In this study, we numerically investigated the effect of swirl inserts with and without nanofluids over a range of Reynolds numbers for parabolic trough collectors with non‐uniform heating. Three approaches were utilized to enhance the thermal‐hydraulic performance—the variation of geometrical properties of a single canonical insert to find the optimized shape; the use of nanofluids and analysis of the effect of both the aforementioned approaches; the use of swirl generators and nanofluids together. Results revealed that using the straight conical strips alone enhanced the Nusselt number by 47.13%. However, the use of nanofluids along with the swirl generators increased the Nusselt number by 57.48%. These improvements reduced the thermal losses by 22.3% for swirl generators with nanofluids, as opposed to a reduction of only 15.7% with nanofluids alone. The investigation of different swirl generator designs showed various levels of improvements in terms of the overall thermal efficiency and thermal exergy efficiency. The larger swirl generator (H30mm‐θ30°‐N4) with 6% SiO2 nanofluids was found to be the optimum configuration, which improved the overall collector efficiency and thermal exergy by 14.62% and 14.47%, respectively.
- Heat transfer
- Non‐uniform heating
- Parabolic solar trough collectors
- Solar thermal energy
- Swirl generators
- Thermal and hydraulic performance