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Energy Conversion and Management 44 (2003) 2879–2892

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Design, construction and test run of a solid adsorption


solar refrigerator using activated carbon/methanol,
as adsorbent/adsorbate pair
a,* b
E.E. Anyanwu , C.I. Ezekwe
a
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Federal University of Technology, P.M.B 1526, Owerri, Nigeria
b
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria
Received 31 October 2001; received in revised form 6 November 2002; accepted 17 February 2003

Abstract
The design, construction and test run of a solid adsorption solar refrigerator are presented. It used ac-
tivated carbon/methanol as the adsorbent/adsorbate pair. The refrigerator has three major components:
collector/generator/adsorber, condenser and evaporator. Its flat plate type collector/generator/adsorber
used clear plane glass sheet of effective exposed area of 1.2 m2 . The steel condenser tube with a square plan
view was immersed in pool of stagnant water contained in a reinforced sandcrete tank. The evaporator is a
spirally coiled copper tube immersed in stagnant water. Adsorbent cooling during the adsorption process is
both by natural convection of air over the collector plate and tubes and night sky radiation facilitated by
removing the collector box end cover plates. Ambient temperatures during the adsorbate generation and
adsorption process varied over 18.5–34 C. The refrigerator yielded evaporator temperatures ranging over
1.0–8.5 C from water initially in the temperature range 24–28 C. Accordingly, the maximum daily useful
cooling produced was 266.8 kJ/m2 of collector area.
 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Solar; Solid adsorption; Refrigeration; Adsorbent; Design; Performance; Temperature; Collector/generator/
adsorber; Condenser; Evaporator

1. Introduction

The Nigerian climate has an attractive potential for solar energy applications. Solar space
cooling and refrigeration appear to be the most important because the pattern of availability of

*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +243-083-231343; fax: +243-083-233228.
E-mail address: eanyanwu@futo.edu.ng (E.E. Anyanwu).

0196-8904/03/$ - see front matter  2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/S0196-8904(03)00072-4
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Nomenclature

A area, m2
Cp specific heat capacity at constant pressure, kJ/kg C
COP coefficient of performance
G solar radiation intensity, kW/m2
H specific enthalpy, kJ/kg
m mass, kg
Q energy, kJ
T temperature, C
Greek symbol
g solar collector efficiency, %
Subscripts
a available
ac activated carbon
c collector
fg liquid–gas phase
gen generator
i incident
ic incident collected
it incident total
r refrigerant
sf solid–liquid phase
sg solid–gas phase
uc useful cooling
w water

solar energy matches the demand for cooling. Cold storage of food products and medicines, es-
pecially immunisation vaccines, are important applications of solar refrigeration. Many agricul-
tural products, like fruits, vegetables, meat, milk, fish etc., can be maintained in fresh conditions
for significantly longer periods of time if they are stored at low temperatures. At present, in
Nigeria, large quantities of these products are lost annually due to poor storage facilities. This
situation is even worse in the remote rural areas where the fresh food materials are produced. In
such locations, irregular grid connected electricity supplies to power refrigeration machines for
cold storage and inadequate transport facilities to convey produce to distant but lucrative markets
constitute serious impediments to saving them from spoilage. As a result, sharp differences in food
supplies exist between the harvest and off harvest periods. High market value agricultural
products are usually abundant and cheap during the harvest season but scarce and expensive at
other times. Solar refrigeration can assist to reverse this trend.
Solar refrigeration can also play a vital role in efforts to improve the quality of rural health care,
including successful implementation of the national immunization programme for prevention of
E.E. Anyanwu, C.I. Ezekwe / Energy Conversion and Management 44 (2003) 2879–2892 2881

killer diseases. Vaccines require refrigeration during transportation and storage to remain effec-
tive. The use of solar refrigerators instead of conventional kerosene or LPG powered units, es-
pecially in remote areas, offers the following benefits [1]:

• Elimination of fuel supply costs and delivery problems.


• Reduced vaccine losses through improved refrigerator reliability, with associated reduced anx-
iety among medical personnel.
• Reduced maintenance work load for technicians and medical personnel, with associated costs
and time savings.
• Overall cost savings for the vaccine cold chain equipment.
• A more effective and sustainable immunization programme, leading to reduced incidence of dis-
eases.

