made on the design of heat pipe solar collectors in the past few years. Riffat et al. [7]
presented the results obtained from laboratory testing of four liquid ﬂat plate collectors, i.e., a wavy ﬁn collector, two ﬂat plate heat pipe collectors, and a clip ﬁn solar collector. Results showed the clip ﬁn solar collector to be promising, with experimental efﬁciencies approaching 86%. An analytical model has been developed to investi gate the performance of a ‘mini’ gravitational heat pipe and two ‘micro’ gravitational heat pipes of different sizes, using water as the refrigerant. In general, the modeling results indicate ‘micro’ gravitational heat pipes have higher heat transport limits than ‘mini’ heat pipes of the same crosssectional area [8]. Riffat and Zhao [9] designed and constructed a hybrid heat pipe solar collector/CHP system based on the integration of a hybrid heat pipe solar col lector, a turbine, a boiler, condensers and pumps. The evaluation of the system performance by a combination of theoretical modeling and experimental testing was also conducted. It demonstrated that using more collector units would help to improve the system’s energy efﬁciency [10]. Later, the same authors designed and constructed a thin membrane heat pipe solar collector to allow heat from solar radiation to be collected at a relatively high efﬁciency while keeping the capital cost low. The test efﬁciency was found to be in the range 40–70%, which is a bit lower than the values predicted by modeling. The factors inﬂuencing these results were investigated [11]. A twophase closed thermosyphon ﬂat plate solar collector with a shell and tube heat exchanger was designed, constructed, and tested at transient conditions to study its performance for different cooling water mass ﬂow rates at different inlet cooling water temperatures [12]. AbuZour et al. [13] designed new solar collectors integrated into louvered shading devices. Various designs of solar louver collector were discussed and a new type of absorber plate based on heat pipe technology was investigated. The compatibility of louvers with different sizes and shapes could improve solar control and the aesthetics of building facades. Yu et al. [14] introduced and developed the prototype of a cellular heat pipe ﬂat solar collector. Theoretical and experimental research showed that the thermal performance of the new solar heater is better than that of evacuated glass tube solar heater or ordinary ﬂat plate solar heater. Experimental ﬂat plate solar collector operating in conjunction with a closed end oscillating heat pipe (CEOHP) or a closedloop oscil lating heat pipe with check valve (CLOHP/CV) offered reasonably efﬁcient and cost effective alternatives to con ventional solar collector system that use heat pipes [15, 16]. Efﬁciencies of about 62 and 76% were attained separately for the two systems, which are directly compa rable to that of the solar collector by heat pipe. CEOHP and CLOHP/CV system offer the additional beneﬁts of corro sion free operation and absence of freezing during winter months.
Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176
1169
On the other hand, experiments were performed to ﬁnd out how the thermal performance of a twophase ther mosyphon solar collector was affected by using different refrigerants [17]. Three refrigerants (R134a, R407C, and R410A) were used in identical smallscale solar water heating systems, among which R410A was found to show the highest solar thermal energy collection performance. Flow and heat transfer of a plate heat pipe solar collector, of which the condenser has the shape of a rectangular channel, was modeled and the heat transfer coefﬁcient assessed, using the Fluent code. Results showed that the Nusselt number is signiﬁcantly higher than the one for forced convection in a rectangular channel with fully developed boundary layers. In order to enhance heat transfer, a modiﬁcation to the rectangular channel was analyzed, using bafﬂes to improve ﬂow distribution and increase velocity [18]. Azad [19] investigated theoretically and experimentally the thermal behavior of a gravity assisted heat pipe solar collector. A theoretical model based on effectivenessNTU method was developed for evaluating the thermal efﬁciency of the collector, the inlet, outlet water temperatures and heat pipe temperature. Optimum value of evaporator length to condenser length ratio was also determined. Also, the performance of a wickassisted heat pipe solar collector was investigated theoretically and experimentally. The simulated useful heat ﬂux, heat pipe temperature, water outlet temperature and efﬁciency were in good agreement with experimental results [20]. As seen from these extensive