Selection of thermotropic materials for overheat protection of polymer absorbers

Adam C. Gladen, Jane H. Davidson, Susan C. Mantell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Thermotropic materials offer the potential to provide passive overheat protection for polymer solar absorbers. These materials are comprised of a matrix in which a second material, referred to as the scattering domain, is dispersed as small particles. Overheat protection is provided by a change in transmittance and reflectance at elevated temperature. The magnitude of this change depends on the change in the relative refractive index between the matrix and the scattering domain, the volume fraction and size of the dispersed particles, and the thickness of the material. To predict the effect of these parameters on the normal-hemispherical transmittance and reflectance, thermotropic materials are modeled as a non-absorbing slab comprised of discrete, anisotropic scattering, spherical particles embedded in a matrix material. A Monte Carlo ray tracing algorithm predicts the transmittance and reflectance of the slab. The model predictions are compared with: the analytical solution for a slab of non-absorbing, non-scattering media, and the measured transmittance of 0.3. mm thick polymer samples containing 400. nm particles. A parametric study of the effects of the design parameters on the transmittance is presented to identify potential material combinations which will produce a thermotropic composite capable of providing overheat protection for flat plate solar collectors. Relatively short chain alkanes or low molecular mass polyethylene in a matrix of polycarbonate are identified as promising materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-51
Number of pages10
JournalSolar Energy
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sample fabrication was carried out by Jihua Zhang of Prof. Marc Hillmyer’s research group in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. This research is funded by the University of Minnesota Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) and by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Monte Carlo
  • Overheat protection
  • Polymer absorber
  • Thermotropic


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