History of the Stirling engine


Robert Stirling

Invention of Stirling engine

@ Stirling engine was invented in 1816 by Robert Stirling who is Scotch clergyman closed cycle external combustion engine. It is more safe than a steam engine, as an explosion doesn't occur almost. Moreover, it attracted attention as the engine having the heat exchanger which recover wasted heat. It remain be recognized that its style locating the power piston and the displacer piston in same cylinder in order to obtain high compression ratio is good design now .

Blooming and declining in the 19th century

@ An bloom of Stirling engine production was brought by J. Ericsson, a Swedish inventor and engineer. He succeeded in manufacturing a practical Stirling engine and sold nearly 2000 engines of the 0.5 ~ 5 horsepower class by around 1850 in Great Britain and America. After that, many Stirling engines were made aiming at higher output and higher efficiency. However the capacity of Stirling engines in those days was inferior compared with Otto engines ( the current gasoline engine ) and diesel engines. Therefore, Stirling engines was produced poorly in a range of low outputs and have gradually been hidden in the shadow of the internal combustion engines.

Revival of the Stirling engine

The Stirling engine had attracted attention again around 1940, after Philips co. had started to develop the Stirling as a portable electric power generator. At the same time, the Stirling engine was being researched as a refrigerator. It succeeded in that it cools even 74 K. However, the transistor that needed only a small ammount of power was invented and batteries become the perferred source of power, and thus the Stirling portable generator was not made practicable as a power source.

Stirling engines of present

After that, the Stirling engine was widely researched on in Europe and North America, a policy of energy savings greatly enhanced it's development. On the other hand, research of Stirling engines in Japan was started about 20 years behind Europe and North America. After that, development of a general-purpose Stirling engine started in a 6 years plan since 1982 as a part of "Moonlight plan" of the Ministry of International Trade and the Industry. Various highly-effective engines were developed during that 6 years plan. At present, solar heat powered Stirling engines, terrestrial heat powered Stirling engines, Stirling engines for ship use, air conditioning Stirling systems, and development of Stirling refrigerators are actively being developed by people around the world. In the near future, we will be able to see various Stirling engines of low noise, long life span, reliability, multi-fuel operation, clean-exhaust, and so on.

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