How Hot Air Engines WorkStep 1 Characteristics of air
Let's fit a rubber to a can like Figure 1. You can understand easily that the
rubber expands when the can is heated (Figure 2), and the rubber contracts when
the can is cooled (Figure 3). It is caused that a pressure of the air in the can
works to the rubber when the air is heated, shown in allows of Figure 2. Of
course, you cannot see the pressure by your eyes.
Step 2 What is a displacer piston?
Next, let's put in a piston into the can like Figure 4. A
diameter of the piston must be somewhat smaller than that of the can, because
the piston works to move (displace) the air up and down in the can. And, please
heat the bottom side of the can and cool the upper side of the can. After it has
enough temperature difference, move the piston up and down by your hand. When
the piston is moved up, the rubber expands because there is a lot of hot air in
the can (Figure 5). It corresponds to Figure 2. When the piston is moved down,
the rubber contracts because there is a lot of cold air in the can. It
corresponds to Figure 3.
In the case of the Stirling engine, this piston, which moves (displaces) the air and make the pressure changes is called a displacer piston.
Step 3 Crank mechanism ~ from piston motion to rotation ~
Do you understand about the characteristics of the air and the work of the
displacer piston? They are very important to understand how does the Stirling
First, connect from the piston and a bent wire with a thread like Figure 6. When the bent wire is rotated, the piston is moved up and down. This is called a crank mechanism.
Please heat the bottom side of the can and cool the upper side of the can, similar to above description. When your hand rotates the bent wire, the piston is moved up and down, and the rubber expands and contracts repeatedly (Figure 7).
Step 4 Power piston ~ function of the rubber ~
The Stirling engine converts from the motion of the rubber to the rotation of
the bent wire. Please connect from the rubber to the bent wire with a rod. In
this time, a force of the rubber (expansion and contraction) has to be the
direction, which rotates the bent wire. In short, you must bend the bent wire
the just right angle (90 degrees) from the piston like Figure 8 and 9.
Step 5 Flywheel ~ for the smooth rotation ~
This engine has not worked yet. If you try to work this engine (Figure 8 and
9), the rubber keeps the most expansion or contraction. In order to rotate
smoothly and repeatedly, you must fit a rotated mass with the bent wire. It is
called a flywheel.
Generally, the flywheel is circular like Figure 10. But at this point, please bend the end of the bent wire, and fit a mass at the edge of the wire like Figure 11. The mass works as the flywheel and to be balanced to the weight of the piston. So, you must fit the mass against the piston.
This page of diagrams courtesy of Koichi Hirata.