The overall aim of this study is to develop a solar powered solid adsorption refrigerator using
predominantly locally available technologies. As a basis for the study, the technical and economic
status of solid adsorption solar refrigeration technology [2,3] were undertaken and compared with
conventional refrigeration technologies. The net solar coefficient of performance (COP) of the
existing photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal (sorption) refrigerators, which are in the ranges
0.25–0.35 and 0.1–0.15, respectively, do not compare favourably with the COPs of 1.0–1.5 and
0.1–0.5 of vapour compression and Platen–Munters (Electrolux) diffusion–absorption machines,
respectively. However, the lack of refrigerated storage facilities for ensuring year round avail-
ability of food and an adequate supply of immunization vaccines is becoming increasingly acute in
many parts of the world. This is most severe in the rural areas of developing countries where
conventional energy types are very scarce. The availability of solar radiation, in situ, in these areas
significantly increases the viability of solar powered refrigerators. Although PV refrigerators are
more commercially successful among the solar refrigeration technologies, they have the disad-
vantages of high cost and low possibility of manufacture in many developing countries. Solid
adsorption cycles have the additional benefit of the permanent porous structure of the adsorbents
and do not require rectifiers.

2. Design of system components

Design parameters:

Global solar radiation 559.72 W m2


Average ambient temperature 30 C
Maximum generation temperature 100 C
Adsorbent/adsorbate pair Activated carbon/methanol
Condensing temperature 35 C
Generation period 6h
Adsorption period 12 h
Evaporating temperature )10 C
Evaporator water mass 3 kg
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Ice temperature )5 C
Overall COP 0.11
Collector/generator/adsorber mass 60 kg

Solid adsorbents, particularly activated carbon, possess the unique property of generating large
quantities of refrigerant, such as methanol, at low temperatures of the order of 100 C. The
maximum generation temperature of 100 C was, therefore, chosen to be obtained from a flat
plate type solar collector/generator/adsorber for this design. Adsorption/desorption tests [4–7] for
activated carbon/methanol showed that 6–8 and 8–12 h were sufficient for the maximum possible
methanol generation and adsorption to occur respectively. The 6 and 12 h chosen for our design,
in addition, correspond to the periods of available high solar flux and nocturnal radiation, re-
spectively, in our local climate. Following Refs. [8,9], the average daily solar radiation at Nsukka
for the design period of October to March was found to be 16.12 MJ/m2 . Assuming that our
design 6 h day solar radiation, which is about 75% of the daily value, is uniformly distributed
throughout the 6 h, 559.72 W m2 was estimated.
The condensing temperature of 35 C was estimated by assuming the evaporative condenser
tank water 5 C below ambient temperature and 10 C below that of the condensing methanol.
Following Ref. [8], the average daily diurnal ambient temperature for the design period was es-
timated to be 30 C.
Methanol can evaporate at a temperature below 0 C, since its melting is )93 C. In fact,
evaporating temperatures as low as )12 C have been achieved for solid adsorption refrigeration
systems [7]. Consequently, an evaporating temperature of )10 C and evaporator water tem-
perature of )5 C were considered reasonable for sizing our system. Finally, the collector/gen-
erator/adsorber mass of 60 kg and the overall COP of 0.11 were based on theoretical estimates.

3. Construction and assembly

The schematic diagram of the solid adsorption solar refrigerator assembly is shown in Fig. 1. It
consists of three major components: collector/generator/adsorber, condenser and evaporator. The
combined collector/generator/adsorber has an effective exposed area of 1.2 m2 . Its solar collector
plate was constructed of 22G galvanized steel sheet painted with black oil paint. There were six
collector tubes, each 60.33 mm OD  52.5 mm ID  1640 mm long steel pipe, having a coaxial
21.34 mm OD  15.8 mm ID perforated inner tube. The perforations were 2 mm in diameter,
spaced 30 mm axially and four per circumference in an alternating manner. Each annular space
between the inner and outer tube was charged with 1.4 kg of activated carbon AC-35 supplied by
CECA, France. Thereafter, the grill of pipes was bonded to the plate at a pitch of 151 mm, using
a mixture of araldite and brass filling as the thermal bonding material.
The collector plate and tubes assembly was mounted on the rear plate insulation inside a 16G
galvanized steel sheet box. Its glazing was a clear plane glass. The insulation consists of 95 mm
thick Styrofoam chip and 5mm thick top covering asbestos ceiling board, which is capable of
withstanding the anticipated generator/adsorber temperature of 100 C. The top and bottom
headers were 26.7 mm OD  20.9 mm ID steel tube. Adsorbent cooling during the charging,
cooling and adsorption processes was both by natural convection of air over the collector plate
E.E. Anyanwu, C.I. Ezekwe / Energy Conversion and Management 44 (2003) 2879–2892 2883

