Design, construction and testing of a solar-biomass flatbed dryer for maize cobs drying in Rwanda
Maize is an important staple crop in Rwanda the annual production has been increasing by
over 5.3 % over the last decade. Challenges remain in maize postharvest handling, especially
proper drying. a solar-biomass hybrid flatbed dryer for drying maize cobs was designed,
constructed, and tested in the high-altitude maize producing volcanic regions of Rwanda. The
dryer capacity is two tons of fresh maize cobs per drying batch. A low-cost biomass
combustion unit was designed and constructed. The dryer was equipped with an axial fan
powered by a photovoltaic (PV) system. Airflow and temperature distribution in the
combustion unit and the drying chamber were optimized by simulation with computational
fluid dynamics (CFD) software. Size of solar arrays and batteries of the PV system was
determined with MATLAB/Simulink model integrated with climate data for the target region.
The dryer is under construction and will be tested to confirm the simulation results and to
prove the concept of maize cob drying.
Keywords: renewable energy, Matlab/Simulink, CFD, solar panels, biomass energy