Direct contact PCM storage at high temperature


Supervisory Chair

Research areas


Concentrated solar energy can be used to power isothermal high-temperature processes, including production of synthetic transport fuels (e.g. biomass gasification), industrial processes (e.g. recycling of plastic by pyrolysis), and power production using the Stirling cycle. To integrate storage with isothermal processes, the concept of combining latent-energy transport and latent-energy storage is attractive, to maximise the exergetic efficiency of the entire system. Existing CSP systems with sensible energy collection and storage, rather than isothermal, latent energy collection, do not couple well with isothermal industrial processes.

In this project the objective is to develop and test a PCM energy storage system designed for use with a solar sodium boiler, and a downstream isothermal process.  The project will include investigations to establish feasibility, simulation of the operation, design of a storage system, prototyping and testing.   Selection of the PCM is important, with many factors to weigh up, such as choosing an appropriate melting temperature to match the application, heat capacity, cost ($/kWh), conductivity, and corrosivity.  The preferred storage system concept for initial assessment is a direct contact system with a salt (e.g.  NaCl) in direct contact with liquid sodium to enhance heat transfer (see diagram). However, more conventional indirect systems will also be assessed as a fall back.

The project is part of a wider ARC Linkage project with industry partner Vast Solar, to develop a sodium boiler technology.   The sodium laboratory at ANU will be used for testing, and the aim is to test the full system concept by coupling the sodium boiler to a laboratory-scale PCM storage prototype.


The position suits a candidate from a mechanical / thermal engineering background.  Desired skills include: heat transfer and thermo-mechanical modelling (e.g. computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis), programming ability in common languages (e.g. Python, C, C++) and aptitude for experimental data analysis & interpretation.  In particular, the candidate must be willing to work in the sodium laboratory.  Sodium is a hazardous material.  The candidate will be mentored and trained for this experimental work.  Essential are strong analytical, interpretive and problem-solving skills together with the ability to exercise sound independent judgement with a high level of self-motivation. Proficient skills in technical English (written and oral) are mandatory.

General information for applicants can be found at

A limited number of CECS international scholarships are being offered for mid-2017 intake on a competitive basis.  A three-year scholarship (starting from $26,682 per year) with tuition fee waiver will be offered.   Apply at preferably by 31 March 2017 to be eligible for a mid 2017 commencemnt. Notify Higher Degree Research team in CECS Student Services ( when you complete the online application.

Inquiries about this position should be sent to Dr Joe Coventry.


Background Literature

Adinberg R, Yogev A, Kaftori D.Journal de Physique, IV 1999;9:PR3-89 - PR83-94

Andraka CE. Technical Feasibility of Storage on Large Dish Stirling Systems, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque NM, 2012. Report number SAND2012-8352

White M, Qiu S, Galbraith R. Phase change salt thermal energy storage for dish Stirling solar power systems. In: ASME 2013 7th International Conference on Energy Sustainability. 2013. Minneapolis

Qui S, Galbraith R. Innovative Application of Maintenance-Free Phase-Change Thermal Energy Storage for Dish-Engine Solar Power Generation, Infinia Corporation, 2013. Report number DE-FC36-08GO18157

Andraka CE. Dish Stirling Advanced Latent Storage Feasibility. Elsevier Energy Procedia 2013;49:684-693

Andraka CE, Kruizenga AM, Hernandez-Sanchez BA, Coker EN. Metallic Phase Change Material Thermal Storage for Dish Stirling. Energy Procedia 2015;69:726-736


PCM; energy storage; sodium; boiler; concentrating solar thermal

Updated:  8 September 2015/Responsible Officer:  Dean, CECS/Page Contact:  CECS Marketing