Particle receiver systems require durable, reliable, and cost-effective particle transport equipment. These lifts are critical pieces of equipment to transport the particles from the heat exchanger back into the receiver. There are challenges that must be overcome with any particle lift device including high temperatures (800°C), particle load and friction, and erosion from particle contact. There are several options commercially available for particle systems including a screw-type vertical elevator, bucket lift vertical elevator, and skip-hoist-style bulk vertical lifts. Two of the elevator types (screw and bucket) have been tested at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF) at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in Albuquerque, NM. The two elevators are currently in operation on the 1 MWth falling particle receiver at the Solar Tower. The screw-type elevator consists of a stationary internal screw with an outer casing that rotates about the screw. The frictional forces from the casing rotation drives the particles upward along the flights of the screw. The casing rotational velocity is variable which allows for mass flow rate control. Identified issues with the screw-type elevator include particle attrition, uneven loading at the inlet causes casing deflection, bearing deformation due to casing deformation, and motor stalling due to increased resistance on the casing. The SNL bucket elevator is rated for temperatures up to 600 °C and consists of steel buckets and a steel drive chain capable of lifting particles at a rate of 8 kg/s. Identified issues with the bucket type elevator include discrete (non-continuous) discharge of the particles and a non-adjustable flow rate. A skip hoist type elevator has been studied previously and seems like the most viable option on a large scale (50–100MWth power plant) with a non-continuous particle discharge. Different control scenarios were explored with the variable frequency drive of the screw-type elevator to use it as a particle-flow control device. The objective was to maintain the feed hopper inventory at a constant value for steady flow of particles through the receiver. The mass flow rate was controlled based on feedback from measurements of particle level (mass) inside the top hopper.

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