Fig. 1. Solid adsorption solar powered refrigerator.

and tubes and night sky radiation, facilitated by manually operated removable collector box end
cover plates. The collector/generator/adsorber component was inclined at the latitude of 7 for
Nsukka, Nigeria.
In a low pressure system, such as the one presented here, the condenser and evaporator must
necessarily be close to each other and to the collector. Thus, they are located directly under the
collector/generator/adsorber unit such that the refrigerant flows into them by gravity (see Fig. 1).
The condenser is a 4.78 m length of 21.34 mm OD  15.8 mm ID steel tube, coiled with a square
plan within a 350 l sandcrete water tank. This evaporative condenser tank was constructed of a
mixture of sand and cement in the ratio of 5:1 with 3 mm thick steel wire mesh reinforcement.
Water seeps through the sandcrete walls and evaporates at the outer wall surfaces to keep the
water body inside cooler. The liquid receiver is a vertical 122 mm diameter cylinder of 3.51 l
capacity, fabricated of 16G galvanized steel sheet. A graduated clear glass tube liquid level in-
dicator was fitted to it.

Fig. 2. Photograph of the solar refrigerator.


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The evaporator consists of a spirally coiled 12.7 mm OD  0.9 mm ID copper tube of total
length 1.62 m immersed in 3 l of water contained in a 260 mm OD  400 mm high steel cylindrical
vessel. The receiver and the evaporator were housed, separately, in steel sheet cylindrical vessels
such that the annular spaces were filled top, bottom and sides with 50 mm thick glass wool in-
sulation. The collector/generator/adsorber box, inclined at the local latitude of 7 facing south,
was supported at its base and raised 1.5 m above the ground level on an angle iron support frame.
The overall construction of this solar refrigerator is shown in the photograph of Fig. 2.

4. Experimental method and data reduction

4.1. Experimental method

First, the system was evacuated at elevated temperature to flush out entrapped air/moisture
using a vacuum pump until the pressure in the system reached )20 kPa. This was also used to test
the system for any leakage. Thus, the refrigerator was left for some time and leaks that appeared
were promptly sealed. Charging the adsorbent with methanol commenced at 6.00 p.m., after the
system had been flushed with some liquid methanol for about 15 min, and continued overnight so
that the maximum amount of adsorbate possible could be sorbed before the heating period the
next day. During charging, all valves were closed except valve V1 that controls the charging line
(see Fig. 1). Since adsorption is an exothermic process, heat is liberated to the immediate envi-
ronment. This heat is dissipated by natural convection and night sky radiation by opening the
collector box end cover plates so that air flows over the collector plate and tubes.
At the start of solar heating (about 8.00 a.m. and point A in Fig. 3), with the collector/gen-
erator/absorber at ambient temperature and the maximum possible concentration of methanol
adsorbed in the activated carbon granules, the collector box end cover plates and valve V1 were
closed. Valve V2 linking the collector tubes with the condenser also remained closed at this initial
heating period. As the solar heating progressed, the pressure in the system increased with the
absorbed methanol mass remaining constant. This is the isosteric period. At the onset of methanol
desorption, indicated by the value of pressure (typically 12–15 kPa) inside the collector tube and
at about 10.00 a.m. local time, valves V2 and V3 were opened, while the other valves remained shut.
The desorbed methanol vapour flowed into the condenser coil to be changed into liquid methanol.

Fig. 3. P –T –X or clapeyron diagram of adsorption cycle.


