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(1)

You don't need to store heat in water. For that purpose you can use pipe rings in the insolated wet sand or something similar with big heat capacity.

(2)

Water has a greater heat capacity than wet sand and it is easier to fill, drain, and transfer.

In addition, wet sand acts like a solid so heat transfer into surrounding wet sand is limited by the it's thermal conductivity. In the case of water, conductive heating is augmented by mixing due to convection, enhancing heat transfer.

(3)

Commnt on (1) and (2) from author:

Indeed a heat store build with wet sand might be an interesting option. The specific heat capacity of wet sand is lower than for water but still rather high. Using wet sand circumvents the problem of the radial force. The lower heat conduction can be compensated for by using a longer heat exchanger. Anyway the intention is to build a large heat store with a typical thermal time constant of the order of weeks, so there is always time enough to transport heat through the store.
Kees

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