Heat regenerator occupied by regenerative materials improves thermal efficiency of regenerative combustion system through the recovery of sensible heat of exhaust gases. By using one-dimensional two-phase fluid dynamics model, the unsteady thermal flow of regenerator with spherical particles, were numerically analysed to evaluate the heat transfer and pressure drop and to suggest the parameter for designing heat regenerator. It takes about 7 h for the steady state in the thermal flow of regenerator, where heat absorption of regenerative particle is concurrent with heat desorption. The regenerative particle experiences small temperature fluctuation below 10K during the reversing process. The thermal flow in heat regenerator varies with inlet velocity of exhaust gas and air, configuration of regenerator and diameter of regenerative particle. As the gas velocity increases with decreasing the cross-sectional area of the regenerator, the heat transfer between gas and particle enhances and pressure losses increase. As particle diameter decreases, the air is preheated higher and the exhaust gases are cooled lower with the increase of pressure losses. At the same exhaust gases temperature at the regenerator outlet, the regenerator length need to be linearly increased with inlet Reynolds number of exhaust gases. It is confirmed that inlet Reynolds number of exhaust gases should be introduced as a regenerator design parameter. Copyright (C) 2002 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.