Stirling Engines - the power of the future?

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Stirling engines are having a bit of a revival. What are they, and how do they work? Could they generate our electricity in the future?
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I like machines that show their workings. You can see all the parts of a stirling engine doing their jobs. Stirling engines are simple, but use a principle that may be unfamiliar to many viewers. One thing that you have to remember from your science classes is that gases expand and contract very rapidly indeed, making this sort of engine practical.
Stirling engines are not very powerful nor do they have great power to weight ratios. I know of one annual boat race that takes place in England on a river using stirling engines, and it is somewhat sedate.
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Published on


Nov 28, 2016

stirlingengineenginespowerelectrictygenerationgeneratorgeneratinghow it worksmechanicshot airenergyecologicalenvironmentally friendlycheapemissionsexhauststation




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Comments 4 797
SageofCancer Day ago
Now build me a machine that takes CFCs and plastic and turns them into delicious beverages.
Raghav Sood
Raghav Sood 2 days ago
If you were to change gears on a car with this type of "Stirling Mechanism" how would you do it? I don't think its possibe.
Ashton Bialek-Kling
You would probably only need to supply the power from the Stirling Engine to a transmission like on a normal car.
JOe Shmoe
JOe Shmoe 2 days ago
they are basically the reverse of an air conditioner compressor.
Charles Moore
Charles Moore 2 days ago
L'il bit of a monty python fan are we?
Charles Moore
Charles Moore 2 days ago
L'il bit of a monty python fan are we?
Klaus Brinck
Klaus Brinck 3 days ago
14:00 - 14:17 : As he said, no free energy hocus-pocus, but energy that ONLY a Stirling-angine is capable of exctracting efficiently. So, maybe that was a bit more straight-forward than how Lindy said it... Electic Pelltier-Elements do the same, but are very bad compared to the Stirling 4:24 - 4:34 : Human life was nothing worth, compared to profit, that´s why murderous steam-engines won over secure stirling-engines in the beginn of the industrial revolution... Wellcome to Capitalism... Modern Stirling Engines: over 50% fuel efficient, Steam engines efficiency, forget it better... As Lindy said, Stirling is the future for stationary uses of generators and pumps. A firm building just for NASA has Stirlings small as a tiny cola-can, that are 40% fuel-efficient, i guess, high-tech-materials, but the bigger they get, the better they are... a "simple" cola-can-big one should be just 10% efficient, but Nasa has prooven otherwise. A Stirling in your central-heating-camin of your 3-person-family-house is pretty spread in Germany, althought the higher initial investment doesn´t let young families always buy this version of central-heating, but if they do, then they have electricity for free, and sell what they´ll not use, so reducing even heating-fuel-expences. Young families often don´t know of their existence, all they know is "cheap, please cheap", and Stirlings fight also against the competition named "passive homes", that need no heating system at all... State -of-the-art-low-tech-Stirlings are equaly efficient as the most efficient engines ever ( high-tech big diesel engines), much cheaper than their diesel-cousins, simple to build, bigger ( a small disadvantage), and exhaust pure neutral CO2. Diesels exhaust CO2, in combination with large amounts of hundreds other deadly gases, and if you manage reducing or capturing one of them, then, wish you luck by your struggle to reduce or capture the whole rest of them!!! Nasa-Stirling: ruvid.net/video/video-P1FwrDZKfKk.html Ans some fun with the NASA-Stirling: ruvid.net/video/video-F2USWF4mw0I.html
snatis1 5 days ago
Dear sir! What do you think would this work in space? For instance on a space station to produce energy... thinking about the extreme temperature difference on surfaces that are exposed to the sun and the surface that is not.
George Young
George Young 5 days ago
There's more than two cranks in this video :p Haha, I actually did enjoy this video and it got me thinking of how one might be able to take advantage of this in a survival situation. Because the future is not as bright as needing shades IMO.
Besh Kodiak
Besh Kodiak 6 days ago
I do so enjoy your so British calm but enthused way of speaking. A couple of my professors spoke this way and it kept my interest up to pass with rather good grades.
D. R. JONES 7 days ago
Mrpl3973 7 days ago
Lieutenant George does Thermodynamics!
The Hylander
The Hylander 7 days ago
What about the geyers in Iceland? Cold above, hot below.
