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




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Comments 4 846
S. Paschoal Andretta, Jr.
Speak slowly, there are foreigners here!
Snow Man
Snow Man 17 hours ago
Can you explain why a stirling engine has to be heavier to be equally as powerful as a diesel?
bigfil1981 Day ago
"churches don't tend to move around that much."
T. Mitchell
T. Mitchell Day 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.
Earle Frost
Earle Frost 2 days ago
Heat is work and work is heat?? Not a Sterling idea, lol.
Dirty Blond
Dirty Blond 2 days ago
If that engine ran 24 hours a day, for the remainder of your life, it would not be able to produce the amount of energy that was originally required to produce the engine itself... Neat party trick though.
thebentley71 3 days ago
This would be great in factories were the climate is very cold outside most of the year like Canada & say the tip of south America or even antartica. You could place the cold outside or botton side outside exposing it to the extreme cold & the topside inside the heated factory where the two temperatures are extremely opposite. I'm sure it would really create energy then.
AMCKenA 3 days ago
"Power of the future' for 200 years now? ;)
I Energy Supply
I Energy Supply 3 days ago
Tesla Turbine can do the same thing except it can be tiny.
J. Williams
J. Williams 4 days ago
Two notes: 1) most internal combustion engines require a power input to start - starter on your car or pull rope on your lawn mower. 2) Stirling engines in ships - www.stirlingengines.org.uk/boats/index.html
Chris Edmister
Chris Edmister 6 days ago
On a bigger scale with the bottom 5 feet in the ground and the top outside the ground at the equator this would be very efficiant
Timothy Honeycutt
2 things: high pressure system for the stirling engine and solar power
5th Columnist
5th Columnist 9 days ago
5:01 I think you mean that a Stirling Engine's power to weight ratio is shite......
Christopher Lawley
Guest visit from Ivor the Engine (sound only, sadly)
Steve Looney
Steve Looney 9 days ago
I have seen these engines being sold for heat stoves to run circulation fans. just set them on top of the stove and they push air through the room.
Dogs Sing
Dogs Sing 10 days ago
Lol intro
Echo Outdoors
Echo Outdoors 10 days ago
stirling engines covering the boiler of a steamer chugging through the arctic
Jay Dub
Jay Dub 12 days ago
I really enjoyed this video. Great explanation and great humour. Good job, sir!
Sverre Munthe
Sverre Munthe 12 days ago
I wonder. Norway has a small island called Jan Mayen, just north of Iceland, on the North Atlantic ridge. On that island there’s a hill called Eggøya where the temperature is around 90˚C, right below the surface. The average yearly temperature of the island is close to zero, not very warm in the summers, but not very cold in the winters. Wouldn’t that be the absolutely perfect place for such engines? Well, it wouldn’t be cheap to transport the electricity anywhere, but I bet Google and the others could get 100% of their power for free. 😊
agylub 12 days ago
Lindybeige. The missing Python
Tommy enoch robinson aka pete mw6zan
Pg tips would give it a 50% energy boost, nice upload I have learned something I didn't know today interesting entertaining and enlightening as well.😊
Keith Noneya
Keith Noneya 12 days ago
Saying that; "Stirling engine - the power of the future", is worse than saying that a Briggs & Stratton is the power of the future. Stirling engines at this time and technology nothing more than a novelty or a heat fan for wood stoves. It's a real shame as if they could be made more practical they would be a great help to everyone. Thanks for sharing. Best Wishes & Blessings. Keith Noneya
mårten Sundling
mårten Sundling 11 days ago
well if they can power a submarine, they might be able to power more things wouldn you think?
Benjamin Haase
Benjamin Haase 13 days ago
These engines could be powered very eficciently with electric energy. Could be handy someday
datdabdoe 11 days ago
thats a bit counter active, usually the point of an Engine is to, MAKE electricity. and these these Cant move fast enough in a portable form to make a Vehicle out of them
James Carter
James Carter 14 days ago
Maybe you could weld heat pipes to the top that goes to an array of fins like a computer heatsink. The center of the flywheel could be given fan blades, and pointed at the fin array.
Jonathan Neufeld
Jonathan Neufeld 15 days ago
These are good but Lindsey Stirling Engines will save the world.
