1026 Stirling Engines

The Stirling engine — so named because it is based on the Stirling thermo-dynamic cycle — was conceived more than a century ago. Stirling engines produce power not by explosive internal combustion, but by an external heat source — usually a continuous-combustion burner. Until recently, reliability problems have limited their use to hobbyists. It is only in the past generation that a viable free-piston Stirling was developed. All Stirling engines can be operated with a wide variety of fuels, including fossil fuels, biomass,* solar, geothermal, and nuclear energy. When used with fossil and biomass fuel, the continuous-combustion heater head avoids temperature spikes, which makes emissions very low and easy to control. The Stirling engine is a heat recovery device, like the steam turbine. Several European utilities are demonstrating this technology for residential micro-CHP applications. Even at these very small sizes, electric efficiencies of more than 30% have been achieved.

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

The solar Stirling engine is progressively becoming a viable alternative to solar panels for its higher efficiency. Stirling engines might be the best way to harvest the power provided by the sun. This is an easy-to-understand explanation of how Stirling engines work, the different types, and why they are more efficient than steam engines.

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