4F30.10 - Stirling Engine

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Stirling Engine
Thermal/Carnot Cycles
Area of Study:
Heat and Fluids
Stirling Engine, Fuel Pellets, Bunsen Burner, Grill Lighter, Graphite Lubricant -- Only if needed!!, and 3 - in - 1 Household Oil.

Video Credit:  Jonathan M. Sullivan-Wood.

The fuel pellets seem to run this the best although the Bunsen burner will work.  Lubrication is critical as any friction will keep the engine from starting or running.  A drop of oil on the two flywheel bearings and the main piston shaft will usually be required.  DO NOT OVER LUBRICATE THE PISTON SHAFT!! DO NOT USE OIL ON THE EXTERNAL SILVER PISTON - A very small amount of graphite is to be used ONLY WHEN NEEDED!!  When the heated chamber reaches a sufficient temperature a small turn of the flywheel in the counterclockwise direction will start the engine.

The multi-gang Stirling engine is very cool.  Fill all 4 burner reservoirs with alcohol to the marked level.  Allow a few seconds for the alcohol to wet the wicks.  Light all 4 reservoirs, and in about 20 seconds you will be able to start the unit by turning the flywheel in the marked direction.  This is a very smooth running unit. 

  • Y. J. Lu, Hiroko Nakahara, and J. S. Bobowski, "Quantitative Stirling Cycle Measurements: P-V Diagram and Refrigeration", TPT, Vol. 58, #1, Jan. 2020, p. 18.
  • H. Richard Crane, "The Stirling Engine—173 Years Old and Running", TPT, Vol. 28, #4, Apr. 1990, p. 252. 
  • R. D. Spence and C. L. Foiles, "Stirling Engines for Demonstration", TPT, Vol. 20, #1, Jan. 1982, p. 38.
  • Alejandro Romanelli, "The "Spring" Stirling Engine", AJP, Vol. 90, #3, March 2022, p. 218.
  • Raul A. Simon, "Stirling's Cycle and the Second Law of Thermodynamics", AJP, Vol. 52, #6, June 1984, p. 496.
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  • Richard Fitzgerald, "Traveling-Wave Thermoacoustic Heat Engines Attain High Efficiency", Physics Today, Vol. 52, #6, June 1999, p. 18.
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  • Jearl Walker, "The Amateur Scientist: Experiments with the External-Combustion Fluidyne Engine, Which Has Liquid Pistons", Scientific American, Vol. 252, #4, Apr. 1985, p. 140.
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  • G. D. Freier and F. J. Anderson, "Hn-4", A Demonstration Handbook for Physics.
  • A. D. Bulman, "A Simple Heat Engine", Model-Making for Physics, p. 21.
  • James R. Senft, "An Introduction to Stirling Engines", Moriya Press, 1993.
  • Ron Hipschman, "Heat Pump", Exploratorium Cookbook II,  p. 129.1 - 129.4.
  • "Stirling Engine" & "Stirling - the Forgotten Engine", The New Illustrated - Science and Invention Encyclopedia.
  • "A Brief History of Stirling Cycle Engines".

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