Literature review of molten salt nanofluids is performed in this study with focus on the thermo-fluidic properties and performance in thermal management applications. The colloidal mixture of nanoparticles in a base liquid phase is called nanofluid. Molten salts such as alkali nitrate eutectics, alkali carbonate eutectics and alkali chloride eutectics have high melting temperatures. These materials are suitable for various high temperature applications, including as Heat Transfer Fluid (HTF), Thermal Energy Storage (TES), Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants, nuclear power, etc. The major drawback of molten salt materials is their low thermal conductivity and specific heat capacity. Enhancing the thermo-physical properties of molten salt materials can lower the cost of power production involving these materials (e.g., as HTF and/ or TES in CSP or nuclear power plants. Mixing molten alt eutectics with nanoparticles (e.g., molten salt nanofluids) can provide a cost-effective technique for enhancing the specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity which in turn can enable the reduction in the cost of power production. In this review - the following topics involving molten salt nanofluids were explored: thermo-physical property measurements, numerical modeling (e.g., Molecular Dynamics/ MD simulations), materials characterization (e.g., using electron microscopy techniques — such as SEM and TEM).
For example, SEM studies in conjunction with MD simulation results confirm the formation of a dense layer of fluid molecules on the surface of nanoparticles that can enhance the specific heat capacity of these molten salt nanomaterials. Subsequently the concepts of nanofins was explored (which involves the study of interfacial thermal impedance, such as resistance, capacitance and diodicity). The contribution of these interfacial thermal impedances to the enhancement of specific heat capacity and thermal conductivity are also explored. Specific heat enhancement as high as 100% has been observed for various molten salt eutectics when doped with 1.5% (weight) silica nanoparticles. Various synthesis protocols such as one-step, two-step and three-step methods as well as conventional experimental methods used for specific heat capacity measurement are compared and examined. A review of the effects of concentration, nanoparticle size, temperature, base fluid, and nanofluid chemical properties is also performed. Other topics of interest are the anomalous enhancement of thermal conductivity in molten salt nanofluids which contradict typical predictions obtained from using the effective medium theory.
The available data in literature shows enhancement in thermal conductivity by as much as 35–45% for carbonate eutectics doped with silica nanoparticles at 1% mass fraction. The possible mechanisms suggested for this improvement are briefly discussed and compared with experimental observations (e.g., using SEM). In addition, nanofluids often display non-Newtonian rheological behavior. This necessitates a rigorous study, since the applications of nanofluids will impact the required pumping power. Studies show that the rheological properties of molten salt nanofluids are a function of base salt composition, shape of nanoparticles selected, chemical formula of nanoparticles, concentration of nanoparticles, size of nanoparticles, temperature, shear rate and synthesis protocol of the nanofluid. Several models are introduced to predict the viscosity variation along with their advantageous and disadvantages. SEM results show agglomeration of nanoparticles can be reduced by doping the nanofluids with very small values of mass fractions of additives such as Gum Arabic.