literature reviews, most investigations on the performance analysis of heat pipe solar collector have been accomplished by experimental and numerical methods. The well known HottelWiller equation [21], which was originally applicable to perfor mance evaluation of conventional ﬂat plate solar collectors, has been widely adopted for theoretical analysis on thermal performance of heat pipe solar collectors. In fact, the ﬂow and heat transfer characteristic of heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector is quite different from that of conventional ﬂat plate solar collector due to their disparate conﬁgurations. Typically, conventional solar collectors use pipes attached to the collecting plate where working ﬂuid (water or air) circulates either naturally or forcibly and transfers heat, hence, the wall temperature of pipes gradually increases along the working ﬂuid ﬂow direction. However, for a heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector, the axial temperature dif ference of each heat pipe is approximately zero because of heat pipe’s principle of vapor–liquid phase transition, whereas the water ﬂowing through a rectangular crossﬂow channel absorbs the heat from heat pipes, and the tem perature of water increases. There is no doubt that the thermal performance of heat pipe solar collector should have its own rule which is unlike that of conventional
ﬂat plate solar collectors. Therefore, in this paper, the derivation of new analytical solutions for thermal evalua tion of the heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector with cross ﬂow heat exchanger will be proceeded base on basic heat transfer process of collector and effectivenessnumber of heat transfer unit (eNTU) method of heat exchanger design.
2 Computational model and theoretical analysis
2.1 Computational model
Figure 1 shows a heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector, which consists of N wickless heat pipes. The evaporator sections with length L _{e} of the wickless heat pipes are welded to absorber plate made of copper sheets. The condenser sec tions with length L _{c} of the wickless heat pipes are immersed in a cooling manifold. The pitch distance between the heat pipe is W, the heat pipe diameter is D and the absorber plate thickness is d. The absorber plate and heat pipe are made of copper, and the thermal conductivity is k. The left and right sides of absorber plate which contain point B _{0} and A _{0} , respectively are adiabatic walls. The ambient temperature is T _{a} . Solar intensity is I _{o} , while the solar energy intensity absorbed by absorber plate is S (without glass cover: S = I _{o} a; with glass cover:
S = I _{o} (as), where a is absorptivity of absorber plate and heat pipe wall, s is transmissivity of glass cover. This study will discuss the case with glass cover). The wall temper ature of each heat pipe region A _{1} –B _{1} , A _{2} –B _{2} , A _{3} –B _{3} ,…, A _{N} – B _{N} is assumed to be uniform, which are T _{b}_{1} , T _{b}_{2} , T _{b}_{3} , …, T _{b} _{N} , respectively. All these temperatures are unknown and require to be solved. As displayed in Fig. 2, for a collector with N heat pipes, the heated ﬂuid ﬂows orderly through the condenser sec tions from the 1st heat pipe to the Nth one in a crosswise manner. The heated ﬂuid outlet temperature of the 1st condenser section of heat pipe equals to the heated ﬂuid inlet temperature of the 2nd one, and so on. The ﬁnal temperature of heated ﬂuid through N heat pipes is T _{0} _{N} , which needs to be solved, and the heated ﬂuid inlet tem perature T _{i} is a known quantity.
2.2 Theoretical analysis
For the energy balance equation and its solution for the heat pipe collector as shown in Fig. 1, some hypotheses have been made:
•
The system is in quasisteady state.
• The phase change of the working ﬂuid inside the wickless heat pipe occurs at approximately constant
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Fig. 1 
The heat pipe ﬂat plate 
solar collector. a The physical 

model; b section A–A 
Fig. 2 Temperature variation of heated ﬂuid in the condenser section of heat pipe
temperature and the temperature difference between the evaporator and condenser sections of the heat pipe is less than 2 C. The thickness of absorber plate with high heat conduction performance is much less than the width, so the temperature variation along the thickness of absorber plate is negligible. The overall heat loss coefﬁcient between the absorber plate of collector and the external environment is treated as a constant. • The heat pipe collector is well insulated and the heat loss through the insulation is neglected. Meanwhile, both end sides of the absorber plate are adiabatic.