RuralTowner 16 days ago
Saw a video on here somewhere with 3 sterlings shaging a common crank shaft. Was powered on the hot end by candles. The thing attained some pretty high revs
James Younger
James Younger 16 days ago
< came wondering what a sterling engine was.... thought it was a car that runs on foul beer..
Rick Feith
Rick Feith 17 days ago
You sir are a mad genius...in the best way
Gamer007 17 days ago
What if this engine was used as form of a battery instead? Lots of possibilities.
Burger man
Burger man 17 days ago
Could this work on the moon because the sunlight would be super hot and the shade would be super cold?
Nacho 17 days ago
Not really. You have to have a medium to cool the cold plate. There is no air on the moon, so you have to radiate heat via infra red radiation and thats very inefficient.
marccas10 17 days ago
Couldn't these be floated on rivers or lakes or the ocean. Then at the top it could have a directional lense to focus the sun's energy on to the top plate?
Ramen V
Ramen V 17 days ago
In a large scale, that can change the temperature enough to destroy a local ecosystem.
randolph torres
randolph torres 17 days ago
If you think Stirling cycle is anything but a novel toy you are absolutely bonkers. The flame lickers are more powerful. The vacuum engine is more powerful. It’s cute and extremely fascinating and fun to build one and that is its limit.
Stanley Tolle
Stanley Tolle 18 days ago
Looks like a place for some heat pipe.
River Yang
River Yang 18 days ago
How efficient are these compared to solar panels? Ie I stick one in my backyard.
EnraEnerato 18 days ago
Doesn't NASA develop a nuclear reactor for possible rover use, but rather for Mars explorations which uses the decay heat in combination with the temperature of the mars atmosphere?
Bob the Hat King
Bob the Hat King 19 days ago
Great explanation, love your enthusiasm too!
kid3221 19 days ago
Could this be used in the desert by heating a plate during the day and let the colder night air cool the other plate
Fuseteam 19 days ago
18:05 so it's an external combustion engine :p makes me wonder if these can be used for cooling electronics hmmmm
Fuseteam 15 days ago
+denbecr49 true guess i shouldn't have directly translated from dutch :p
denbecr49 15 days ago
+Fuseteam 'undercooled', I just discovered, is synonymous with 'supercooled', which is the term I was taught. It does seem it might be an advantage, if employing a liquid, except from what I recall, it is a bit difficult to achieve and a fragile state to maintain in contact with even the slightly warmer and vibrating surface of a Stirling engine.
Fuseteam 15 days ago
+denbecr49 afaik "undercooled" is term used when its cooled below its freezing point without actually freezing that said i suppose gasses don't freeze, they either condense or subimate.....
denbecr49 16 days ago
+Fuseteam "undercooled" gas? Seems like there would be a greater temp difference between combustion and overcooled gas, if that's any more real than undercooled gas. Over or under by what standard?
Fuseteam 16 days ago
+denbecr49 i have a feeling you can get a bigger if not the biggest temp difference out of it with combustion and some undercooled gas, but that's just me
Romel mascariñas
Romel mascariñas 19 days ago
So basically this is the mechanical version of the peltier element.
JamesK89 19 days ago
You have very distinct character and are so interesting to listen to. That being said you remind me very much of John Cleese.
Jeff Parry
Jeff Parry 19 days ago
Kenny Everett LIVES HAARAY!!
Christina Thompson
Christina Thompson 20 days ago
fortunatly for us all it was not sterlings cousin dougal whom invented the engine because it would then not be the sterling engine but the dougal weel ,which doesn't have the ring , and as dougal was inhebriated most of his life ....less efficient
cmilkau 20 days ago
Could this be made more compact using (much) higher pressures and temperature gradients? I'm assuming the ambient air is replaced by a third reservoir. You could probably also combine two of those heating/cooling chambers, connecting each chamber to the opposite side of the driving cylinder.
Robert Chaffee
Robert Chaffee 20 days ago
Why are these not incorporated into refrigerator /freezers to power them?
James Burke
James Burke 19 days ago
It sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately perptual motion machines are not possible.
Muhammad Schuitema
It could work at the equator. Plop the bottom in a lake and paint the top black you,d get a heavy temp difference.
Per M.
Per M. 6 days ago
northrupthebandgeek | not really sure about that.. isn’t sand relatively good at insulating? I’d imagine the area below the engine would just heat up and - almost - equalize the temperature after a short while.