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The collector plate temperature, generator tube surface temperature, condenser water tempera-
ture, volume of condensate, ambient temperature and generator pressure were monitored and
recorded during this period. The methanol generation and the condensation period is illustrated
as line B–C in Fig. 3, in which the pressure remained constant at the saturation pressure of
methanol at its condensing temperature. Methanol generation and condensation were allowed to
continue until no noticeable change in the level of condensate was observed. Valves V2 and V3 were
closed. This stage was always attained at about 2–3 h after the maximum cycle temperature was
realized at around 12 noon to 1.00 p.m.
When the methanol generation is completed (point C in Fig. 3), the collector glazing was
screened from further solar heating, and the collector box end cover plates were opened to
facilitate the collector plate and tubes cooling. The generator tube surface temperature, ambient
temperature and generator pressure were monitored and recorded. The total quantity of con-
densate inside the liquid receiver was also recorded.
At sunset (about 6.30 p.m.), the collector glazing was removed so that the night sky radiation
exchange between the collector and the ambient environment could also assist in cooling the
system. The pressure and temperature of the system decreased rapidly to point D from C (see Fig.
3). As cooling progressed, valve V4 was opened to let the condensate into the evaporator coil, and
an appropriate quantity of water was placed in thermal contact with the evaporator coil in the
vessel in anticipation of cooling/freezing. Subsequently, valve V4 was closed, while valve V5 linking
the evaporator coil with the collector/generator/adsorber was opened to permit resorption of the
evaporated methanol vapour. The refrigeration and resorption period is indicated as line D–A in
Fig. 3. Here, the pressure also remained constant at the saturation pressure of the methanol at its
evaporating temperature. The collector tube surface temperature, evaporator water temperature,
ambient temperature and collector/generator/adsorber pressure were monitored and recorded.
The quantity of water in the evaporator at the end of refrigeration was also measured. The
amount of ice formed was determined by the difference in the quantity of evaporator water before
and after the refrigeration process, thus completing a refrigeration cycle.
The total solar radiation incident on the collector surface was measured with an Eppley pyr-
anometer, which was mounted in the same plane as the collector (i.e. at a tilt angel of 7 to the
horizontal). The cumulative incident energy was read at 30 min intervals from a digital counter
connected to the pyranometer. Its reading accuracy was approximately within 5% of the true
values. Temperatures of the collector/generator/adsorber, condenser and evaporator tubes sur-
faces were monitored with copper-constantan thermocouple wires connected to a 12 way Type K
digital thermometer readout with a reading accuracy of 0.1 C. Condenser water and ambient
temperatures were measured with mercury-in-glass thermometers, with a reading accuracy of
0.5 C. Gauge pressures were measured with Masoneillan vacuum pressure gauges of range
)100 to +200 kPa, with a reading accuracy of 0.1 kPa. The volume of evaporator water was
measured with a measuring cylinder graduated in cm3 .

4.2. Experimental data reduction

The parameters used for data reduction and in presentation of the experimental results are
defined as detailed below. The total incident global solar energy, Qit , is determined from the
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product of the incident global solar flux over the whole day, Gi , and the collector exposed surface
area Ac as:
Qit ¼ Gi Ac ð1Þ
The useful heat energy delivered to the rich concentration adsorbent to expel the methanol is
determined by the sum of the sensible heat absorbed by the adsorbent and methanol and the latent
heat of generation of methanol as:
Qic ¼ ðmac Cpac þ mr Cpr ÞDTg þ mr hsg ð2Þ
The quantity of water mw placed in thermal contact with the evaporator coil undergoes a tem-
perature change DTw . If it attains the freezing temperature, some quantity of ice, mi , is produced.
If all the water becomes frozen, the ice thereafter undergoes a temperature change, DTi . In this
case, mw ¼ mi and the actual or useful cooling produced, Quc , can easily be evaluated from Eq. (3)
Quc ¼ mw Cpw DTw þ mi hsf þ mi Cpi DTi ð3Þ
The available or gross heat extraction may be obtained from Eq. (4)
Qa ¼ mr hfg ð4Þ
This is also the condensate cooling capacity. From the above considerations, the performance
indices of the solar refrigerator are evaluated as follows:
The available or gross cycle coefficient of performance, COPa
COPa ¼ Qa =Qic ð5Þ
The actual or useful cycle coefficient of performance, COPuc
COPuc ¼ Quc =Qic ð6Þ
The available gross or overall coefficient of performance, COPao ,
COPao ¼ Qa =Qit ð7Þ
The actual or useful overall coefficient of performance, COPuc
COPuo ¼ Quc =Qit ð8Þ
The solar collector/generator/adsorber efficiency, g
g ¼ Qic =Qit ð9Þ