Paul Kaye
Paul Kaye 7 days ago
These would work well in the extremes (Arctic or along the equator and far from traditional electric generators) for recharging batteries, etc. With the use of gears and flywheels the efficiency could be improved greatly for other applications requiring more torque. Combined with solar and wind power, these engines could improve the environment greatly by reducing pollution...which is a step in the right direction if we plan to sustain a comfortable living environment for our home - Earth.
LifeUnder TheMicroscope
I could see the sleight of hand you are ready to dish out before it happens as you get everyone warmed up for the introduction of boiling water vs the ice. This is how simple it is to keep people ignorant to thermodynamics and the cold end that can boil as well. Fusion theory and atomism has ruined simple comprehension and replaced it with a lot of useless words of opinion. "Vroom-vroom" explosions in the combustion engine, that exit while no change in pressure is recorded.
Jonas Thörnvall
Jonas Thörnvall 8 days ago
Well considering flying the cooling gas of space the Sterling engine is the natural choice, well at least if you want biological entities to fly the ship. You will have a temperature difference of 200 degree celcius at least, and probably an impulse engine, because regardless what the muppet say you can't fly in vaccua using thrust engines and nor can you fly zero viscosity liquids. It is inertia that make thrust engine works without it in vaccua or zero viscosity liquids they are basicly useless there is no resistance to pressure all you get is flame thrower.
Darryl Kinslow
Darryl Kinslow 9 days ago
The ground is always cool up North in the frost layer. The sunlight is always warm. Could possibly be enough to run a load of large scale versions right up until they wear down.
Władca Wymiaru
Władca Wymiaru 9 days ago
Something like that do need heat to work. A Molten Salt Reactor would be GREAT for it! Even exhaust gases...
Władca Wymiaru
Władca Wymiaru 5 days ago
Yes, it would: ruvid.net/video/video-OfSTsPVSMyQ.html if you can keep Sun shining...
TheTorbjoern 5 days ago
sunlight is enough to run some. slowly, but it would run.
moar pewpew
moar pewpew 9 days ago
The stonehenge of engines, it might be and do something, but it might not be much of anything
Tom Mosen
Tom Mosen 10 days ago
im sure that if more effort was put into the study of superconducters, and nano-metals we could make small devices that could power themself, using same principle
Jefferson Henrichs
Jefferson Henrichs 10 days ago
What about spaceships? Any power source compartment would be much hotter than the vacuum of space... hot and cold right?
Christoph Konetschny
i thought the same immediately. Don't they always say it is so hard to do cooling in space, because it is hard to radiate heat off into nothing. Could we not use the heat generated by engines for trust to warm some gas and use that do generate electricity to power stirling engines? :D
Rich Laue
Rich Laue 10 days ago
So if I lived near the equator I could put this engine in a boat and use the water to cool rather than heat the bottom.
Hiltonian _
Hiltonian _ 10 days ago
The issue with Stirling engines is Carnot efficiency vs material durability. Carnot efficiency is the upper limit on the efficiency of a heat engine, related to the difference between the highest temperature in the engine and the temperature at which heat is rejected by the engine (I.e., the temperature of the environment). An internal combustion engine burns fuel explosively in a moment and then goes through a cycle, allowing the cylinder to cool down. An external combustion engine like the Stirling has a heater head that stays at the maximum temperature all the time. In the early days of Stirling engines the cast iron heater heads burnt out all the time. Now the heater heads are made out of special high temperature stainless. Getting a lot of heat energy in through a small area without melting anything is still a problem. Modern Stirling engines also use compressed gases like hydrogen and helium to increase heat flow. Tricky to maintain. The engine Lindy has is atmospheric and so limited in heat flow. There are a few on the market as yacht generators, but they are expensive.
Fr33man Health
Fr33man Health 11 days ago
Free energy has already been discovered. Oh wait... that can't be true because someone would have told us right? Im sure those multi-billionaire 'Oiligarchs' would be the first people to tell me they have just been made redundant right? Never mind I'm sure Elon Musk will surprise us with something so in the mean time whats on Netflix...
jhon doe
jhon doe 11 days ago
Stirling Engines are very weak compared to other options, molten salt reactors, geothermal energy, cold fusion, bio fuels and Space-based solar power have the greatest potential for future energy
Kuhluh 10 days ago
yeah, but still a nice option to cool servers for example
BAM 11 days ago
Stirling engines may be a great solution to get rid of waste heat. Giant power stations in the poles and in computer server buildings seems like an ingenious way to use Stirling engines in the modern day.
