This study was conducted to optimize shea butter and Aluminium powder blends by varying sample compositions in wt. (%). Solar energy drying system was designed using the meteorological conditions of Zaria, Nigeria to dry ginger slices in the mixed-mode natural convection. The optimization was achieved by blending shea butter with Aluminium powder at elevated mass fraction of (1 – 5) %wt. The composition with 3% wt of Aluminium powder was considered the most appropriate due to its moderate thermal conductivity of 0.053762 W/mK and highest latent heat of fusion-164.53 KJ/kg. It was concluded that this composition has the capacity to store the largest quantity of heat over other blend samples. Its value for the latent heat of fusion falls within the range of technical grade of paraffin wax which is predominantly used as phase change material. The shea butter of mass 19.766 kg was blended with 0.611 kg of Aluminum powder to enhance thermal conductivity and latent storage for this study. The solar dryer was exposed to solar radiation from 9:00 to 21:00 hours and tested without load. It was then tested with ginger slices of (3 – 5) mm average thickness from 9:00 to 23:00 hours on 11th June so as to check for the significant impact of the (latent heat storage) LHS materials in the drying process beyond the sunshine hours. On the first day of experiment; 11th June, the average drying rate, collector efficiency and drying efficiency from 9:00 to 23:00 hour were 7.22 × ?10?^(-5) kg/s, 77% and 30% respectively.
Keywords: Ginger solar dryer, Performance evaluation, Phase change material, PCM storage tube, Blended PCM, shea butter