PCM Solar Collector CFD Simulation by ANSYS Fluent Tutorial

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  • The problem numerically simulates PCM Solar Collector using ANSYS Fluent software.
  • We design the 3-D model by the Design Modeler software.
  • We Mesh the model by ANSYS Meshing software, and the element number equals 969866.
  • We perform this simulation as unsteady (Transient).
  • We use the Solidification and Melting model to define phase change materials.
  • We use the Discrete Ordinate (DO) to define radiation heat transfer.

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If you need the Geometry designing and Mesh generation training video for one product, you can choose this option.
If you need expert consultation through the training video, this option gives you 1-hour technical support.
The journal file in ANSYS Fluent is used to record and automate simulations for repeatability and batch processing.
editable geometry and mesh allows users to create and modify geometry and mesh to define the computational domain for simulations.
The case and data files in ANSYS Fluent store the simulation setup and results, respectively, for analysis and post-processing.
Geometry, Mesh, and CFD Simulation methodologygy explanation, result analysis and conclusion
The MR CFD certification can be a valuable addition to a student resume, and passing the interactive test can demonstrate a strong understanding of CFD simulation principles and techniques related to this product.



The present problem simulates heat transfer within a PCM solar collector using ANSYS Fluent software. We perform this CFD project and investigate it by CFD analysis.

The current model consists of a U-shaped tube that carries water flow. Around this U-shaped tube, a cylindrical space is used, composed of phase change material (PCM).

Around this space for phase change materials, three layers are placed in a cylindrical shape. Its first layer is a solid body made of aluminum and is defined as a heat-absorbing layer caused by solar radiation. There is a layer of air gap in the next layer and then a layer of glass.

This system’s functional mechanism is that the heat caused by sunlight passes through the glass layer and heats the air layer. This heat is transferred to the absorbent layer to absorb heat in this layer.

This heat is transferred to space with phase change materials to cause a phase change in these materials. During the day, when the air is warm and there is sunlight, these materials receive the sun’s heat through the absorber layer, and part of this heat is spent on the phase change or the same process of melting in these materials.

Then, during cold weather (night), these PCMs return the latent heat stored in the environment to the surrounding environment by changing the phase, i.e., the freezing (solidification) process, thus heating the water flow inside the U-shaped tube in cold weather.

The present model is designed in two dimensions using Design Modeler software. A U-shaped pipe is two parallel pipes that carry water flow. A cylindrical layer having phase change material is located around this tube.

An aluminum absorbent tube layer in an incomplete cylinder is located around this fluid. A layer of air space in the form of an incomplete cylinder is around this aluminum tube. Finally, there is a layer of glass in an incomplete cylinder around this air space.

The meshing of the model has been done using ANSYS Meshing software, and the mesh type is structured. The element number is 969866.

PCM Solar Collector Methodology

The solidification and melting model is used in this simulation to define phase change materials. The PCM material is defined to have a density equal to 910 kg.m-3, specific heat capacity equal to 2100 j/kgK, thermal conductivity equal to 0.5 W/mK and viscosity equal to 0.0273 kg.m-1 .s-1.

Also, the maximum temperature at the solid phase temperature (solidus temperature) is 302 K. The minimum temperature at which the liquid phase is dominant (liquidus temperature) is 310 K.

The latent heat of melting of the pure solvent melting heat is defined as 178000 j/kg. The radiation model is used to define radiant heat transfer and solar radiation. The Radiation process is described as discrete ordinate or DO.

This model is used for cases where the radiation heat transfer equations are solved for a discrete number of finite solid angles. This radiation model is suitable for transparent environments, glossy screens such as mirrors, wave-dependent transmission, light scattering modes, etc.

Also, solar ray tracing mode has been activated to apply solar radiation. Then items such as longitude and latitude of the place under sunlight, date and time of radiation, solar radiation directions, direct radiation intensity, and scattering radiation intensity should be adjusted.

Moreover, the laminar model and energy equation are enabled to solve fluid equations and calculate temperature change within the domain.

PCM Solar Collector Conclusion

At the end of the solution process, three-dimensional and two-dimensional contours related to the pressure, velocity, temperature, and mass fraction of the produced liquid are obtained from the phase change material.

The images show that the PCM medium inside the central cylindrical has changed phase and, as a result, liquid has been produced in that region. It is also clear from the images that heat is transferred to the U-shaped tube when its inlet and outlet temperature are compared.


  1. Ms. Elfrieda Harber DVM

    Can this model simulate the performance of the solar collector with different operating conditions?

    • MR CFD Support

      Yes, this model can simulate the performance of the solar collector with different operating conditions by changing the boundary conditions in the simulation. This includes the flow rate of the heat transfer fluid, the initial temperature of the PCM, and the environmental conditions.

  2. Sidney Champlin II

    I appreciate the dedication to accuracy and validation in this simulation.

  3. Micah Spencer

    This simulation is a testament to the power of computational fluid dynamics!

  4. Dr. Myrtis Barrows Jr.

    Can this model simulate the performance of the solar collector with different geometries?

    • MR CFD Support

      Yes, this model can simulate the performance of the solar collector with different geometries by changing the mesh in the simulation. This includes the size and shape of the collector, the thickness of the PCM layer, and the arrangement of the heat transfer tubes.

  5. Mabel Kunze

    How does this model handle the melting and solidification of the PCM?

    • MR CFD Support

      This model uses the enthalpy-porosity method to simulate the melting and solidification of the PCM. This method treats the PCM as a porous medium and uses an effective heat capacity to account for the latent heat of phase change.

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