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Frontiers in Energy

Front. Energy    2020, Vol. 14 Issue (1) : 1-10
A space power system of free piston Stirling generator based on potassium heat pipe
Mingqiang LIN1, Jian MOU1(), Chunyun CHI1, Guotong HONG1, Panhe GE2, Gu HU2
1. Key Laboratory of Space Energy Conversion Technology, Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
2. China Institute of Atomic Energy, China National Nuclear Corporation, Beijing 100822, China
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The power system of a free piston Stirling generator (FPSG) based on potassium heat pipes has been developed in this paper. Thanks to the advantages of long life, high reliability, and high overall thermal efficiency, the FPSG is a promising candidate for nuclear energy, especially in space exploration. In this paper, the recent progress of FPSG based on nuclear reactor for space use was briefly reviewed. A novel FPSG weighted only 4.2 kg was designed, and one dimensional thermodynamic modeling of the FPSG using Sage software was performed to estimate its performance. The experiment results indicated that this FPSG could provide 142.4 W at a thermal-to-electric efficiency of nearly 17.4%. Besides, the power system integrated with four FPSGs and potassium heat pipes was performed and the single machine failure test was conducted. The results show that this system could provide an electrical power of 300 W at an overall thermal efficiency of 7.3%. Thus, it is concluded that this power system is feasible and will have a great prospect for future applications.

Keywords free piston Stirling generator (FPSG)      potassium heat pipe      power system      energy conversion     
Corresponding Author(s): Jian MOU   
Online First Date: 30 December 2019    Issue Date: 16 March 2020
 Cite this article:   
Mingqiang LIN,Jian MOU,Chunyun CHI, et al. A space power system of free piston Stirling generator based on potassium heat pipe[J]. Front. Energy, 2020, 14(1): 1-10.
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Mingqiang LIN
Jian MOU
Chunyun CHI
Guotong HONG
Panhe GE
Fig.1  Schematic diagram of the FPSG.
Fig.2  Working principle of the FPSG.
Fig.3  Sage model graphical interface of the FPSG.
Fig.4  Physical diagram of the FPSG.
Variable Value
Charge pressure/MPa 4.5
Temperature of heat source/K 800
Temperature of cold source/K 300
Mass of displacer/kg 0.04
Mass of piston/kg 0.5
Sectional area of displacer/mm2 530.9
Sectional area of piston/mm2 492.4
Sectional area of displacer rod/mm2 38.5
Equilibrium volume of compression space/mm3 7963.9
Equilibrium volume of expansion space/mm3 4778.4
Bounce space volume/mm3 31800
Tab.1  Geometrical and operating parameters
Fig.5  Layout of the FPSG experimental system.
Fig.6  Physical diagram of the FPSG experimental system.
Fig.7  Electrical power and thermal-to-electric efficiency versus heater temperature.
Fig.8  Layout and experimental physical diagram of the power system.
Fig.9  Schema of the heat pipe.
Fig.10  Layout of the FPSGs and heat pipes.
Fig.11  Temperature distribution of the heat collector block and Stirling heater head.
Fig.12  Total heating power and temperature of electric heating rods versus time.
Fig.13  Axial temperature distribution of heat pipe H at different times.
Fig.14  Electrical power of four FPSGs versus time.
Fig.15  Hot end temperature and frequency of four FPSGs versus time.
Parameter No.1 FPSG No.2 FPSG No.3 FPSG No.4 FPSG
Power/We 71.31 74.5 86.87 67.42
Frequency/Hz 61.08 61.09 61.11 61.09
Current/A 1.205 1.232 1.311 1.172
Voltage/V 58.861 60.42 66.188 57.553
Temperature difference/°C 14.8 15.72 17.9 16.2
Flow/(Lh–1) 44.198 41.838 48.688 47.890
Rejected heat/W 760.6 764.751 1013.379 902. 104
Efficiency 8.5% 8.9% 7.89% 6.95%
Tab.2  Output parameters of four FPSGs
Fig.16  Electrical power of four FPSGs versus time.
Fig.17  Heat head temperature of four FPSGs versus time.
Fig.18  Temperatures of three sections in heat pipe H versus time.
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