Principal investigator: Animesh Kundu, Griffin Patterson, Sreya Dutta

University: Lehigh University

Industry partners: Dynalene and HWI Harbison Walker International

In this proposed effort, Lehigh will partner with HarbisonWalker International and Dynalene Inc. to develop refractory formulations for containment of molten salts for solar energy storage in concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. This would allow an enabling technology to attain the target levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) to 6¢/kWh as outlined in DOE SunShot 2030. To achieve such a target, the efficiency of the CSP, and hence the operating temperatures, needs to be about 750°C, compared to the current state-of-the art operating temperatures of 565°C. This new high temperature paradigm poses several technological, materials, and design challenges, and is exacerbated by molten salts utilized as heat transfer fluids, which are intrinsically very corrosive in nature. Thermal Energy Storage (TES) tanks are a major component of a CSP plant, and can store the molten salts to provide electricity at off-peaks hours and can help to attain the proposed LCOE. The choice of containment materials for the TES is one of the major technological roadblocks for reducing the LCOE.

In the proposed effort, we will examine the interaction of the molten salts, previously developed by the Lehigh-Dynalene team, with commercially available high alumina castables from HWI. The key challenge would be to understand the effect of the molten salt on the minor constituents in the castables and develop strategies to mitigate them. This mechanism-informed effort will aid in the development of new castable formulations specifically designed for solar thermal applications. The successful development of the new castable formulations will result in a new product line for a PA based company. The students trained in this research will gain experience in a cutting-edge market and driven R&D effort, and could potentially be retained in the commonwealth after their graduation.