Innovative technology in clean solar energy with trivial water consumption is imperative to a successful solar energy objective. Nevada, with its uniquely immense solar irradiance, provides the foundation for solar thermal systems capable of replacing traditional heat source power cycles. Coupling concentrated solar irradiance with a supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle will compound the capacity for increased efficiency with decreased environmental and geographical footprints. The UNLV research system, containing two custom and one internationally collaborative heat exchanger prototypes, is a demonstration of the innovative component and system design needed to reach the next level in clean solar energy. With nearly no need for cleaning, the UNLV system is designed to move solar technology toward meeting ambitious, water conscious, renewable energy goals. This new experimental system will bridge gaps in both economic trade-offs inherent in optimization and modeling transient cloud coverage, while facilitating cutting edge research work.
As we move toward energy independence and more ambitious clean energy goals, solar energy research must push the efficiency limits of traditional energy generation systems. Increases in efficiency can be achieved by increasing the hot temperature of the power cycle. Recent research demonstrates the potential for increased efficiency and a vastly smaller component size when supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton power cycles are used. To achieve the high working fluid temperatures needed for efficiency gains, concentrated solar and nuclear heat have been theoretically evaluated. Initial testing of the UNLV experimental concentrated solar power system shows the potential for higher temperature differences, leading to these higher efficiencies.
Photographic flux mapping  was used to provide solar flux information leading to the custom design and on-site fabrication of the solar receiver. A custom air-cooled heat exchanger, with expansion capabilities for additional cooling, was designed and fabricated for heat rejection. To further increase efficiency, an internationally collaborative custom minichannel heat exchanger was added as a system recuperator, and will be tested in both straight channel and zigzag channel geometries. On-sun experimental tests of the solar receiver and heat rejection systems have indicated system capability to both reach high temperatures and reject the heat required to achieve accelerated efficiencies.
For optimal system performance, optimized turbomachinery is required. The turbine and compressor wheels are optimized for this 100 kW system at a calculated diameter of 0.35 in. Impossible to fabricate using the UNLV Machine Shop CNC machine, a sized up outer diameter based upon the literature and the SCO2 experimental system at Sandia National Laboratory  was used. All components are mounted on a dish concentrating solar tracking system for on-sun experimental testing. An EES computational model of the cycle, to be optimized and validated based on data collected, will describe the system.