An experimental and numerical study of granular hopper flows
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In a proposed design for a concentrated solar power tower, sand is irradiated by solar energy and transfers its energy to another fluid stream by means of a finned tube heat exchanger. To maximize heat transfer and minimize potential damage to the heat exchanger, it is desired to have a very uniform flow through the heat exchanger. However, performing full scale flow tests can be expensive, impractical, and depending upon the specific quantities of interest, unsuitable for revealing the details of what it happening inside of the flow stream. Thus, the discrete element method has been used to simulate and study particulate flows. In this project, the flow of small glass beads through a square pyramid shaped hopper and a wedge shaped hopper were studied at the lab scale. These flows were also simulated using computers running two versions of discrete element modeling software – EDEM and LIGGGHTS. The simulated results were compared against the lab scale flows and against each other. They show that, in general, the discrete element method can be used to simulate lab scale particulate flows as long as certain material properties are well known, especially the friction properties of the material. The potential for increasing the accuracy of the simulations, such as using better material property data, non-uniform particle size distributions, and non-spherical particle shapes, as well as simulating heat transfer within a granular flow are also discussed.