•
•
Since the absorber plate is made of copper which is good conductor of heat, the temperature gradient of the absorber plate along the axial direction of heat pipe is negligible, therefore the heat transfer process in the regions B _{0} –A _{1} , B _{1} –A _{2} , B _{2} –A _{3} , …, B _{N} –A _{0} of absorber plate is similar to the heat conduction problem of a ﬁn.
2.2.1 The region B _{0} –A _{1}
Onedimensional steadystate heat conduction of a ﬁn with width of (W  D)/2 is assumed for the heat transfer pro cess in the region B _{0} –A _{1} of absorber plate. A differential element with width of dx, as shown in Fig. 3, is taken to analyze the energy balance. The assumption that the length of collector along the axial direction of heat pipe is set to be 1 are made. The net input heat rate from the solar irradiation Q _{n}_{e}_{t} is
Q _{n}_{e}_{t} ¼ q _{n}_{e}_{t} dx ¼ ½S U _{L} ðT T _{a} Þ dx ð1Þ
where q _{n}_{e}_{t} is the net input heat ﬂux; U _{L} is the collector overall heat loss coefﬁcient. In terms of the heat transfer analysis of B _{0} –A _{1} region, the heat transfer direction is parallel to ?x axes, thus the energy balance of the differential element control volume in Fig. 3 as a whole gives
Fig. 3 The heat transfer process in B _{0} –A _{1} region of absorber plate
Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176
1171
Q x þ Q net ¼ Q xþdx
ð2Þ
In accordance with the Fourier’s law of heat conduction
and in combination with Eqs. 1, 2 would be
d ^{2} T
_{þ} S U _{L} ðT T _{a} Þ
kd
dx
^{2}
¼ 0
ð3Þ
The general solution of Eq. 3 is
T ¼ C _{0}_{;}_{1} expðmxÞ þ C _{0}_{;}_{2} expð mxÞþðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
ð4Þ
where
C _{0}_{,}_{1}
p ﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃﬃ
U _{L} =ðkdÞ .
and
C _{0}_{,}_{2}
are
integration constants, m ¼
The corresponding boundary conditions (the point B _{0} is
coordinate origin) are
dT
dx
^{} x¼0
^{¼} ^{0}^{;}
^{T} ^{j} x¼ðW DÞ=2 ^{¼} ^{T} b1
Thus
C 0;1
¼ C 0;2 ¼
T _{b}_{1} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
2chðmH =2Þ
where H = W  D.
^{ð}^{5}^{Þ}
ð6Þ
Substituting Eq. 6 into Eq. 4, the ﬁnal solution for the
temperature distribution is then
T ¼
chðmxÞ
chðmH =2Þ
½
T b1
ðS=U _{L} þ
T a
Þ þ S=U _{L} þ T _{a}
ð7Þ
The heat ﬂow rate which enters into the vertical plane
that contains point A _{1} by conduction can be expressed as
Q _{A}_{1} ¼ kdL _{e}
dT
dx
^{} x¼H =2
1
¼ _{2} HL _{e} F S
½
U L ðT b1
T a
Þ
ð8Þ
where F is the standard ﬁn efﬁciency for straight ﬁns with
rectangular proﬁle, and obtained from F ¼ ½thðmH =2Þ =
ðmH =2Þ.
2.2.2 The region B _{1} –A _{2}
When the heated ﬂuid ﬂows through the condenser of the
1st heat pipe to the Nth one successively, the temperature
of heated ﬂuid gradually goes up. Accordingly, the working
ﬂuid temperature of heat pipe rises up, from T _{h}_{p}_{1} to T _{h}_{p} _{n} .
Heat ﬂow directions of the regions B _{1} –A _{2} , B _{2} –A _{3} , B _{3} –A _{4} ,
…, B _{N} _{} _{1} –A _{N} are reverse to ?x axes. In a similar manner,
the heat transfer process in region B _{1} –A _{2} of absorber plate
can be considered as one dimension steadystate heat
conduction problem of a ﬁn with width of (W  D).
