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General Research

Research at the SEL currently involves a number of interrelated areas: solar heating and cooling, photovoltaics, desiccant and absorption cooling, control of HVAC systems, air quality in buildings, thermal storage and food processing. The common thread of the research is the development and use of simulation methods to perform numerical experiments on the systems; numerical experiments are then compared to physical measurements to assure realism.

Simulation methods developed at the SEL have become powerful tools for research, development and design for solar energy and other industries. A general-purpose transient simulation program, TRNSYS, was developed in the laboratory and has been distributed to laboratories, industries and government agencies throughout the world. The FCHART program, also developed at the SEL, has been widely distributed and provides rapid thermal performance and economic analysis of standard types of active and passive solar heating systems.

Thermal energy storage is of major concern to solar and building energy systems. Projects include the design and evaluation of the free convection heat transfer, from heat exchanger to fluid, inside solar energy tanks, and the use of ice as a storage medium to offset daytime air conditioning loads.

The optimal control of the heating and cooling processes in buildings provide an opportunity for significant energy savings. Several projects investigate controlling conventional building and solar energy systems to provide comfort and meet air quality standards at minimum operating cost. Algorithms for optimal control have been developed for implementation in a building energy management system. The use of optimal control methods to detect operating faults in the system is also under study.

In addition to projects on campus, students have opportunities to become involved with research at other laboratories. Cooperative research has been conducted with the Solar Energy Applications Laboratory at Colorado State University, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and, through ASHRAE sponsorship, building test facilities.

Student Research

For information on student research, please see the Students page.

Solar Collector Testing

Solar Collector Testing Data and Reports

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