A Stirling engine is a heat engine that operates by cyclic compression and expansion of air or other gases at different temperatures, such that there is a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work. Originally conceived in 1816 as an industrial prime mover to rival the steam engine, its practical use was largely confined to low-power domestic applications for over a century. Stirling engines have a high efficiency compared to steam engines, being able to reach 50% efficiency. They are also capable of quiet operation and can use almost any heat source. The heat energy source is generated external to the Stirling engine rather than by internal combustion as with the Otto cycle or Diesel cycle engines. Because the Stirling engine is compatible with alternative and renewable energy sources it could become increasingly significant as the price of conventional fuels rises, and also in light of concerns such as depletion of oil supplies and climate change.
This fully functional stirling engine model operates solely from the power provided by the heat of the surface on which it is placed. The model is designed with coffee cups in mind; place it on top of the rim when the mug is full of piping-hot liquid and the heat from the steam given off by the liquid will power the engine, causing the wheel to move faster or slower depending on the temperature of the steam. However, you can also place the engine on a hot plate, or over a burning candle flame, and acheive the same effect. The design is simple, but effective and elegant, and the unit comes pre-constructed so you can enjoy it right away. Makes for a great quirky corporate present, or a gift for a favorite physics teacher, graduate student, or enthusiast.
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