Combining the thermal conduction equation Eq. 3 with
boundary conditions x = 0, T = T _{b}_{1} ; x = W  D,
T = T _{b}_{2} , the integration constants of Eq. 4 are obtained
C 1;2 ¼
½T _{b}_{1} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ expðmH Þ
2shðmH Þ
½T _{b}_{2} ðS=U _{L} þ
T _{a} Þ
2shðmH Þ
^{;}
ð9Þ
C _{1}_{;}_{1} ¼ T _{b}_{1} C _{1}_{;}_{2} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
The heat ﬂow rate into the vertical plane that contains
point B _{1} is calculated by
Q _{B}_{1} ¼ kdL _{e}
dT
dx
^{} x¼0
¼ kdmL _{e} ðT _{b}_{1} 2C _{1}_{;}_{2} S=U _{L} T _{a} Þ
ð10Þ
On the basis of the temperature distribution of region
B _{1} –A _{2} in absorber plate, the heat ﬂow rate out of the
vertical plane that contains point A _{2} is written as
Q _{A}_{2} ¼ kdL _{e}
dT
dx
^{} x¼W D
¼ kdmL _{e} C _{1}_{;}_{1} expðmH Þ
C _{1}_{;}_{2} expð mH Þ ^{}
2.2.3
The region A _{1} –B _{1} of No.1 heat pipe
ð11Þ
The gained solar energy in the region A _{1} –B _{1} of No.1 heat
pipe is
Q _{A}_{1}_{B}_{1} ¼ ðp=2ÞDL _{e} ½
S
U L ðT b1
T a
Þ
ð12Þ
The useful energy obtained by the No.1 heat pipe is
Q _{h}_{p}_{1} ¼ GC _{p} ðT _{0}_{1} T _{i} Þ
ð13Þ
where T _{0}_{1} is heated ﬂuid outlet temperature of No.1 heat
pipe.
The energy balance of the region A _{1} –B _{1} of No.1 heat
pipe as a whole gives
Q A1 þ Q A1B1 þ
j
Q B1
j ¼ Q _{h}_{p}_{1}
ð14Þ
Then the following equation can be obtained,
ð1=2ÞHL _{e} F ½ S
U L ðT b1
T a
Þ þðp=2ÞDL _{e} ½S U _{L} ðT _{b}_{1} T _{a} Þ
þ kdmL _{e} ðT _{b}_{1} 2C _{1}_{;}_{2} S=U _{L} T _{a} Þ¼ GC _{p} ðT _{0}_{1} T _{i} Þ
ð15Þ
Equation 15 contains unknown temperature T _{b}_{1} , T _{b}_{2} ,
T 01 .
2.2.4
The region A _{n} –B _{n} of No.n (n = 2, 3, 4,…, N  1)
heat pipe
For the region A _{n} –B _{n} of No.n (n = 2, 3, 4,…, N  1) heat
pipe, the heat transfer process of each region is similar.
Applying the analysis method of the region A _{1} –B _{1} , we also
have
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Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176
kdmL _{e} ðT _{b}_{n} 2C _{n}_{;}_{2} S=U _{L}
T _{a} Þ
þ ðp=2ÞDL _{e} ½S U _{L} ðT _{b}_{n} T _{a} Þ
¼ GC _{P} ðT _{0}_{n} T _{0}_{ð}_{n} _{} _{1}_{Þ} Þ þ kdmL _{e} ½C _{n} _{} _{1}_{;}_{1} expðmH Þ
C _{n} _{} _{1}_{;}_{2} expð mH Þ
where
C n 1;2 ¼
½T _{b}_{ð}_{n} _{} _{1}_{Þ} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ expðmH Þ
2shðmH Þ
½T _{b}_{n} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
2shðmH Þ
C _{n} _{} _{1}_{;}_{1} 

C n;2 ¼ 
2shðmH Þ 



2shðmH Þ 

n 2 ð2; 3; 4; 5; 
¼ T _{b}_{ð}_{n} _{} _{1}_{Þ} C _{ð}_{n} _{} _{1}_{Þ}_{;}_{2} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
½T _{b}_{n} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ expðmH Þ
½T _{b}_{ð}_{n}_{þ}_{1}_{Þ} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
.; N 1Þ
ð16Þ
ð17aÞ
ð17bÞ
ð17cÞ
In which, T _{b}_{(} _{n} _{} _{1}_{)} is the region
A _{n} _{} _{1} –B _{n} _{} _{1} temperature of
No.(n  1) heat pipe; T _{b} _{n} is the region A _{n} –B _{n} temperature
of No.n heat pipe; T _{b}_{(} _{n} _{?} _{1}_{)} is the region A _{n} _{?} _{1} –B _{n} _{?} _{1}
temperature of No.(n ? 1) heat pipe; T _{0}_{(} _{n} _{} _{1}_{)} is heated
ﬂuid inlet temperature of No.n heat pipe. T _{0} _{n} is heated ﬂuid
outlet temperature of No.n heat pipe. Among these, T _{b}_{(} _{n} _{} _{1}_{)} ,
T _{b} _{n} , T _{0}_{(} _{n} _{} _{1}_{)} and T _{0} _{n} are unknown.