The Pickle
The Pickle 12 days ago
Maybe this would be a good way to trickle charge batteries on a canal boat with the cold water below and the heat from inside the boat.
Alexander Wallberg
Alexander Wallberg 13 days ago
Great demonstration and explaination!
Ibian666 13 days ago
No. And downvote.
ARIES5342 15 days ago
So places where you have temperature extremes are best? Like the equator. The air is hot and the Amazon river is not. Like a Danish sub. A reflective disk or Fresnel lens gives you a temp differential any where you have sun. Lets think outside the cube. Adam
Riley Friesen
Riley Friesen 15 days ago
At 15:42 I think your v-tech kicked in
Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace 16 days ago
anglos are some failed cuckold race...
ARVID LYSTNUR 16 days ago
I keep seeing videos about Stirling Engines. Yet they must be impractical, expensive or problematic in design or applications because I can’t locate a single manufacturer that sells a motor that produces five or six hp, ready built! I see videos on kits for little desktop models, or echo companies, not quite tooled up for production, that sell home generators for thirty thousand dollars!
Kingmucktoad 17 days ago
I'm putting these in my novel.
Dylan White
Dylan White 17 days ago
These are probably the closest to free mechanical energy, BUT I feel like I’ve seen a version of the concept that directly produces electricity
Diane Snyder
Diane Snyder 17 days ago
I tried to to power my stirling engine buy ice but it doesn't want to turn it just wants to stay in a certain spot on the flywheel.🤔🤔🤔🤔😮😮😮 my stirling engine only turns by heat but I'm fine with it I'm not complaining!!😂😂😂😁😁😁😁
sivelllevis 17 days ago
I feel like they would be useful in the Arctic if you wanted to recycle the heat energy in a home/outpost but at the same time it's probably not worth the effort when we have better ways of making/storing energy.
Patrick EH
Patrick EH 17 days ago
Highest best use is to put a hunk of radioactive material in the hot side and let it just make power for hundreds of years without messing with it.
Patrick EH
Patrick EH 17 days ago
A Stirling engine powers the quietest and most deadly attack submarine in the world...
Patrick EH
Patrick EH 11 days ago
@Mike John Why? Low noise for one. The USN had it attack an alerted Carrier group TWICE and both times it penetrated ALL ASW assets and sunk our super carrier. Go to the sub manufacturers website
Mike John
Mike John 11 days ago
Hi do you have any links and why a Stirling engine was used? I'm doing a project about Stirling engines and would love to know where they're being used and for what reasons they chose to use Stirling engines
SongDog7 18 days ago
Maybe add some aluminium fins to the cold plate so that a moderate breeze will cause more cooling, a bit like a computer heat sink. Something I wonder is that, if you look at the air chamber that has the disk, it's not very deep. I wonder how changing the depth/air volume so there's more or less would affect it. Longer way for the disk to travel, but might make for a longer "stroke" if the temperature differential was great enough.
MagN8 18 days ago
Is this the alpha configuration?
Mono Man
Mono Man 20 days ago
Bassicly a thermoelectric engine
Patrick EH
Patrick EH 17 days ago
No Mono man. Different item entirely.
blob assimilate
blob assimilate 20 days ago
think of how the old magneto worked,,turned a little motion into a ton of power..in old engines,ya had no battery,and the electricity was used ,for a spark plug and to make fire....what a waste.
blob assimilate
blob assimilate 20 days ago
one stationary pos disc mag..bottom,the other pos floating,,hmm this is going somewhere.,,add a generator,how big n how much?, magneto timer,n voltage control or splitter some of it to the mags the rest is spare...don't know the math, depends on the size n weight of the wheel,the counter weight pushing back over and down from just past top dead center,mags size and push capacity,engaged just past bottom dead center,n the voltage sent to them.,and how ya pulley or gear it....tinker thinker,,could call it a electro magnetic,perpetual energy pulse drive engine..thinking the mags could be done in opposites too,, as in a pull configuration.where they are timed to pull...is it not like liftin a junk car?...mwhaha im of to my laboratory!!! whos gonna be first!!
