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Importance of solar drying

• The world population is more than 6 billion and about
800-900 million people do not have enough food to eat.
• There are three methods to solve hunger problem:
– Increase food production
– Reduce population growth
– Reduce loss of food during and after harvesting
• It has been estimated that world as a whole more than
20-30 percent food grains and 30-50 percent vegetables,
fruits/fish etc. are lost before it reaches to the
• Drying is a traditional method for preserving food. Solar
drying is an effective method to preserve food.
• Solar energy is diffuse in nature and thus suitable for
crop drying, locally available and thus saves
transportation, solar dryers can be made locally of any
size and capacity and solar dryers are economical if cash
crops are dried.
Advantages in Favour of Crop Drying
• It permits early harvesting and reduces the field losses
of the products,
• Reduces the risk of field losses caused by wild animals,
• It permits better planning of harvesting season,
• It reduces spoilage in storage drastically,
• It permits the farmer to sell his product at better price
during early period of harvesting season,
• Quality of the product gets enhanced significantly and
hence farmer gets more money for his product, and
• Transportation is easy with dried product.
• It is the simplest method of drying used in most
developing countries.
• The food / crop is spread out in the open under the sun.

(1) No technology involved
(2) Very low cost (cost of labour only)

(1) Contamination of the product due to dirt and insects.
(2) Wastage by birds / mice.
(3) Spoilage due to sudden and unpredicted rain.
(4) There is no control of temperature over crop drying.
(5) Overdrying may cause loss of germination power,
nutritional changes, sometimes complete damage.
• The drying of product depends on external variables like
temperature, humidity and velocity of air stream and
internal variables which is a function of drying material and
depends on parameters like surface characteristics (rough
or smooth surface), Chemical composition (sugar, starch,
etc.), physical structure (porosity, density, etc.). and size
and shape of the product. The rate of moisture movement
from the product inside to the air outside differ from one
product to another and very much depends weather the
material is hygroscopic or non-hygroscopic. Non-
hygroscopic materials can be dried to zero moisture level
while the hygroscopic materials like most of the food
products will always have a residual moisture content.
• The design of a solar dryer depends on : solar radiation,
temperature of air, relative humidity of air, moisture
content of the product, amount of product to be dried, time
required for drying, availability of auxiliary energy, material
of construction of dryer and the resource availability.
• Heat by convection and radiation to Surface of product
 Goes to interior of product
• Increase in temperature
• Formation of water vapour
 Evaporation of moisture from Surface

Drying can be accelerated by:

• Increasing flow rate of air
• Increasing temperature of drying air
• Initial Drying - Surface drying, later on drying depends on
type of materials.
• Non hygroscopic- drying possible upto zero moisture
• Hygroscopic - grains, fruit, food stuff have residual
1. Grain
• Improves product quality,
• Improves storage capability,
• Reduces time and space requirement for drying,
• Facilitates quick preparation of fields for next cropping,
• Facilitates wet season harvesting and storage,
• Improves drying hygene.
2. Timber
• Improves product quality,
• Reduces period capitoltied up in drying stock,
• Improves low expertise, low capital, improved drying options,
• Expands range of usable timber species,
• Improves attainable drying level.
3. Fruits, Vegetables & Fish
• Reduces product seasonability,
• Improves marketing control of farmer,
• Reduces spoilage,
• Improves drying hygene,
• Improves storage capability,
• Reduces nutritional fluctuations.
1. In NPL, New Delhi in 1954 solar heated air was used for
drying of coal fines.
2. In NPL, New Delhi in 1955, plane glass mirror concentrators
with overall dimensions of 1.83m x 0.91 m were used for
making jaggery from sugar cane and palm juice.
3. Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC), Ahmedabad
in 1968, using similar mirrors erected a pilot plant which
dehydrates palm nira and turns it into gur or syrup.
4. Forest Research Institute (FRI), Dehradun, Developed a 7.1
cu.m, capacity timber seasoning kiln in 1972.
5. Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), Jodhpur
developed a solar cabinet dryer in 1972 and tested it for several
years for drying fruits and vegetables.
6. Annamalai University, in the year 1978 developed one ton per
day solar paddy dryer.
7. National Industrial Development Corporation (NIDC) of
India developed several solar grain dryer in 1980 and put to use
in few cities in India.

