Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

Dharendra Y. Goswami

Committee Member

Elias K. Stefanakos

Committee Member

Babu Joseph

Committee Member

John Kuhn

Committee Member

Mark Stewart


Efficiency, Environmental heat sink, Ground cooling, Night sky radiative cooling, Optimization


Low grade heat sources have a large amount of thermal energy content. Due to low temperature, the conventional power generation technologies result in lower efficiency and hence cannot be used. In order to efficiently generate power, alternate methods need to be used. In this study, a supercritical organic Rankine cycle was used for heat source temperatures varying from 125°C to 200°C. Organic refrigerants with zero ozone depletion potential and their mixtures were selected as working fluid for this study while the cooling water temperature was changed from 10-25°C. Operating pressure of the cycle has been optimized for each fluid at every heat source temperature to obtain the highest thermal efficiency. Energy and exergy efficiencies of the thermodynamic cycle have been obtained as a function of heat source temperature.

Efficiency of a thermodynamic cycle depends significantly on the sink temperature. At areas where water cooling is not available and ambient air temperature is high, efficient power generation from low grade heat sources may be a challenge. Use of passive cooling systems coupled with the condenser was studied, so that lower sink temperatures could be obtained. Underground tunnels, buried at a depth of few meters, were used as earth-air-heat-exchanger (EAHE) through which hot ambient air was passed. It was observed that the air temperature could be lowered by 5-10°C in the EAHE. Vertical pipes were used to lower the temperature of water by 5°C by passing it underground. Nocturnal cooling of stored water has been studied that can be used to cool the working fluid in the thermodynamic cycle. It was observed that the water temperature can be lowered by 10-20°C during the night when it is allowed to cool. The amount of water lost was calculated and was found to be approximately 0.1% over 10 days.

The different passive cooling systems were studied separately and their effects on the efficiency of the thermodynamic cycle were investigated. They were then combined into a novel condenser design that uses passive cooling technology to cool the working fluid that was selected in the first part of the study. It was observed that the efficiency of the cycle improved by 2-2.5% when passive cooling system was used.