A comprehensive investigation of porous media's effects on the performance of photovoltaic thermal systems

Ali Sangtarash, Seyed Reza Maadi, Robert A. Taylor, Ahmad Arabkoohsar, Somchai Wongwises, Mikhail Sheremet, Omid Mahian*, Ahmet Z. Sahin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Porous media in thermal collectors have been found to enhance the performance of photovoltaic thermal systems. However, there is a lack of comprehensive research on the benefits of using porous media in this context. This paper represents the first comprehensive study comparing various types of porous materials and their effects on system performance. The study employs a three-dimensional simulation to analyze the influence of factors such as material type, porosity, permeability, and thermal conductivity on module efficiency in top, middle, and fully filled configurations. In particular, it has been observed that each material has an optimum porosity, and there is little difference among metal foams, ceramic foams, and ordinary materials, such as aluminum and copper screens. Among the different configurations, the middle configuration had the lowest thermal efficiency improvement (∼17 %), the top configuration increased efficiency by ∼7 %, and the full porous configuration had the highest thermal efficiency improvement, 32 %. Materials with very low conductivity, such as wood, perform better in the middle than in the top configuration. Graphite, despite its high thermal conductivity, has low permeability, which leads to lower thermal efficiency compared to that of most other materials in the top configuration. In the full configuration and particularly in the middle configuration, graphite shows the smallest thermal efficiency improvement due to its significant longitudinal conduction heat transfer. Therefore, in these configurations, graphite is not recommended for use as a porous medium. Regarding added mass, metal foam materials add the most mass to the system, followed by ceramic foam materials, which present considerably lower figures. In all cases, the pump power consumption growth is negligible compared to the photovoltaic power output. In all materials and configurations, there was a small improvement in electrical efficiency, reaching 1.25 % in the full porous configuration. From a holistic perspective, this study showed that porous media can improve the overall equivalent power by up to 9.8 %, compared to a smooth channel.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122766
JournalApplied Thermal Engineering
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Performance enhancement
  • Photovoltaic thermal collectors
  • Porous media


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