• Capacity of solar dryers must be equivalent to

fossil fuel based dryer
• The labour input for solar dryer operation should
not increase
• Solar dryer operation must be independent of
weather conditions
• With solar dryer the quality of dried product
should not be lowered
• The operating conditions should be reliable
• Total drying cost should not increase
Estimated Energy Requirements for drying of some crops

Crops Initial moisture Final moisture Water removed Energy

content (%) wb content (%) wb (kg/t of dried requirement
product) (106 kJ/t)
Wheat, barley, rye, 20-25 14-16 50-147 0.30-0.88
oats, paddy Corn 25-45 12-14 147-600 0.80-3.60
Peas, beans Potatoes 60-70 5-10 1250-2157 7.50-13.00
Onion, Garlic, 65-85 14 1458-4733 8.75-28.40
Carrot, beets, 70-80 5-10 2000-3750 12.00-22.50
Cabbage, Tamatoes 80-90 5-10 3500-8500 21.00-51.00

90-95 5-10 8000-3300 48.00-108.00

Apples, 75-80 14-23 2080-3300 12.48-19.80
Apricots, peaches,
prunces, grapes,
figs, banana
Hay 40-60 10-14 433-1250 2.60-7.50
Grass, alfala 80-90 10-14 3300-8000 19.80-48.00
• DIRECT TYPE DRYERS : In direct or natural convection type dryers,
the agricultural product is placed in shallow layers in a blackened
enclosure with a transparent cover. The solar radiations are directly
absorbed by the product itself. The food product is heated up and the
moisture from the product evaporates and goes out by the natural
• INDIRECT TYPE DRYERS : In these dryers the food product is
placed in a drying chamber. The air is heated in solar air heaters and
then blown through the drying chamber. In some of the designs, dryers
receive direct solar radiations and also heated air from solar air heaters.
In these dryers manipulation of temperature, humidity and drying rate
is possible to some extent.
• FORCED CIRCULATION TYPE DRYERS : In these dryers, hot air is
continuously blown over the food product. The food product itself is
loaded or unload continuously or periodically. These kind of dryers are
comparatively thermodynamically efficient, faster and can be used for
drying large agricultural product. These dryers can be of Cross-flow
type, concurrent flow type or counter-flow type.
(a) Direct type solar dryers

(b) Indirect type solar dryers

(c) Forced circulation type solar dryers

Drying terminology
• Percent moisture content, dry basis :
The mass ratio of water to dry solid multiplied by 100.
W d
M (dry)   100%
where, W is the wet mass and d is dry mass of the product.
• Percent moisture content, wet basis:
The mass fraction of water in the commercially dry solid multiplied by

W d
M ( wet )  100%
• Bound moisture :
The amount of water in the material which exhibits a vapor
pressure less than that of pure liquid at the same temperature.
• Unbound moisture:
The moisture contained by a material which exerts an
equilibrium vapour pressure equal to that of pure liquid at
the same temperature.

• Equilibrium moisture :
The amount of moisture in the material that is in the
equilibrium with its vapour in the gas phase. For a given
temperature and humidity conditions, the material cannot
be dried below its corresponding equilibrium moisture