That'd be a useful way to get these working reasonably-well in a hot desert, too. Dig the "cold end" deep underground (where it's cooler) and fill that underground reservoir with water, and maximize the amount of heat on the hot end.
@4mins I glazed over. Sorry not enough headspace for this one. Very interesting if I had more time.
Tanner Spellman
Tanner Spellman 21 day ago
The turning mechanism seems to work the same as a piston in a car engine.
Bob Adkins
Bob Adkins 21 day ago
No. Stirling engines are not the power of the future. Simply too weak and finicky. To get decent power, one would have to be huge and expensive.
Nuclear Trinity
Nuclear Trinity 19 days ago
ruvid.net/video/video-57_P0Sr2o2g.html Somebody made a Stirling engine that produces a practical amount of power. It can be done
Jason Blanton
Jason Blanton 22 days ago
Wow ,you could make an small engine that is powered with dry ice and a few handwarmers lol , would be neat at the very least ..
Richard Reddering
Richard Reddering 24 days ago
no... it's an old and useless gadget
David Kidd
David Kidd 25 days ago
"Heat Transfer is the queen if sciences" 1. the greater is a surface area is, the quicker is the heat transfer." - My model engine had metal fins around the cylinder to increase its heat absorbing area, like my motorbike engine had fins to cool it best. 2. "The greater is the differences in temperature between the two ends, the more powerful it runs." - Mine work best with the hot end almost glowing in the flame of a gas torch and the cold end under running water. If the metal cylinder walls, had, between the two ends, a non-conductive ring, like a gasket, it would have prevented loss differencing due to heat transfer.
Mogumbo Gono
Mogumbo Gono 3 days ago
Heat transfer explains everything in science. No exceptions. The Universe works by heat transfer.
BruceTechnicaLee 27 days ago
Come on, there is no "Coldness", there is just the lack of energy...
cristopher wong
cristopher wong 27 days ago
It's great for sewing cloth
Frank Blackcrow
Frank Blackcrow 28 days ago
I have seen them as created into a solar powered generator that uses the focus of the sun to run them. ruvid.net/video/video-ekSS8C_vvSs.html That NASA made a Van and Utility as their engine and could run on a lot of different burnable fuels. ruvid.net/video/video-KbnGlcQiL1c.html
DAEDALOS 513 29 days ago
Viable candidate for the next 'Dr Who'
DAEDALOS 513 29 days ago
So steam punk
DeadKoby 29 days ago
Well done. Stirling engines aren't free energy, but they can be used to re-purpose waste energy.
Mirkwood Forest
Mirkwood Forest Month ago
Great video, I had to make one out of scratch in my 3rd year and it was a lot harder than I thought it would be when we were given the assignment. I just wanted to say that at 16:44 you can leave out ‘alternative’...in my opinion.
randolph torres
randolph torres Month ago
It’s an interesting toy but little future potential. But steam on the other hand should be revisited and has a great potential in our future with proper investigative research and development.
Adam Sanders
Adam Sanders Month ago
2 and a bit years late, but: Stirling's Sterling Sterling Silver Stirling Engine!
Rusty yB
Rusty yB Month ago
Certainly should be the power source implemented at spent nuclear fuel storage sites. The typical cask at one of these sites emits 50KW initially and 25KW after a decade. Those casks are absolutely stellar thermal sources for the "Stirling Engines"! Fukushima Daiichi equipped with enough "Stirling Engine" generators wouldn't have needed a backup diesel generator system in a swimming pool or batteries for backup-power :)
Megaton Month ago
DWade Daniel
DWade Daniel Month ago
I want one!
Claymore77 Month ago
This shit has been around for over 200 years people...it's not the "power of the future". There are reasons why you don't see them in use except for in very specific, niche applications.