2.2.5 The
region A _{N} –B _{N} of No.N heat pipe
Since the analysis method of the region A _{N} –B _{N} of
No.N heat pipe is almost the same as that of the region A _{1} –
B _{1} of No.1 heat pipe except for different boundary condi
tions, thus neglected for brevity’s sake. The right side
surface of absorber plate is adiabatic. The appropriate
boundary conditions (the point B _{N} is coordinate origin)
would be
^{T} ^{j} x¼0 ^{¼} ^{T} bN ^{;}
dT
dx ^{} x¼ðW DÞ=2
¼ 0
ð18Þ
Therefore, application of the above boundary conditions
yields the integration constants of general solution Eq. 4 as
C N ;1
¼
T _{b}_{N} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
1
þ expðmH Þ
^{;}
ð19Þ
C _{N} _{;}_{2} ¼ T _{b}_{N} C _{N} _{;}_{1} ðS=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
The heat ﬂow rate into the vertical plane that contains
point B _{N} is calculated by
Q _{B}_{N} ¼ kdL _{e}
dT
dx ^{} x¼0
¼ kdmL _{e} ðC _{N} _{;}_{1} C _{N} _{;}_{2} Þ
ð20Þ
The energy balance equation for the region A _{N} –B _{N} of
No.N heat pipe is written as
j
Q BN
j þ Q ANBN ¼
j
Q AN
j þ Q _{h}_{p}_{N}
ð21Þ
where Q _{A}_{N}_{B}_{N} is the gained solar energy in the region A _{N} –
B _{N} of No.N heat pipe; Q _{A}_{N} is the heat ﬂow rate out of the
vertical plane that contains point A _{N} .
The useful energy gained by the No.N heat pipe is given
by
Q hpN ¼ GC p
^{T} 0N ^{} ^{T} 0ðN 1Þ
^{}
ð22Þ
Combining Eqs. 20, 21 and 22 leads to:
kdmL _{e} ð2C _{N} _{;}_{1} T _{b}_{N} þ S=U _{L} þ T _{a} Þ
þ ðp=2ÞDL _{e} ½S U _{L} ðT _{b}_{N} T _{a} Þ
¼ GC _{p} ðT _{0}_{N} T _{0}_{ð}_{N} _{} _{1}_{Þ} Þ þ kdmL _{e} ½C _{N} _{} _{1}_{;}_{1}
expðmH Þ
C _{N} _{} _{1}_{;}_{2} expð mH Þ
ð23Þ
It is clear that Eq. 23 contains unknown temperature
T b(N  1) , T b N , T 0(N  1) and T 0 N .
