Solar drying of cowpea bean combined with drying in a heat accumulator dryer

ABSTRACT As solar radiation is abundant in Brazil during most of the year and this source of energy is renewable and non-polluting par excellence, solar drying of agricultural products is a promising methodology. The objective of this study was to dry cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] bean grains using solar energy in different exposure times, adjusting the mathematical models and calculation of the effective diffusivity. Drying was performed during the day with samples exposed to the sun; during the night, half of the samples were put to dry in a heat accumulator dryer for nighttime drying and the other half was left on a laboratory bench as control. Cowpea bean grains had initial and final moisture contents of 65.42 and 6.73% d.b. (after drying in the heat accumulator dryer), respectively. The models Approximation of Diffusion, Page, Verma, Logarithmic and Two Terms were fitted to the drying kinetics and all of them fitted well to the experimental data, with coefficients of determination (R2) higher than 0.98, mean square deviations (MSD) less than 0.01 and chi-square (χ2) values lower than 0.0001. The effective diffusivity values were of the order of 10-11 m2 s-1 for the cowpea bean samples. The heat accumulator dryer was effective as a complement to the drying by exposure to the sun, maintaining a suitable temperature for nighttime drying.