ytgsp 20 days ago
I once postulated that the temp difference between the dark (minus some 200 degrees) and sunny (scorching) sides of the moon would provide an excellent source of unlimited power via the Stirling engines on a monumental scale. (Same thing for space stations. Behind those solar panels is a shadow area that is near absolute zero. Incredible temp differential.) On earth we have an incredible amount of waste heat extant in the enormous amount of spent nuclear fuel that has to be constantly cooled to prevent environmental harm from heat buildup. Stirling engines should surround every nuke plant to take advantage of that heat source and increase generating capacity by possibly a factor of tens. (Dare I say hundreds?) That heat source is perpetual.
Da Qoraxxx
Da Qoraxxx 20 days ago
Some decades later, people thought the world would be electrically powered by Peltier elements. Even today some people believe Peltier elements are the future to make electric cars more viable by placing them behind solar panels. It's ridiculous. However, these Peltier elements are very useful for recycling exhaust heat of factory chimneys or cooling towers for example.
gadgetsage 21 day ago
WHAT the hell are they saying in those transitions?! It's driving me crazy
Carver Wright
Carver Wright 21 day ago
Could it be powered by liquid nitrogen?!
R Brus
R Brus 21 day ago
Here is a practical use now being tested irl swedishstirling.com/en/
Patrick EH
Patrick EH 17 days ago
R Brus, the best non-nuc sub in the world uses this engine.
j myers
j myers 22 days ago
the problem with stirling engines is that to make any amount of power, you have to go to high pressure gas, close tolerances and very low friction to make them work efficient.
Patrick EH
Patrick EH 17 days ago
Sme with any good engine j meyers. In other words no big fucking deal.
gadgetsage 21 day ago
So use mag lev for a frictionless drag
Randall Slaughter
Randall Slaughter 22 days ago
Well that was annoying.
LookBach 22 days ago
So, if I understand correctly, you could put this in a hot spring in, say, Iceland, where the cold air will keep the top cold and the spring will heat it from below?
AlkalineGamingHD 22 days ago
saw this recommended for weeks and i avoided it because I thught it would be one of those crappy informal videos that just shows off something I already know exists. This was a million times more informative and interesting. Well done
beardo52 23 days ago
In the latter 1800's, the Firm of Sears & Roebuck offered Stirling powered field pumps, that derived their heat energy from a polished Cast Iron solar collector.
Nick Stafford
Nick Stafford 24 days ago
I miss Stirling, Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿
Martijn Roozendaal
Martijn Roozendaal 24 days ago
Also useable in desert areas imho. Just paint the top in this 99% light- and so IR-absorbing coatings. Guaranteed 50°C difference. At night it about freezes there so then it works the otherway around. Food for thought. But then again: there are solar heat farms already there.
Martijn Roozendaal
Martijn Roozendaal 24 days ago
Okay, now I want to build one. Thanks a lot... :-p
Атомный Плей Бой
Stirling Engine is a future. Lunar vehicles and factories will be usins these. Sed We need to wait for 2-3 centuries in order to enter a full space age.
Bearcat Ben
Bearcat Ben 26 days ago
But can It be used for bombs? all good power sources are bombs eventually
TheBlasterGameGuy 22 days ago
What? The fuck are you talking about lad, did you fall off the fucking stairs or something?
John Dove
John Dove 29 days ago
Very interesting and entertaining.
john robert
john robert 29 days ago
Must say I saw these years ago and loved the idea. Powered with heat or cold. Brilliant potential
Palomar Jones
Palomar Jones Month ago
Yeah, electric cars are coal powered, too, and because of that are gross, very, very gross polluters.
David Bump
David Bump Month ago
I wonder if you could design one for hot climates that was very large and had a chamber that went down into the ground, where it would be much cooler than the top at sunny ground level. Sort of like solar energy but it would also run with the residual heat of the air at night!
SupraSmart68 Month ago
So if you made the flywheel with permanent magnets and encased it in or between static coils and added a thermoelectric peltier plate to the top and bottom of the barometric differential chamber powered by the voltage generated by the magnet and coil assembly as it rotates, could you not approach 100% efficiency with the use of superconducting frictionless levitation bearings? Sorry if that's too obvious a question.
