Thermal energy storage systems can be determinant for an effective use of solar energy, as they allow to decouple the thermal energy production by the solar source from thermal loads, and thus allowing solar energy to be exploited also during nighttime and cloudy periods. The current study deals with the modelling and simulation of a cooling thermal energy storage unit consisting of an aluminum container partially filled with a phase change material (PCM). Two unsteady models are implemented and discussed, namely a conduction-based model and a conduction-convection-based one. The equations systems relative to both the models are solved by means of the Comsol Multiphysics finite element solver, and results are presented in terms of temporal variation of temperature in different points inside the PCM, of the volume average liquid fraction, and of the cooling energy stored and released through the aluminum container external surface during the charge and discharge, respectively. Moreover, the numerical results obtained by the implementation of the above different models are compared with experimental ones obtained with a climatic chamber. The comparison between numerical and experimental results indicate that, for the considered cooling energy storage unit, free convection plays a crucial role in the heat transfer inside the liquid PCM and cannot be neglected.
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