Leo Schultz
Leo Schultz Month ago
Blathering stops at 7:10. Starts again at 8:40.
btfofffice Month ago
In cold climates (snow) could you use a Stirling Engine to power a refrigerator compressor
Farweasel Month ago
Lindy could be bit mistaken about this Churches not moving bit....... According to legend, the Parish Church at Leyland in Lancashire was supposed to be built at Lostock Hall a few miles down the road .... but ... Enter The *Boggart Cat*, which came along one dark night and moved all the stone blocks from Lozzie to a site at Leyland. People were annoyed. And puzzled. 'WTF has all that stone gone'? Said the stone masons at Lostock Hall. Followed somewhat later by 'Where's all this bloody stone come from', by folk at Leyland (Those being the sort of thing people said in the Medieval Middle Ages). Naturally they hauled it all back. And once they had it all back at Lozie, and having said 'Well that were a reet rum do and no mistake' and suchlike, said. 'An' we don want to be furtlin abaht doin that again neither'. And put a watchman or two to keep an eye on it 'I' case some bloke wi a Dog Cart or summat comes and shifts (several thousnd ton of stone) again the neet'. ... but ... In't middle o' neet back come *t' Boggart Cat*! And moved all the stone back again to the site at Leyland, where the Parish Church was then built. Because having seen the Boggart Cat no one was inclined to argue with it. And still today, you can look up the Church tower, and in the ring a couple of metres or so below the top (if a square's a ring) there's a ridge of stone running around the outside. And on one of the blocks is a carving of *the Boggart Cat* and on the one next to it is a carving of *something else* (but I've forgotton what that one is). And let's be honest, you don't go carving carvings of *t' Boggart Cat* on side of thy Chuch fer nowt. So it must be true.
Captain Clarky
Captain Clarky Month ago
If you buried the chamber in the cool earth, perhaps the heat of the sun could make a big enough temperature gradient. I can imagine this working on a household level in Australia
Nick Rudd
Nick Rudd Month ago
Id like to run my woodlathe off one but id need a huge flywheel to make the hp.
Cristero Warrior
Just go north and drill a hole in the ground
Bill Moody
Bill Moody Month ago
Odd thought... Space, where the temperature differential can be a matter of the side turned toward the sun, and the side in the shade....
Robbie Taylor
Robbie Taylor Month ago
You need an atmosphere to expand and contract for a Stirling engine to work. You could definitely make a closed cycle Stirling engine, but you also have to consider the weight of the engine, and the cost of putting it in space, and would it be cheaper or more efficient than regular solar panels (It won't).
Dylan O'Dell
Dylan O'Dell Month ago
Get to the damn fucking point you limey chav
silly cone
silly cone Month ago
In 6:10 it is running on sun energy, processed by a human
Muhammed M
Muhammed M Month ago
Is the chamber is insulated from outside?
Andres Month ago
But if you use this engines only to start the car, and not to power it, it can function...how you may say, it's very simple, you only have to set up two energy generators in the drive wheels, so they start moving with the stirling engine but after a few minutes the wheels generate their own energy! and when the car is moving very slowly the stirling engine starts to function again!
Andres Month ago
and the cars won't pollute because you can heat the stirling engines with the electric energy of the car's batteries, because light generates also heat! and if you don't want to spend the energy of the batteries you can also heat them with solar energy, or with the energy produced by the movement of the wheels!!!
Jan Magnus
Jan Magnus Month ago
Almost every home have a freezer and a hot water tank (they run constantly...?). How about making them combined with a stirling engine? It could power up a household battery or a grid of some sort? Just a theory...
DJ Ish
DJ Ish Month ago
what does not being able to turn all heat into work mean.
Kevin Lafayette
Kevin Lafayette Month ago
Been watching for 4 minutes, and he has yet to say "Carnot cycle".
Malcolm Wood
Malcolm Wood Month ago
I was going to make one of these to charge the battery on my boat. The sun would of heated the top dome & the river water would of kept the lower part cool.
ymisofly G
ymisofly G Month ago
These are cool engines, but pretty useless as the amount of torque produced is minimal... if u could stop the wheel with a finger, goes to show how little it would take to stop this from doing anything connected to it via a belt or such... would have to be a HUGE setup to gain minimal power... but good idea for things that use minimal force.. like a small fan...
scotia 3d
scotia 3d Month ago
lol trust a manipulative saxon
velvetpaws999 Month ago
Cold is not something that lacks energy! That’s some unscientific bullock if I ever heard any!
My Secret Account
By definition, cold is lack of heat, which is a type of energy.
Nigel Turner
Nigel Turner Month ago
Tunay Na Amo
Tunay Na Amo Month ago
You talk too much like a woman or a chicken hen. Thinking you're entertaining, but you're not. You should talk straight to the point and stop wasting viewer's time.