Joe Blow
Joe Blow Month ago
This guy reminds me of Brian from "Life of Brian". 👀
Tom BodgeIt
Tom BodgeIt Month ago
Just to be pedantic, I think the two plates will be aluminium as it conduct heat better than steel, whereas the separating rods between hot and cold plates will be stainless steel as it conducts heat much less. Great video!
Frank Blackcrow
Frank Blackcrow Month ago
I like them more when you can run them off cups of tea.. when they tend to cool a bit, you just make another and drink the other. I don't like making my tea with ice.
Sean Seoltoir
Sean Seoltoir Month ago
Any relation to the Stirling Castle? I visited there a few years ago. Nice tour.
Eduardo DLCM
Eduardo DLCM Month ago
Hi, I have a project at my school and I would like to know if you have the plans of this stirling engine?
Free Speech
Free Speech Month ago
good for satellites
Jeff Wulf
Jeff Wulf Month ago
Unless you find a naturally occurring heat source near a naturally occurring cold source, the energy required to create the heat differential is always more than the engine could produce. SO.. yeah.. if you happen to have something hot in your business and you needed a really low powered fan, this could do it.. but it's pointless to create the heat / cold to make this work. Also SCOTT STIRLING!
Lacroix en fonte
Don't need to go to Antarctica... this should be done in Iceland where there are both ice and fire at hand
Bradyn Rhue
Bradyn Rhue Month ago
"quiet" how about those 2 cylinder ringbom stirling engines?
mika Month ago
So after all, a gunpowder engine is possible
sniperammow Month ago
even with a grade 12 understanding in chemistry its unclear how it works, thx for the information :D
mika Month ago
well that would be because it is physics
MarcTeen Ch.
MarcTeen Ch. Month ago
Stirling engine, an engine that is so inefficient that everyone has been avoiding using them for almost 200 years!!
Klaus Brinck
Klaus Brinck 3 days ago
Stirlings are more efficient than the most efficient Diesel, but also 2-4 times the size, that is also their only disadvantage. So, just for stationany use... I think you are extremely clueless, Stirling is the next existing thing to the ideal carnot-engine... Everything is rubish compared to stirling, but unfortunately it has to be big!!!
Austin Bartose
Austin Bartose 5 days ago
MarcTeen Ch. IKR. There’s reasons for why none of the other engine designs made it. They make fancy paperweights, that’s about it
M Wing
M Wing Month ago
How about utilizing a peltier driven by a solar panel? Excellent and complete lesson. Thank you for sharing this information! :O)
Jose Gabriel Egas Ortuño
Thanks for your video! Just a kind comment, that little engine would be producing much less than one watt. I'd give it about 10 milliwatts :)
Ангел Георгиев
Swedish submarines use it.
The last Engineer
It Won't Hurt for Long
HinataSoul Month ago
18:24 100 kilowatts from a stirling engine? 1 kilowatt already requires a stirling engine the size of a combustion engine (that would generate 100 kilowatts).Cooling a combustion engine with a stirling engine would remove more power than it would gain. It would be more efficient to drive a heat pump with any other type of motor than to try to use a stirling engine.
wazza33racer Month ago
the main advantage of the stirling is that it can harness relatively small temperature gradients but still produce motion. That is good if there is a large volume of materials that have a small temperature difference that normally cant power anything. So for example, a big limitation of geo thermal energy is that most parts of the world only have wells that yield hot water, not super heated steam. But a stirling engine could still use a mere 100C temp difference to generate power.
Jarkko Niemi
Jarkko Niemi Month ago
Solar Powered Stirling Engine ruvid.net/video/video-OfSTsPVSMyQ.html
Jarkko Niemi
Jarkko Niemi Month ago
And here is professional system: STIRLING ENGINE European Solar Powered Stirling 10 Kilowatt Generator ruvid.net/video/video-wfDWDqyToBg.html
h7opolo Month ago
I share your vision of roof-mounted stirling engines of northern longitudinal areas.
Richard Cranium
Richard Cranium Month ago
Heat exchange air pressure powered, not very practical.
ironimp1 Month ago
Britain (Herbert Akroyd) also invented the Akroyd Engine before the American Rudolf Diesel.
