Sidetracked into playing with my Stirling Engine model

Posted By on November 17, 2018

BenSkinner_MusicMan_March2000Last week while clearing off our bookshelves I came across a ticket to The Music Man from 18 years ago when my nephew Ben played the lead in his high school musical. It occurred to me that his birthday was this month and that I should post it to his Facebook page while sending him a “Happy Birthday” greeting. My sister-in-law replied back that she would love to have the ticket, but it was stuck firmly to the shelf?

What to do, what to do? A: Try steam???

Oh, that was that easy … well, nope … once again a distraction sidetracked me as I ended up opening a box that had my old Stirling Engine model and remembered that the small gasket was why it stopped working and that I was going to fabricate a new one out of a latex glove … which like all of us with “too much brain (cough, cough) … proceeded to spend the rest of the evening tinkering and testing the new gasket and deteriorating rubber connectors on the model engine.

I did end up getting the ticket steamed off the bookshelf for my sister-in-law Chris. Now to remember to give it to her!

Invented by Robert Stirling in 1816, the Stirling engine has the potential to be much more efficient than a gasoline or diesel engine. But today, Stirling engines are used only in some very specialized applications, like in submarines or auxiliary power generators for yachts, where quiet operation is important. Although there hasn't been a successful mass-market application for the Stirling engine, some very high-power inventors are working on it.

A Stirling engine uses the Stirling cycle,­ which is unlike the cycles used in internal-combustion engines.

The gasses used inside a Stirling engine never leave the engine. There are no exhaust valves that vent high-pressure gasses, as in a gasoline or diesel engine, and there are no explosions taking place. Because of this, Stirling engines are very quiet.

The Stirling cycle uses an external heat source, which could be anything from gasoline to solar energy to the heat produced by decaying plants. No combustion takes place inside the cylinders of the engine.

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Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.