2.2.6 The relation T _{0}_{n} with T _{b}_{n}
For No.1 heat pipe, the heat transfer effectiveness e _{1} and
the number of heat transfer unit NTU _{c}_{1} are deﬁned as
e _{1} ¼ 1 expð NTU _{c}_{1} Þ; NTU _{c}_{1} ¼ ðA _{c}_{1} U _{c}_{;}_{0}_{1} Þ=ðGC _{P} Þ
ð24Þ
where U _{c}_{,}_{0}_{1} is heat convection coefﬁcient of heated ﬂuid
and the condenser section, it can be obtained from
Nu = 0.26Re ^{0}^{.}^{6} Pr ^{1}^{/}^{3} [22]; A _{c}_{1} is the heat exchange area of
heated ﬂuid and the condenser section of heat pipe.
From e _{1} ¼ ðT _{0}_{1} T _{i} Þ=ðT _{c}_{;}_{0}_{1} T _{i} Þ, we have
T _{0}_{1} ¼ T _{i} þ ½1 expð NTU _{c}_{1} Þ ðT _{c}_{;}_{0}_{1} T _{i} Þ
ð25Þ
where T _{c}_{,}_{0}_{1} is the working ﬂuid temperature of No.1 heat
pipe condenser section and equal to the working ﬂuid
temperature of No.1 heat pipe T _{h}_{p}_{1} . Considering that phase
transition heat transfer coefﬁcient of heat pipe is rather high,
and the temperature difference of phase transition heat
transfer is much smaller than that of single phase
convection heat transfer, namely, T _{c}_{,}_{0}_{1} = T _{h}_{p}_{1} & T _{b}_{1} .
Therefore, Eq. 25 may be rearranged in the following form:
T _{0}_{1} ¼ T _{i} þ ½1 expð NTU _{c}_{1} Þ ðT _{b}_{1} T _{i} Þ ð26Þ
Proceeding in a similar fashion,
for No.n heat
pipe
(n = 2, 3, 4,…, N), it is readily shown that
T _{0}_{n}
¼ T _{0}_{ð}_{n} _{} _{1}_{Þ} þ
½
1 expð NTU _{c}_{n}
Þ
^{T} bn ^{} ^{T} 0ðn 1Þ
^{}
ð27Þ
Again,
e _{n} ¼ 1 expð NTU _{c}_{n} Þ;
NTU _{c}_{n} ¼ ðA _{c}_{n} U _{c}_{;}_{0}_{n} Þ=ðGC _{P} Þ
ð28Þ
It is assumed that each heat pipe is the same, namely
A _{c} _{n} = A _{c}_{1} , U _{c}_{,}_{0}_{1} = U _{c}_{,}_{0} _{n} , we have
Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176
1173
e _{1} ¼ e _{2} ¼ e _{3} ¼ e _{4} ¼ ¼ e _{n} ¼ e
ð29Þ
From 
Eqs. 26 to 
29, 
the 
following 
equations 
are 

obtained: 

T _{0}_{1} 
¼ 
T _{i} þ eðT _{b}_{1} T _{i} Þ ¼ eT _{b}_{1} þ ð1 eÞT _{i} 
ð30Þ 

T _{0}_{2} 
¼ 
eT _{b}_{2} þ ð1 eÞeT _{b}_{1} þ ð1 eÞ ^{2} T _{i} 
ð31Þ 
T _{0}_{n} ¼ T _{i} ð1 eÞ ^{n} þ ð1 eÞ ^{n} ^{} ^{1} eT _{b}_{1} þ ð1 eÞ ^{n} ^{} ^{2} eT _{b}_{2}
þ þð1 eÞeT _{b}_{ð}_{n} _{} _{1}_{Þ}
þ eT _{b}_{n}
where n 2 ð2; 3; 4;
...;
N Þ.
ð32Þ
From the relation T _{0} _{n} with T _{b} _{n} , it is shown that Eqs. 15,
16 and 23 consist of N equations which contain N unknown
quantities. Obviously, closed form solutions can be
obtained from these equations. Namely, we can gain the
temperature T _{b}_{1} , T _{b}_{2} , T _{b}_{3} ,…, T _{b} _{N} of region A _{1} –B _{1} , A _{2} –B _{2} ,
A _{3} –B _{3} ,…, A _{N} –B _{N} of the heat pipes. Meanwhile, the heated
ﬂuid outlet temperature of each heat pipe T _{0}_{1} , T _{0}_{2} , T _{0}_{3} ,…,
T _{0} _{N} can be found out. Further, the thermal efﬁciency of the
heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector g can be calculated as [6]
g ¼
GC _{p} ðT _{0}_{N} T _{i} Þ
I 0 A coll
ð33Þ
where A _{c}_{o}_{l}_{l} is area of collector, A _{c}_{o}_{l}_{l} = NWL _{e} .
