Integrated Computational Materials Engineering in Solar Plants: The Virtual Materials Design Project
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The high temperatures required for efficient operation of solar thermal power plants constitutes one of the major challenges of this technology. Gaining insight into materials behavior at very high temperatures is critical to improve their techno-economic feasibility. Standard material characterization approaches become inefficient, as extensive testing campaigns are required. We propose a multiscale–multiphysical approach that accounts for materials composition to (1) predict the behavior of both Inconel 625 and new solar salts, and (2) assess the thermomechanical performance of key components. We carried out a complete thermoelastic multiscale analysis that spans six time and length scales in a single simulation platform, combining discrete and continuum tools (from quantum to continuum mechanics). These applications show the substantial economic benefits that may be achieved by an ICME approach in the energy sector, reducing the cost of prototypes while decreasing development times and maintenance costs due to a better understanding of materials behavior.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the funding provided by Abengoa S.A. within the framework of the VMD project. The authors would also like to acknowledge all the researchers that collaborated in this project during the 2012–2016 period.
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