Introduction

Between 1958 and 1970, much valuable work on Stirling engines was carried out in the United States by the General Motors Corporation (Percival 1974). Interest at General Motors was stimulated in 1948 by the publication of the three classic papers about the early Philips work (Rinia and du Pre 1946. de Brey, Rinia and van Weenan 1947. and van Weenan 1947). General Motors proposed a working agreement with Philips but the idea was rejected as premature. Later, in 1957, Philips considered their work sufficiently advanced and negotiated a licence agreement with General Motors. The agreement provided for a ten year information exchange with provision for mulual licensing of patents relating to Stirling engines.

At General Motors, the interest in Stirling engines was focused on applications in marine propulsion, locomotive power, generating sets, and various military and space applications. Percival (1974) notes that in 1958:

There was no interest by anyone in road vehicle power. It was believed that cost, bulk, and weight would be cxccssivc. Also, that higher heat rejection would make it impossible to install radiators. However, G.M. made no investigation of Stirling vehicle propulsion until 1962

The work at General Motors can be broadly classified into three principal elements identified by the division responsible for execution of the program, namely,

(a) G.M. Research Laboratories, Technical Center. Warren, Michigan.

(b) Electromotive Division, La Grange, Illinois (and earlier. Cleveland Diesel Engine Division).

(c) Allison Division, Indianapolis.

By far the biggest effort was invested at G.M. Research working on their own programmes and on work related to the other two division programmes. The size of the team, or the total man-years of effort expended on Stirling engines have never been disclosed. An estimate of 50 engineers for 10 years would perhaps not be unrealistic.

Very early G.M. Research was encouraged by the U.S. Army Engineer Laboratories, Fort Belvoir, Va., to develop Stirling engines for outboard motors and small generating sets. Percival (1974) attributes the 'near certainty of an Army contract' as a major consideration influencing the corporate decision to proceed with the licence arrangement.

Subsequently the Army did commission the development of a small (3 kW (4 hp)) electric-power generator designated the Ground Power Unit (GPU). This contract ran for several years and was in fact the only significant financial support received from external sources by G.M. Research during their whole program. Most of the other work appears to have been carried on with funding provided by the corporation. A particular difficulty in securing funds from U.S. government sources was the severe restrictions of the licence agreement on the release of technical information.

In 1958 the Allison Division were also anticipating the award of an Air Force contract for a Stirling engine power plant for a solar-heated satellite. An experimental engine was in fact commissioned and evaluated in a program extending through 1959/1960.

Finally, at that same period, the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division believed that the Stirling engine could compete with diesel engines lor river and harbour work, including boat propulsion as well as submarines. Several large Stirling engines were made by or for the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division and. later, for the Electromotive Division following the dissolution in 1962 of Cleveland Diesel.

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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