Diesel engine.
Diesel cycle

History of the Stirling Engine

History of the Stirling engine

The route of the Stirling engine throughout history begins in the early 1800s, in England. The hot air engines competed with the steam engine to provide mechanical power to the industrial machinery (in factories and mines) of the first industrial revolution.

Although steam engines had better characteristics than air machines, the air motor had the advantage of being less dangerous. This was due to the first realizations of steam engines suffered devastating boiler explosions. These explosions were due to the use of materials available at the time that were technologically poor.

This fact allows in a first phase, the success of the Stirling engine in commercial applications. Its use meant an abandonment of the improvement of steam engines.

Influence of Electronics on Stirling Engines

With the development of electronics, the use of the first radio devices and the development of aviation, in 1950 there was a second life of the Stirling engine. The Dutch company Philips, radio producer, built the Philips MP1002CA (called Bungalow Set), a small electric generator based on a Stirling unit that burned oil.

This generator was used for transmitters and receivers located in remote places of power radio, without power supply. It was a generator with a power of approximately 200 watts, for whose realization was then used, cutting-edge technology, even with the use of light alloys. With this, good compromise between practicality and cost was obtained.

The Philips followed the evolution of the Stirling engine until the first half of the 70s. Even Phillips made a bus with a 200 horsepower hot air engine power, in January 1971.

The need for such power generation occurred particularly in power radios (then equipped with thermionic valves for high consumption) necessary for the stable connection in airfields to the civil aviation network in the constitution (in the first phase for the postal service) placed in remote places without equipment.

Later the Stirling engine was abandoned because the amount of electric power it could generate was equivalent to that which could be stored in small batteries.

Later, other Stirling engine applications were made. At the moment they are developed with motors of different sizes, obtaining discreet or good technical successes, and in some cases also commercial for certain niches of market. Among these, the most promising seems to be the use of the Stirling engine as an electric generator combined with a field of concentration mirrors as an ecological heat source.


Published: March 20, 2018
Last review: March 19, 2018