PennyAfNorberg Month ago
Quite like but not exactly www.clasohlson.com/se/Kaminfl%C3%A4kt-med-2-blad/40-9836-1
Milan Trkulja
Milan Trkulja Month ago
Hmm global warming, whoopsie.
Robert Klein
Robert Klein Month ago
Nice demonstration. The Lava Lamp, by the way, works on the same principle.
Mr Brightside
Mr Brightside 18 days ago
+Robert Klein 1, I am not American so I don't have any interest in American politics. Maybe you didn't realise that the population of the USA is under 5% of the population of the world so it is not a good idea to assume that everyone you encounter is from the USA. 2, I guess you are referring to heating a fluid causing expansion. The thing is that a Stirling engine turns this into rotary motion by the expanding fluid (gas) being confined in a cylinder. The piston in the cyljnder is connected to the flywheel via a rod. The fluid in a lava lamp (liquid) rises because it expands and gets lighter. This is a totally different physical mechanism. The motion in a Stirling engine is caused by pressure differential, in the lava lamp there is no pressure differential only relative density differences. You can wear whatever hat you like it won't make any difference to your understanding of physics.
Robert Klein
Robert Klein 19 days ago
​+Mr Brightside Right, you haven't, and it won't be worthwhile my time to explain to you why the two phenomena are the same. You go put your MAGA hat on.
Mr Brightside
Mr Brightside 19 days ago
Never seen a lava lamp turn heat into the motion of a flywheel....
Tim Noble
Tim Noble Month ago
In Britain, we can already sell electricity back to the power companies, which is generated by solar panels on the roof of our house. It is fairly cold in the winter, and the exhaust from our home heating systems is hot. Doesn't take a genius to work out that we could use this temperature differential to generate electricity that we could sell, which would cut our energy bills. I am going to look into the practicalities. Lower bills for me, using the waste heat from fossil fuels to generate electricity, meaning that less fossil fuels need to be burnt overall. I win and the planet wins. You have to love that. PS Lindybeige looks exactly like my Dad. Spooky.
Nebbia affaraccimiei
not powerful enough to generate meaningful electricity
Thethomafisk Month ago
These would (theoretically) be great in a hot climate, leave the top plate exposed to the sun and have the bottom plate buried far enough under ground to have a wide gap in the temperature range.
Ilaria Alexyos
Ilaria Alexyos Month ago
Un motore stirling sul fondo dell'oceano, che sfrutta una sorgente idrotermale come punto caldo e l'acqua a zero gradi circostante come punto freddo!
John Amy
John Amy Month ago
Better explanations available on you tube.
ŠP Month ago
Aaaahhh .... Stirlingpunk you say?!
Scorch mark
Scorch mark 2 months ago
They are using sterling engines in nuclear powered spacecraft now, well, designing and testing probes that use them. It’s so compact and brilliant and efficient on the exact scale needed for these things.
Chris Davies
Chris Davies 2 months ago
NASA is even thinking about using Stirling engines on a massive Radioisotope Thermal Generator for a Martian outpost, instead of Peltier devices. I have no idea how much plutonium you'd need for that, but it seems to me like a small nuclear reactor is safer and more useful.
Ian Rivlin
Ian Rivlin 2 months ago
Quick couple of questions:- Don't the displacer's top and bottom surfaces finally reach equilibrium and end up at the same temperature? - ie reducing its insulating function? Shouldn't this setup include a fan to blow air across the cool surface (assuming it's the bottom that's heated). That would increase the cooling of the top area, thereby increasing the temperature differential and improving efficiency?
Paul Brown
Paul Brown 2 months ago
There is a product currently being marketed on Amazon using this concept. It is a fan designed to use on top of a wood burning stove to help circulate the air heated by the stove without using electricity.
Howard King
Howard King 2 months ago
This guy is fun to watch. He's zany as well as intelligent and also instructive (as long as he leaves out his politics). I love his weapon videos.
Howard King
Howard King 2 months ago
Is it possible to make a multi-cylinder Sterling? What would be the advantages, if any, and the disadvantages? At higher speeds, it might run smoother. Of course, the power would still be a function of the heat differential.
Howard King
Howard King 2 months ago
The submarine application is Interesting. In a science fiction scenario, you could run a Sterling on the heat differential between the sun's heat and the super-cold environment of space, couldn't you? It would cost a fortune to get it up there; but it would not need fuel, and it could put out an enormous amount of power.
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