5. Discussion of results

5.1. Analysis of the generation mode

The transient performances of the solar refrigerator for tests conducted between 29 November
1995 and 1 December 1995 are presented in Figs. 4 and 5 for illustration. They show the collector
plate and adsorbent tube surface temperatures and methanol condensate (Fig. 4) and the solar
radiation, and ambient, condenser and evaporator water temperatures (Fig. 5) variations with
time. Each test commenced at about 8.00 a.m. (point a in Fig. 4) local time and ended when
E.E. Anyanwu, C.I. Ezekwe / Energy Conversion and Management 44 (2003) 2879–2892 2887

120.0 1.000
29/11/1995 30/11/1995 1/12/1995
0.900

100.0
0.800

b c c 0.700
TEMPERATURE ( deg. C)

80.0
b c

CONDENSATE(kg)
0.600 Tcp
b
Ttube
60.0 0.500
d d Generation

d 0.400

40.0
0.300

a 0.200
20.0 a a

0.100

0.0 0.000
7.30 12.00 18.00 8.00 12.00 18.00 7.00 12.00 18.00 24.00
LOCAL TIME

Fig. 4. Variations of collector plate and adsorbent tube surface temperatures, and condensate with time.

refrigeration was completed. It can be seen from Figs. 4 and 5 that the variations in ambient,
collector plate and tube surface temperatures closely followed the solar radiation pattern. The
collector plate and tube surface temperatures depend on the solar radiation levels, desorption rate
and the rate of heat loss from the system to the immediate environment. As noted by Ref. [10], this
heat loss rate is approximately proportional to the temperature difference between the collector
plate and the ambient temperature. The time history of the adsorbent tube surface temperature
variations matched approximately the collector plate temperature variations (see Fig. 4). A steep
rise in the adsorbent tube surface temperatures occurred always between 8.00 and 11.00 a.m.
before the start of methanol condensation. At this stage, the heating resulted in pressurizing the
system and increasing the temperature of the system. This is indicated on the graphs by the first
knee of the adsorbent tube surface temperature curves, which is noticeable at around 2–3 h from
start of heating (see point b in Fig. 4). Furthermore, the solar collector glazing was covered with
dew for most of the mornings, thus also contributing both to the delayed heating of the system
and the onset of condensation. This initial period during the morning could be called the warming
period. Since the container of adsorbent has a fixed volume, the desorbed gas raised the system
pressure considerably until it reached the saturation pressure corresponding to the temperature of
the coldest component during this mode. This coldest component is the evaporative condenser,
which must be kept as close as is practicable to the ambient temperature.
A cursory observation of Fig. 4 would show that the first knee of the collector tube surface
temperature profile corresponded to the onset of methanol desorption, while the second knee
corresponded to fully developed desorption and the start of condensation. The solar flux profile
indicated that the fully developed desorption was beginning when the solar flux was approaching
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100.00 29/11/1995
30/11/1995 1/12/1995
TEMPERATURE(deg. C)/SOLAR RADIATION(w/sq. m)

80.00

Radiation( x10)
60.00 Tcond.
Tevap.
Tamb.

40.00

20.00

0.00
7.30 10.30 13.30 16.30 19.30 8.00 11.00 14.00 17.00 20.00 23.00 8.30 11.30 14.30 17.30 20.30 23.30
LOCAL TIME

Fig. 5. Variations of ambient condenser water and evaporator water temperatures and solar radiation with time.

