Phase change material thermal storage for biofuel preheating in micro trigeneration application: A numerical study

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Colleges, School and Institutes


A biofuel micro trigeneration prototype has been developed to utilise local energy crop oils as fuel in rural areas and developing countries. Straight plant oils (SPOs) only leave behind very little carbon footprint during its simply production process compared to commercial biodiesels in refineries, but the high viscosity of SPOs causes difficulties at engine cold starts, which further results in poor fuel atomisation, compromised engine performance and fast engine deterioration. In this study, a phase change material (PCM) thermal storage is designed to recover and store engine exhaust heat to preheat SPOs at cold starts. High temperature commercial paraffin is selected as the PCM to meet the optimal preheating temperature range of 70–90 °C, in terms of the SPO property study. A numerical model of the PCM thermal storage is developed and validated by references. The PCM melting and solidification processes with the consideration of natural convection in liquid zone are simulated in ANSYS-FLUENT to verify the feasibility of the PCM thermal storage as a part of the self-contained biofuel micro trigeneration prototype.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)832-844
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
Early online date17 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Phase change material, Thermal storage, Straight plant oils, Biofuel preheating