Aodhan O'Houlihan
Well yes but they are very inefficient compared to diesels, also Diesel was a German born in Paris, not American.
stephen humphries
Oh look a sterling sterling starling from Stirling sitting on a sterling sterling Stirling stirling engine, how stirring!
Darkstar Month ago
Great video... absolutely fascinating and very informative... thank you sir
Auxilium.ǝxǝ Month ago
I wonder how good these things will work in Greenland with the Thermal vents (Greenland geysers) Then that could power the hot plate and the cold of the surrounding atmosphere.
Jeremiah Lewis
Jeremiah Lewis Month ago
An engine powered by ice....bye bye polar icecaps.....
nr1341 Month ago
Ummm aren’t there volcanoes in very cold places? Hot springs? Would this work in boat form contrasting the cold of the water the a blistering sun?
nr1341 Month ago
I shoulda watched the whole video first
z1522 Month ago
Ignorance of the laws (of physics) is no excuse. Essentially, a Stirling engine capitalizes on subtle energy differentials, which makes for great toys, but mostly useless in large applications. Internal combustion uses vastly more concentrated stored energy, carried as fuel and burned in efficient engines. Stirling et al depend on environmental differences that aren't always consistent, or able to dissipate temperature changes that thwart the principle the engine relies on. The submarine application suggests silent trolling motors for fishing boats, other places where a larger, heavier unit providing steady but low-power might be utilitarian. As he describes, best uses where heat energy already created from another process would otherwise have to be managed, instead can be tapped for a purpose, without need for further energy consumption.
daddy7860 Month ago
How efficient is this compared to the Peltier module?
gypsycruiser Month ago
Getting to the point takes forever
Jonny Parker
Jonny Parker Month ago
Would it be possible in a large power station scenario to preserve the optimum efficiency by running arrays of smaller engines rather than one big one? In the same fashion as tesla car batteries are just a large series of smaller units? also would running sterling engines in tandum with turbines work, given that you don't drive turbines off heat per say rather the movement of the steam that the heat causes. Surely they must lose heat as it is in the pipes and such so could efficiency be improved by a more fuller use of the steam?
Daniel Cannata
Daniel Cannata Month ago
Another place you could put a passive engine is on a mountain somewhere in the tropics, or on the equator. High up, where its colder, but you put a black foundation beneath the engine. Maybe a few mirrors around to bring sunlight to the areas of the black underneath the engine. Works only during the day, but could have fairly reasonable or even good efficiency.
gcal Cal
gcal Cal 2 months ago
I feel the presenter is great! As a teenager in Australia I discovered if my school teacher had a passion for which ever subject he was teaching this student, myself included, loved it as well. Then as an adult, now with my own children, I was aghast to realise that success in life or even proficiency in a given field came down to whether she had a teacher who loved what they were teaching! (between the age of 13 -17 I had only 2!). I was mortified!! I realised then that Government funded education in Australia was destined to always pump out mostly illiterate in educated students! Something reported in our media more and more in the last 10years. Think about it! In an era wen class sizes are going up&parents are needing to pay more and more towards something which used to be 100% state funded because even Gvmnts are now forced to cut costs and show as little debt as possible each budget what could be worse?! but a trait that can only be evaluated by another human I.e. whether or not they have a passion4wot they're teaching! Shit, if only they could figure it out in a questionnaire and kick it over to the HR Manage! It's cost only cents. So to my point - if only we had more passionate people like him to teach our youngest. Or great actors who could give the illusion day in and out. If you read ALL of this thank you. 😛
JustMyTake 2 months ago
It is suprising that thermal power stations never appeared to have investigated Stirling engines for the efficiency improverments over steam turbines at least on a large scale.
S. Paschoal Andretta, Jr.
Speak slowly, there are foreigners here!
Snow Man
Snow Man 2 months ago
Can you explain why a stirling engine has to be heavier to be equally as powerful as a diesel?
mafiacat88 Month ago
Not a lot of torque in comparison which is a pretty big downside for cars. Also diesel has enormous amounts of potential energy compared with a heat difference, so there's just more energy to harness, weight for weight.
bigfil1981 2 months ago
"churches don't tend to move around that much."
T. Mitchell
T. Mitchell 2 months ago
Brings me back to good ole Thermo 1. We had to build one of those kits and come up with an experiment to run on it.
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