its peak. During the first period, the system pressure increases progressively but at a slower rate
than the initial heating period due, principally, to methanol generation. With the commencement
of condensation, the tube surface temperature and, hence, adsorbent temperature increased
somewhat gradually until after the peak generation temperature when it began to decrease.
Condensation started at pressures in the range of 11–15 kPa. The desorbed methanol was cooled
in the condenser and stored in the liquid receiver. Maximum desorption and system pressures of
25–45 kPa occurred during the mid day to 2.00 p.m. local time period, depending on the intensity
of the available solar radiation. During desorption and condensation of the methanol, the system
pressure increased at a slower rate than before the commencement of condensation. The reason is
obvious. The liquefaction of some methanol decreased the rate of increase of methanol gas within
the system volume and, therefore, the rate of increase of the pressure in the system and even
though the solar heating still continued, the pressure would not increase as rapidly as before. The
incident energy during this generation mode transforms into the sensible heat of the collector/
generator/adsorber and the latent heat of desorption of the methanol.
Generally, the adsorbent tube surface temperature reached about 96 C and remained in excess
of 70 C for more than four hours of the heating period. The maximum temperature attained by
the collector plate was 109 C. After the peak, the collector plate, the adsorbent tube surface
temperatures and the system pressure decreased with the decreasing solar radiation intensity
levels. The desorption of methanol, however, did not cease, when the maximum temperature of
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the cycle was attained. Theoretically, desorption should stop in an ideal cycle described by two
isosteres and isobars when the maximum cycle temperature is achieved.
This discrepancy between the ideal and practical cycles may be attributed to the effect of the
thermal inertia of the collector plate/generation/adsorber unit. The combined mass of this unit
and the activated carbon granules is 60 kg. The sensible heat of the collector plate and tubes and,
to some extent, of the activated carbon granules permitted desorption to continue even during the
period when the solar flux, collector plate and tube surface temperatures were consistently de-
creasing. There is a radial temperature gradient in the adsorbent granules, and all the particles do
not attain their peak temperatures at the same time. Some particles may, therefore, continue to
generate methanol, while others have ceased to do so. Also, the system pressure is not constant
and further desorption may occur in some particles as the pressure falls.
The condensate curve (see Fig. 4) matched the above analysis of methanol generation up to
the second knee of the tube temperature profile where it increased sharply before flattening out.
The sharp increase corresponded to increased methanol desorption due to the combined effect of
the approaching maximum solar radiation intensity and the large thermal mass of the collector/
generator/adsorber unit. During the generation, the amount of methanol condensate collected
ranged over 0.079–0.989 kg, which corresponded to only 4.7–58.5% of the theoretical generating
capacity of the activated carbon used. Fig. 5 shows that the evaporative condenser maintained a
condenser water temperature of 2.0–10.4 C below ambient temperature. Ambient temperatures
during the methanol generation period ranged over 22.2–34 C. This implies that the condensing
temperatures for a water cooled condenser must necessarily be lower than those of an air cooled
condenser, which must dissipate heat to the surroundings, even at the hottest time of the day.
The performances of this component, however, deteriorated with time (evaporative condenser
water temperature decreased to 2–6 C below ambient) due to partial inhibition of the evapo-
ration of water from the condenser tank walls. It is very likely that dust deposition on the walls
with time formed a barrier to the movement of water to the external surface to be evaporated.
This did not pose any problems since only about 5 C temperature difference between the
condensing methanol and the condenser water temperatures was necessary to sustain the con-
densation reported.
The generation period varied over 6.5–8 h and condensation did not commence until around
11.00 a.m. to mid-day. This implies that the initial 50% of the total generation period was used in
pressurizing the system and increasing its temperature to the condensation values. Since the peak
solar radiation intensity occurred around mid-day, the cumulative insolation during this initial
heating amounted to more than 50% of the dayÕs total.

5.2. Analysis of the cool down/adsorption/refrigeration mode

Screening the glazing of the collector/generator/adsorber (see point c in Fig. 4) at around


