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John O | July 2018

Solar towers used to test composite material response in extreme heat

By Josh Perry, Editor


Researchers at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF), operated by Sandia National Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy, recently used the solar tower to test a sample of composite material (called a coupon) under extreme temperatures.


Sandia National Laboratories is using its solar tower to help assess the impact of extreme temperature changes on materials for the Air Force. (Randy Montoya/Sandia Labs)


The solar tower at the test facility was used for the experiment because it provides rapid temperature changes in the test chamber. An article from the Sandia website explained, “The coupon is placed flush to a wall of a test chamber, basically a box, facing a quartz window that allows in the heat produced by the mirrors. The tests, which use about a quarter of the heliostat field, can change heat levels as needed.”


Before and after each test, which is performed 10-30 times per day, the material is examined with a 3-D scanner to look for bubbles or texture changes due to the extreme temperatures. In addition, the material’s reflectivity is measured, and methods are used to study changes below the material’s surface.


“The project also has led to improvements at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility, including a new tracking algorithm for the heliostats and advancing heat flux characterization techniques, which allows researchers to quantify the heat applied to samples,” the article added. “Knowing the exact heat applied is critical to understand what conditions materials can survive, and researchers developed new tools to help perform that analysis.”


This research is done for the U.S. Air Force and is expected to continue for a year.


Read more about the study at https://share-ng.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/tower_tests/#.W0PBs9JKh9M.

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