• Hydrogroscopic material :
A material that may contain bound moisture in small

• Non-hydroscopic material:
The material which cannot hold moisture in the bound
• Constant rate period:
The part of the drying process during which the drying rate is constant and is
controlled by external rather than internal conditions.
• Falling rate period:
The part of the drying during which the drying rate varies with time. Internal factors,
i.e., physical and transport properties of the material, control the drying process.
• External drying factors:
The independent variables associated with the conditions and flow of gas phase.
• Internal drying factors:
The properties of the material that influence the transport of heat and mass within the
• Critical moisture content:
The moisture content of a material at the end of constant rate period. The critical
moisture content is not a unique moisture property of a material but is influenced by
its physical shape as well as the conditions of the drying process.
• Batch drying:
The type of drying operation in which the material is fed to and discharged from
drying chambers in batches at definite intervals of time.
• Specific volume:
The volume per unit weight of dry air.
• Enthalpy:
The total energy contents of the substrate. For moist air, it is equal to the heat content
of the moist air per unit weight of dry air above a certain reference temperature.
Basics of Solar Drying
• Drying or dehydration of material means removal of moisture from the
interior of the material to the surface and then to remove this moisture
from the surface of the drying material.
• The drying of product is a complex heat and mass transfer process which
depends on external parameters such as temperature, humidity and
velocity of the air stream; drying material properties like surface
characteristics (rough or smooth surface), chemical composition (sugar,
starches, etc) physical structure (porosity. density. etc.); size and shape of
the product.
• The rate of moisture movement from the product inside to the air outside
differs from one product to another and very much depends on whether
the material is hygroscopic or non-hygroscopic. Non-hygroscopic material
can be dried to zero moisture level while the hygroscopic materials like
most of the food products will always have a residual moisture content.
This moisture in hygroscopic material may be a bound moisture (remains)
in the material due to closed capillaries or due to surface forces) or
unbound moisture which remains in the material due to surface tension of
water. When the hygroscopic material is exposed to air, it will either
absorb moisture or desorb moisture depending on the relative humidity of
air. The equilibrium moisture content (EMC) will soon be reached when
the vapour pressure of water in the material becomes equal to the partial
pressure of water in the surrounding air. The equilibrium moisture content
is, therefore, important in the drying since this is the minimum moisture
to which the material can be dried under a given set of drying conditions.
Basics of Solar Drying (contd.)
• A series of drying characteristic curves can be plotted. The best
is, if the moisture content M of the material is plotted versus
time as shown in Fig. Another curve can be plotted between
drying rate i.e. dM/dt versus time t as shown in Fig. But more
information can be obtained if a curve is plotted between
drying rate dM/dt versus moisture content M as shown in Fig.
As is seen from this figure for both hygroscopic and non-
hygroscopic materials, there is a constant drying rate
terminating at the critical moisture content followed by falling
drying rate. The constant drying rate for both non-hygroscopic
and hygroscopic materials is the same while the period of
falling rate is little different. For non-hygroscopic materials, in
the period of falling rate, the drying rate goes on decreasing till
the moisture content becomes zero. In the hygroscopic
materials, the period of falling rate is similar until the unbound
moisture is completely removed. then it further decreases and
some bound moisture is removed; this continues till the vapour
pressure of material becomes equal to the vapour pressure of
drying air. When this equilibrium reaches then the drying rate
becomes zero.
Moisture in the drying material
Rate of moisture loss
Drying rate with time curve
Typical drying rate curve
Basics of Solar Drying (contd.)
Eight thermodynamic properties of moist air, generally used in drying
are vapor pressure, relative humidity, humidity ratio, dry bulb
temperature, dew point temperature, web bulb temperature, enthalpy,
and specific volume. These parameters are correlated and the effect of
one on another can be seen on psychometric chart.

The drying process can be explained with the help of the psychometric
chart of Fig. If the air is not saturated (say dry bulb temperature is 30C
and wet bulb temperature is 20C) and is allowed to pass over the
material and if no external heat is applied, then the sensible heat of air
and material is exchanged for latent heat of vaporization of water. The
path travelled on psychometric chart will be 20C wet bulb line shown by
line AB. During this process the humidity ratio changes from 0.0140 to
0.0104 i.e. about 0.0036 kg of vapour per kg of dry air is absorbed. Now
by using solar energy, the air is heated to 45C with a relative humidity
of 17 per cent and is passed over the drying material. During the drying
process, this air is cooled-adiabatically along the 24 C wet bulb line,
then the final humidity ratio will be 0.0189. Thus the moisture
evaporated with the. heated air will be 0.0075 kg of vapour per kg of dry
air which is almost double the water evaporated compared to when air
was not heated.
Psychometric chart for pressure 101.35 kPa with drying process indicated
Natural Convection or Direct type
Solar Dryer
• These dryers appear to be more attractive for use in
developing countries since these do not use fan or blower to
be operated by electrical energy.
• These dryers are low in cost and easy to operate.
• Some of the problems with these dryers are: slow drying, no
control on temperature and humidity, small quantity can be
dried, and some products change colour and flavour due to
direct exposure to sun.
• Several direct type dryers are fabricated, tested, and
analysed in many countries.
• The simplest direct type solar dryer is solar cabinet dryer.
Solar Cabinet Dryer
• The solar cabinet dryer in its simple form consists of a
wooden (or of any other material) box of certain width and
length (length is generally kept as three times its width),
insulated at its base and preferably at the sides and covered
with a transparent roof.
• The inside surfaces of the box are coated with black paint
and the product to be dried is kept in the trays made of wire
mesh bottom. These trays loaded with product are kept
through an openable door provided on the rear side of the
• Ventilation holes are made in the bottom through which
fresh outside air is sucked automatically. Holes are also
provided on the upper sides of the dryer through which
moist warm air escapes.
• This dryer has given encouraging results and reduced the
drying time by one third compared to open sun drying.
Details of solar cabinet dryer
Photograph of Solar Cabinet Dryer
Mixed Mode Type Solar Dryer
• In the mixed mode type of solar dryers, the solar air heater with
or without any electric fan along with a drying bin is used.
• Such simple mixed mode type solar dryer was developed at
AIT Bangkok for drying paddy and therefore named as rice
• It consists of a solar air heater made of a frame of bamboo
poles and wire covered with 0.15 mm thick transparent PVC
sheet. The ground is covered with burnt rice husk which
absorbs the solar radiation and heats the air in contact.
• The hot air in this air heater rises to the drying chamber which
either consists of transparent PVC sheets on bamboo frame
absorbing directly the solar radiation or a bamboo frame
covered from all the four side with some opaque material.
• The drying material (rice etc.) is kept on the nylon net tray in
thin layer through which hot air heated from air heaters enters
its bottom and goes up into the chimney.
Mixed Mode Type Solar Dryer (contd.)