3 Results validation
Take the collector parameters in Ref. [6], the heat pipe was
made of copper with length of 0.92 m and outer diameter
D of 0.0127 m. The lengths of evaporator and condenser
section, i.e., L _{e} and L _{c} are 0.75 and 0.1 m, respectively. The
glass cover plate was sized in 0.76 m 9 1.9 m 9 0.004 m,
of which the transmissivity s is 0.9. The absorber plate was
made of copper with size of 1.89 m 9 0.75 m and it was
coated with anodic alumina spectral selective absorption
material of which the absorptivity a is 0.94. The condenser
section of heat pipe is placed in the heated ﬂuid channels of
1.9 m 9 0.1 m 9 0.03 m. The heated ﬂuid, namely water
ﬂows in succession over the condenser section of the heat
pipe in a crosswise manner. The heat loss coefﬁcient
between the absorber plate and environment U _{L} is 8.6
W/m ^{2} K [23]. Other parameters, such as solar intensity I _{o}
and ambient temperature T _{a} are from Ref. [6]. Initial wall
temperature distributions were assumed for each heat pipe,
then the Gauss–Seidel iteration method was employed to
solve the above mentioned N equations, and the calculation
results are discussed in the following. For the convenience
of illustration and comparison, ‘‘th’’ means the theoretical
calculations in this paper; ‘‘exp’’ and ‘‘nu’’, respectively
denote the experimental and numerical results in Ref. [6].
The theoretical water outlet temperature in this paper is
compared with the experimental and numerical values in
Ref. [6] when the water ﬂow rate G = 0.0458 kg/s, as
presented in Fig. 4a. Very small relative deviation (only
0.1 to 0.4%) has been detected. Figure 4b demonstrates
comparisons of the collector thermal efﬁciency for the
same case. The relative deviation between theoretical and
experimental values is only 1.7 to 7.5%, while the rela
tive deviation between the numerical and experimental
values in Ref. [6] was found to be 4.5 to 6.6%.
Similarly, Fig. 5a gives the comparisons of the theo
retical water outlet temperature in this paper with the
experimental and numerical values in Ref. [6] when the
water ﬂow rate G = 0.0125 kg/s. Again, minor relative
deviation exists between the two, which is only 1 to
0.8%. Figure 5b presents the collector thermal efﬁciency
comparisons. The theoretical values obtained in this paper
Fig. 4 The water outlet temperature and collector thermal efﬁciency at G = 0.0458 kg/s in comparison with the experimental and numerical results in Ref. [6]
1174
Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176
Fig. 5 The water outlet temperature and collector thermal efﬁciency at G = 0.0125 kg/s in comparison with the experimental and numerical results in Ref. [6]
agree well with the experimental values with relative
deviation of 5.2 to 5.8%. Whereas, the relative deviation
of the numerical and experimental values in Ref. [6] was
4.9 to 29.2%.
According to the above analysis, fairly good agreements
have been observed in the theoretical and experimental
results, especially the water outlet temperature. This con
ﬁrms that the theoretical method raised in this paper is
feasible and effective, and can be used with conﬁdence for
the thermal performance analysis of heat pipe ﬂat plate
solar collector.
