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Experimental Investigation of the Operating Point of a 1-kW ORC System

Unamba, C. K., White, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-7744-1993, Sapin, P. , Freeman, J., Lecompte, S., Oyewunmi, O. A. & Markides, C. N. (2017). Experimental Investigation of the Operating Point of a 1-kW ORC System. Energy Procedia, 129, pp. 875-882. doi: 10.1016/j.egypro.2017.09.211


The organic Rankine cycle (ORC) is a promising technology for the conversion of waste heat from industrial processes as well as heat from renewable sources. Many efforts have been channeled towards maximizing the thermodynamic potential of ORC systems through the selection of working fluids and the optimal choice of operating parameters with the aim of improving overall system designs, and the selection and further development of key components. Nevertheless, experimental work has typically lagged behind modelling efforts. In this paper, we present results from tests on a small-scale (1 kWel) ORC engine consisting of a rotary-vane pump, a brazed-plate evaporator and a brazed-plate condenser, a scroll expander with a built-in volume ratio of 3.5, and using R245fa as the working fluid. An electric oil-heater acted as the heat source, providing hot oil at temperatures in the range 120-140°C. The frequency of the expander was not imposed by an inverter or the electricity grid but depended directly on the attached generator load; both the electrical load on the generator and the pump rotational speed were varied in order to investigate the performance of the system. Based on the generated data, this paper explores the relationship between the operating conditions of the ORC engine and changes in the heat-source temperature, pump and expander speeds leading to working fluid flow rates between 0.0088 kg/s and 0.0337 kg/s, from which performance maps are derived. The experimental data is, in turn, used to assess the performance of both the individual components and of the system, with the help of an exergy analysis. In particular, the exergy analysis indicates that the expander accounts for the second highest loss in the system. Analysis of the results suggests that increased heat-source temperatures, working-fluid flow rates, higher pressure ratios and larger generator loads improve the overall cycle efficiency. Specifically, a 46% increase in pressure ratio from 2.4 to 4.4 allowed a 3-fold electrical power output increase from 180 W to 550 W, and an increase in the thermal efficiency of the ORC engine from 1 to 4%. Beyond reporting on important lessons learned in improving the performance of the system under consideration, comparisons will be shown for making proper choices with respect to the interplay between heat-source temperature, generator load, and pump speed in an ORC system.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).
Publisher Keywords: exergy analysis, experimental testbed, off design, organic Rankine cycle, part load
Subjects: T Technology > TJ Mechanical engineering and machinery
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Engineering
SWORD Depositor:
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