• The chimney is a long cylinder made of bamboo

frame covered with black PVC to keep the inside
air warm. There is a cap at the top of the chimney,
leaving some space in between chimney top and
cap to allow warm humid air to go out and
protecting the product from rain and other foreign
• The height of the chimney and the hot air inside it
creates a pressure difference between its top and
bottom thereby creating forced movement of air
through the rice bed to the top of the chimney.
• The drying rate will depend on the depth of the
bed, initial moisture content of the material, solar
insolation, ambient temperature, and the design of
the dryer.
Cross section of chimney type solar dryer
Photograph of Solar Rice Dryer
Forced Circulation Type Solar Dryer
• As the name implies, such dryers use some kind of one or
several electric operated blower/exhaust fan to circulate air
between air heater/storage bin/drying chamber.
• Such dryers are more efficient, faster, reliable, preferred and
can be used for drying large quantities of agricultural products.
• These dryters can be used at low as well as at high
temperatures and used for drying large quantities of product.
• These dryers are of bin type, tunnel type, belt type, column
type, or rotary type.
• Some forced circulation type solar dryers use some kind of
thermal storage unit, heat recovery wheel and auxiliary heating
• Auxiliary energy may be supplied either by electric heating or
oil or gas burners and used only when solar air heaters or the
heat from the thermal storage device is not sufficient to supply
necessary energy for drying the product.
Forced Circulation Type Solar Dryer (contd.)
• Several storage systems are proposed but the most preferred one is
the rock bed storage system which stores the heat in the form of
sensible heat and performs the dual function of storing the heat
and that of a heat exchanger.
• A hybrid solar dryer (solar assisted) was developed at Fresno,
California for drying large amount of fruits and vegetables.
• It consists of several solar air heaters with a total area of 1350 m2, a
thermal storage (rock bed type) of 350m3 volume, a rotary wheel
type heat recovery whell and a tunnel dehydration in which 14
trucks loaded with prepared food move at a rate of 24 hours per
truck in one direction and the heated air is sent from the other
• The system is designed for a fixed air flow rate of 9.5m3/s to the
dehydrator 24 hours a day. The drying temperature varies from
60C in the beginning of June to 66C in August to September.
• The solar contribution in this hybrid systems is 1582 MJ/hr which
is about 60 per cent of the total heat requirement of drying.
Photograph of Forced Circulation Type
Solar Dryer
Important Conclusions
• Experience over the past four decades has shown that inspite of
high potential of solar drying it has not taken off. Some of the
reasons are;
• Systematic work on solar dryer has been done only in few
• Solar dryer has not been developed as a system.
• In industralized countries, there is great interest towards solar
drying. However, neither the temperature nor the heat
requirement can be achieved with solar collector.
• Solar drying is considered more applicable to low temperature in-
storage type drying in tropical and subtropical countries.
• Pre-healing of drying air in batch dryers has been demonstrated
to be techno-economically viable.
• Solar drying should be disseminated for medium and low scale
farmers for drying cash crops.
• To popularise solar drying, pilot demonstration followed by
training and workshop will have to be intensified.