In addition, seen from the theoretical values of water
outlet temperature and the collector thermal efﬁciency in
this paper and the experimental values in Ref. [6], the
relative deviation of collector thermal efﬁciency is always
greater than that of water outlet temperature. For example,
at 16:00 in Fig. 4, the water outlet temperature calculated
in this paper is only 0.3% higher than the experiment value
in Ref. [6], while the relative deviation of thermal efﬁ
ciency is enlarged to 7.5%. This is due to that, for the
calculation of relative deviation of water outlet tempera
ture, it is deﬁned as the calculated and experimental water
outlet temperature difference divided by the experimental
value. The relative deviation of collector thermal efﬁciency
is deﬁned as the calculated and experimental water outlet
temperature difference divided by the actual water tem
perature rise. Because the water temperature rise in actual
process is not too much (in Ref. [6], it is only several
Celsius degree), a small deviation of water outlet temper
ature will result in great thermal efﬁciency deviation,
especially for the cases of weak solar radiation or increased
water mass ﬂow rate. Compared Fig. 4 with Fig. 5, it is
noticed that as the water mass ﬂow rate increases, the
thermal efﬁciency deviation of the theoretical and experi
mental value increases, which is owning to that the
increase of water mass ﬂow rate leads to the decrease of
water temperature rising. This also conﬁrms the above
analysis.
To further validate the theoretical method proposed in
this paper, comparisons of water outlet temperature and
collector thermal efﬁciency between the theoretical and
experimental results in Ref. [6] for the collector with dif
ferent heat pipe number and the water mass ﬂow rate
G = 0.0292 kg/s have been presented in Fig. 6. It suggests
that as the heat pipe number increases, the theoretical
results obtained by the present method become closer to the
experimental results in Ref. [6]. With N = 10, 12 and 14,
the relative deviations of water outlet temperature are 1.56
to 2.4%, 0.83 to 1.97%, 0.91 to 1.4%, and the relative
deviations for collector thermal efﬁciency are 16.7 to 38%,
8 to 14%, 6.8 to 13.9%. It should be noted that, the
collector thermal efﬁciency showed the highest when
N = 12 in Ref. [6]. However, the theoretical results in this
paper reveal that, the collector thermal efﬁciency increase
slightly as the heat pipe number decreases, namely, the
collector thermal efﬁciency does not change signiﬁcantly if
the heat pipe number changes a little. Take the moment of
12:30 as an example, for the collector with N = 10, 12 and
14, their thermal efﬁciencies are 64, 63, 61%, respectively;
however, the results in Ref. [6] stated that the collector
thermal efﬁciencies respectively are 54, 70, and 64% with
N = 10, 12 and 14, which shows much more signiﬁcant
change than that of this paper.
4 Conclusions
The equations describing the temperature distributions of
the absorber plate and the relationships between each heat
Heat Mass Transfer (2012) 48:1167–1176
1175
Fig. 6 The water outlet temperature and collector thermal efﬁciency at N = 10, 12, 14 in comparison with the experimental and numerical results in Ref. [6]
pipe wall temperature and the water temperature rise in the
process of ﬂowing over the condenser section of each heat
pipe were derived. The theoretical values of water outlet
temperature and the collector thermal efﬁciency have been
calculated when the relevant parameters, such as the solar
intensity, water inlet temperature and environmental tem
perature are known. On the basis of present analysis it is
concluded that:
1. Using the present theoretical method, the values of water outlet temperature and the collector thermal efﬁciency agree well with those in Ref. [6], especially the water outlet temperature values. Because of the collector thermal efﬁciency deﬁnition, the relative deviation of
collector thermal efﬁciency is generally greater than that
of water outlet temperature.
2. As an increased the heated ﬂuid temperature rise can reduce the relative deviation of water outlet temper ature and collector thermal efﬁciency, this theoretical method is more suitable for the collector under certain conditions, i.e., intense solar radiation, small heated ﬂuid mass ﬂow rate, and a collector with more heat pipes.
3. The theoretical method proposed in this paper can be used for heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector performance analysis and assessment. It is an efﬁcient approach to analyze and discuss the inﬂuences of solar intensity, water inlet temperature, environmental temperature, heated ﬂuid mass ﬂow rate and collector’s structure parameters on the heat pipe ﬂat plate solar collector performance.
Acknowledgments This work is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No.51076171). The authors also wish to thank the support from Natural Science Foundation Project of CQ CSTC (CSTC, 2010BB6062) and Project No. CDJXS 10141147 supported by Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.
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