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International Journal of Photoenergy
Volume 2017, Article ID 7956879, 9 pages
Research Article

Small-Scale Flat Plate Collectors for Solar Thermal Scavenging in Low Conductivity Environments

College of Engineering and Science, Louisiana Tech University, P.O. Box 10348, Ruston, LA 71272, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Leland Weiss; ude.hcetal@ssiewl

Received 10 February 2017; Revised 18 May 2017; Accepted 29 May 2017; Published 3 August 2017

Academic Editor: Michel Feidt

Copyright © 2017 Emmanuel Ogbonnaya and Leland Weiss. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


There is great opportunity to develop power supplies for autonomous application on the small scale. For example, remote environmental sensors may be powered through the harvesting of ambient thermal energy and heating of a thermoelectric generator. This work investigates a small-scale (centimeters) solar thermal collector designed for this application. The absorber is coated with a unique selective coating and then studied in a low pressure environment to increase performance. A numerical model that is used to predict the performance of the collector plate is developed. This is validated based on benchtop testing of a fabricated collector plate in a low-pressure enclosure. Model results indicate that simulated solar input of about 800 W/m2 results in a collector plate temperature of 298 K in ambient conditions and up to 388 K in vacuum. The model also predicts the various losses in W/m2 K from the plate to the surroundings. Plate temperature is validated through the experimental work showing that the model is useful to the future design of these small-scale solar thermal energy collectors.