TechConnect Innovator Spotlight:

TechConnect World Innovation Conference
May 14 - 17, 2017, Washington DC

Falling Particle Receiver for Concentrated Solar Energy, Sandia National Laboratories


The falling particle receiver uses sand-like particles that fall through a beam of highly concentrated sunlight focused by an array of mirrors. The particles are heated to temperatures over 700 °C, stored, and used to generate electricity in a power cycle or to create process heat.

Primary Application Area: Energy, Efficiency

Technology Development Status: Prototype



The world’s first continuously recirculating high-temperature falling particle receiver has been tested on-sun at Sandia National Laboratories. Falling particle receivers enable dispatchable electricity production and energy storage using concentrated sunlight. The falling particle receiver implements a simple design that utilizes commercially available ceramic particles that fall through a beam of concentrated sunlight to reach temperatures >700 °C.  The particles can be stored and used to produce electricity or process heat.  The particle receivers yield higher efficiencies and capacity factors at lower costs compared to conventional renewable energy technologies, specifically when storage is considered. Finally, particle receivers open up new possibilities for applications including thermochemical storage, solar fuels, industrial process heat, and water treatment to address our global energy and water needs.



Value Proposition: Compared to other renewable technologies like solar photovoltaics and wind turbines, concentrating solar power using particles provides energy storage to dispatch electricity on-demand, even when the sun is not shining. Also, unlike conventional receivers for concentrating solar power that employ molten nitrate salts, particle receivers heat particles directly, enabling higher solar concentrations and consequently higher temperatures, higher efficiencies, and lower costs. For example, current conventional solar receivers use molten salt, which decomposes at less than 600 °C, thus limiting the operating temperature and efficiency of the power cycle. Particles also can be operated over a much larger temperature range without the risk of freezing at low temperatures or decomposing at high temperatures. Recent on-sun tests with Sandia’s 1 MWt falling particle receiver have achieved peak particle temperatures over 900 °C and thermal receiver efficiencies approaching 80% at 1000 suns with particle mass flow rates of 1 – 7 kg/s. Efficiencies of ~90% are expected for larger-scale (>100 MWt).



National Innovation Awardee

Organization Type: Academic/Gov Lab



Vetted Programs/Awards: 2016 R&D 100 Award Winner