3.30–4.00 p.m. local time signified the start of system cooling. The top and bottom end cover
plates were also opened to facilitate natural convection cooling over the collector plate and
tubes.
When the solar radiation has gone down at 6. 30 p.m. local time, the screen was removed so that
sky radiation, in addition to natural convection, accomplished the cooling of the system. Fig. 4
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shows that the temperature response of the collector tube closely approximates the collector plate
temperature variations (see c–d in Fig. 4).
This is expected because, with zero solar radiation, the adsorbent tubes and contents exchanged
their stored energy with the collector plate and the surroundings. Subsequently, when the glazing
screen was removed, the sky radiation cooling effect contributed to the observed differences in the
temperatures of the collector plate and adsorbent tube. The tube surface temperature cooled
below the collector plate temperature up to 9.00 p.m. local time. As the cooling progressed, the
adsorbent tube to nocturnal temperature difference averaged about 3 C. It may be reasonable to
assume that the activated carbon temperature in such condition was within or around the noc-
turnal temperature, which varied over 18.5–25 C during the tests. Since the activated carbon
temperature must be as close to ambient temperature as practicable for a large amount of ad-
sorbate to be adsorbed in the adsorbent, the cooling processes for this machine were adequate.
This is remarkable, as low nocturnal temperatures significantly favour the ice making capability of
the activated carbon/methanol pair. It has been suggested that when the nocturnal temperatures
exceed 23 C, such a system cannot produce the designed quantity of ice, and when it exceeds 30
C, production is very low [11]. Consequently, the Nsukka climate with cold nights throughout
the year can be considered adequate for operation of such systems.
From the cooling curves of Fig. 4, it can be seen that the adsorbent tube temperature decreased
to a minimum value at 3–4 h, after the start of cooling and increased slightly again before reaching
another minimum value. These trends are to be expected because the onset of significant ad-
sorption and the accompanying rejection of heat slows the cooling of the adsorbent. The evap-
orator water temperature (see Fig. 5) decreased gradually until it reached a final value at the end
of the test. The lowest temperatures obtained in this system varied over 1.0–8.5 C from the water
initially in the temperature range of 24–28 C.
Table 1 provides the system performances. The useful cycle coefficient of performance, COPuc ,
obtained for the best test was 0.093, with a useful overall coefficient of performance, COPuo , of
about 0.02. The collector efficiency achieved for this test was 16.4%. Overall, the low collector
efficiencies obtained are attributed to the non-selective collector plate surface coating used. It is
expected that a selective surface coating should improve the collector/generator/adsorber effi-
ciency and the refrigerator COP.
The low actual overall COPao were indicative of the inefficiencies in both the collector and the
evaporator and the limitations in the construction of the system locally. The cooling capacities of
the condensate were up to 60% higher than the actual cooling obtained. The available cycle COPa
were approximately constant, as expected, since it is the ratio of the methanol properties at the
evaporating and condensing temperatures.

Table 1
System performances
Date Qit (kJ) Qic (kJ) Quc (kJ) Qa (kJ) g (%) COPa COPuc COPao COPuo
29/11/95 21772.8 3115.3 173.9 1009.3 14.3 0.324 0.056 0.046 0.008
30/11/95 21016.8 3445.6 320.1 1191.2 16.4 0.346 0.093 0.057 0.015
01/12/95 20661.5 3007.3 225.5 976.8 14.6 0.325 0.075 0.047 0.011
02/12/95 19580.4 2268.1 132.3 714.3 11.6 0.315 0.058 0.036 0.007
03/12/95 17841.6 2919.9 225.75 999.7 16.5 0.342 0.077 0.056 0.013
E.E. Anyanwu, C.I. Ezekwe / Energy Conversion and Management 44 (2003) 2879–2892 2891

6. Conclusion

The following conclusions may be drawn from the foregoing solar powered solid adsorption
refrigerator studies.
1. A solar powered solid adsorption refrigerator using an activated carbon/methanol adsorbent
pair has been successfully designed, constructed and tested in the tropical climate of Nsukka,
Nigeria.
2. Only chilled water was produced, so far, at temperatures of around 1 C. Drugs, fruits and
vegetables with preservation temperatures in the range 4–16 C are within the scope of the present
system.
3. The solar collector/generator/adsorber efficiencies of 11.6–16.4% were rather low. They could
be improved by reducing the weight of this component from its high value of 60 kg by using less
dense and lighter construction materials, such as aluminum. In addition, the collector plate
surface coating should be a selective material with combined effects of high absorptivity and low
emissivity to solar radiation. These measures would reduce considerably the high initial collector
heating time, thereby boosting methanol generation over a longer period of the high solar flux
time.
4. The performances of 595.25–992.67 kJ/m2 per day of available cooling were achieved. The
best useful cooling obtained was 266.75 kJ/m2 per day.
5. The useful cycle and the useful overall COPs ranged over 0.056–0.093 and 0.007–0.015, re-
spectively. Thus, the maximum of only 10% of the collected energy by the activated carbon
granules and 2% of the incident solar energy were converted to the refrigeration effect.
6. The natural cooling arrangement was sufficient to cool the adsorbent tube to within 3 C of
the nocturnal temperature in about 3 h.

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the part funding through grant UNN/NCERD/52 and Workshop facilities
provided by the Centre for Energy Research and Development, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,
for this study. The authors are also grateful to the Centre National De la Recherche Scientifique
(CECA) France for supplying the activated carbon AC35 free and Professor O.C. Iloeje of the
Department of Mechanical Engineering for his helpful comments.

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