Find out more about Stirling engine design, who invented the Stirling engine and how Stirling engines are used today. You can also view animated graphics of a working Stirling engine.
How does a Stirling engine work?
A Stirling engine works by moving a sealed volume of air from the hot bottom plate to the cool top plate of the engine. As the air moves from the cool plate to the hot plate it is rapidly heated, it expands and pushes the piston up. As the air is moved from the hot plate to the cool plate it cools rapidly and contracts, this creates a vacuum which pulls the piston down. This same volume of air is rapidly heated and cooled many times per second. As the piston is connected to a crank shaft it causes the crank to rotate and this produces the mechanical power to rotate the fan blades. Read more here
How is a Stirling engine stove fan made?
Warpfive manufacture Stirling engines which only require heat to work. Every engine produced is precision engineered and hand built with durable materials like stainless steel, aluminium, brass and Borosilicate glass. Furthermore advanced materials (such as graphite) and low friction bearings are used to ensure low maintenance. In this video, you can see how these components are put together to build a Stirling engine stove fan.
Stirling engine history – Robert Stirling
Reverend Robert Stirling of Scotland invented the Stirling engine in 1816.
During that period many of the early high-pressure steam boilers exploded because of poor materials and faulty methods of construction. The resultant casualties and property losses motivated Stirling to invent a power cycle that operated without a high-pressure boiler. In his engine (patented in 1816), air was heated by external combustion through a heat exchanger and then was displaced, compressed, and expanded by two pistons. Stirling also conceived the idea of a regenerator to store thermal energy during part of the cycle and then return this energy to the working fluid.
His company manufactured engines from 1818 to 1922, during which time they were used to pump water on farms and to generate electricity.
Stirling received additional patents in 1827 and 1840 for improvements in the design of his engine. He was made a posthumous inductee to the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame in 2014.
The Stirling engine is noted for its high efficiency, quiet operation, and the ease with which it can use almost any heat source. This compatibility with alternative and renewable energy sources has become increasingly significant as the price of conventional fuels rises. The Stirling engine is currently exciting interest as the core component of solar powered electricity generators, as well as in the space industry to power satellites.
Since the Stirling engine is efficient, produces less pollution than most other kinds of engines, and operate on virtually any kind of fuel, efforts have been made intermittently since the late 1930s to reduce its manufacturing costs. Modern versions of the Stirling engine employ pressurized hydrogen or helium instead of air. Since the 1970s the engine has been adapted for many uses, including cryogenic refrigeration, submarine propulsion, and electrical production.
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Our engineers invest a lot of time examining emerging technology trends and breakthroughs that may offer opportunities to deliver value to you and growth for our company.
We maintain our long-term commitment to research and development across a wide spectrum of technologies. Here you can view some of the Stirling engine development projects we’ve been involved with.