Iarly History

Stirling and Ericsson engines have a long history, which has been well surveyed by Finkelstein (1959), by Zarinchang (1972). and by Ross (1977).

The earliest air engine recognized by Zarinchang (1972) was the 'atmospheric lire-wheel' of Amontons in France, 1699. Another early air-engine by H. Wood in 1759 used a modified Newcomen atmospheric steam engine 'operating on the principle of hot or rarefied air...'. In 1797 Glaze brook described an open-cycle machine operating on what may be distinguished as the first hot-gas cycle with a compound working fluid. Shortly thereafter, in 1801, Glazebrook again, introduced the original use of a closed cycle with repeated use of the same working fluid.

In 1807 Sir George Cayley, a Yorkshire squire, constructed an open-cycle. internal-combustion, hot-air engine that was probably the first engine ol this type to work properly. Cayley was the pioneer aeronautical engineer and wisely recognized that he was unlikely to get any of his gliders to fly under power with a contemporary steam engine, lie thus invented the new form of air engine and must have been exceedingly disappointed to find it equally unsuited as an aircraft engine. A century was to elapse before a suitable power plant enabled the Wright brothers to make the historic Might denied Cayley.

Robert Stirling, a minister of the Church of Scotland and originator of the regenerative heat exchanger, invented the closed-cycle regenerative engine in 1816 and remained actively involved with his brother. James, in its development for many years. As with all engineering developments they were beset by limitations of materials and at the end of his life, in 1876, Robert was led to write:

'lliese imperfections have been in a great measure removed by time and especially hy lite genius of the distinguished Bessemer. If Bessemer iron or steel had been known thirty-five or forty years ago there is scarce a doubt that the air engine would have been a great success... It remains for some skilled and ambitious mechanist in a future age to repeat it under more favourable circumstances and willt complete success...'

From the viewpoint of a century later, with public interest in Stirling engines risinp lo iinimTrrlrnlfil levr.k llii«; wan n wnn/tprfnllv ornnh#»tir

Contemporaneously with Stirling, the Swedish inventor John Ericsson, working in England, introduced the open-cycle regenerative air engine in a variety of forms. The family of engines where the flow is controlled by valves are designated as Ericsson engines in recognition of his work. Ericsson was a great engineer and prolific inventor. He is accorded the honour of inventing the screw propellor and participated in the early development of railways in England. He was one of the contestants in the celebrated Rainhill trials of steam locomotives won by George Stephenson's Rocket. Ericsson later went to the United Stales and established the manufacture of both open- and closed-cycle regenerative engines. He continued a long and active career on a broad engineering front and was well known for his spectacular marine engineering feats.

Throughout the nineteenth century thousands of hot-air engines were made and used in a wide variety of sizes and shapes in Britain, Europe, the U.S.A., and other parts of the world. They were reliable and reasonably efficient. More importantly, they were safe compared with contemporary reciprocating steam engine installations and their associated boilers, which exploded with depressing regularity, due to poor materials and imperfect jointing techniques.

Many of the hot-air engines made were small, low-power machines of 100 W (¡J hp) to 4 kW (5 hp). Some large machines were also made however. The most notable was undoubtedly the enormous marine engine built by Ericsson in 1853 having four cylinders 4.2 m (14 ft) in diameter with a stroke of 1.5 m (5 ft), running at 9 revolutions pel minute and producing about 220 kW brake power (300 hp). A contemporary report in the New York Daily Times of 12 January 1853, includes an account by the correspondent of his riding up and down on the pistons of this monster. The engine was designed for 330 kW (450 hp) ami its performance was disappointing when installed in a ship called The Ericsson. The engine was replaced subsequently by steam engines but the ship was ill-fated and capsized in a squall in New York harbour. The story of the big engine has been well told by Ferguson (1961).

The internal combustion engine, in the form of the hot bulb gas engine was invented about the middle of the nineteenth century. Subsequently it was developed in the form of the gasoline, spark-ignition engine and the oil, compression-ignition engine. Later, at the turn of the century, the electric motor was invented and developed. Together, the internal combustion engine and electric motor gradually superseded both steam and Stirling engines in small sizes. However, a glance at the Sears-Roebuck catalogue for the early 1900s shows that in the United States, hot-air engines could be bought 'off-the-shelf1 much as small gasoline engines or electric motors are todav. Further, the heal-p.noinp t^vitvw»l-c />f fUot

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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