Simple Heat Engines

Drinking Dino Heat Engine

This dinosaur themed heat engine available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Drinking T-rex Desk Toy

Get also: the related Drinking Bird Heat Engine 

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Drinking Dino Heat Engine: So what physics presents did you get this year? I got this Dippy Dino heat engine- where cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb such that the dichloromethane fluid (colored green) rises up the neck making the T-Rex top heavy and the dino tips over dipping its face in the water and letting the fluid return to the bottom bulb. The process repeats as long as the top stays wet. A fun and silly variation on the famous drinking bird physics toy- and the T-Rex was a closely related ancestor to the dinosaurs that live today- birds! 

Pop Pop Boat

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From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Pop-Pop Boat 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Pop-Pop Boats 

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Wikipedia has the details on the physics and history of this little steamboat toy 

Pop-Pop Boat: birthday candle powered, super simple steam engine named after the sound it makes when operating. The engine is just a metal box, heated by the candle, with two pipes coming out of it. Steam builds up pushing water out with an explosive pop- which then creates a vacuum sucking more water in to repeat the process. Patented in 1915 these were very popular in the 1940's.

Vintage Wilesco Steam Engine

Available from these sellers: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Wilesco Model Steam Engines 

Click this link for the: small candle engine

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Wikipedia has a very nice description of the history and inner workings of steam engines 

Vintage Wilesco Steam Engine: a working model reciprocating piston steam engine complete with boiler, flywheel, governor, and whistle. The invention that powered the industrial revolution on a desktop! My father bought this model D16 in 1970- with just a little cleaning and oiling it fired right up. Wilesco has been producing model steam engines since 1960 and still manufactures and sells the D16.


Tea Candle Steam Engine

Get one from these fine sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Tea Candle Steam Engine 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Tea Candle Steam Engine 

Other interesting engines available here: Simple Heat Engines

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Tea Candle Steam Engine: a functional piston steam engine complete with boiler and flywheel. Takes about 2 minutes to get going after the candle is lit. The invention that powered the industrial revolution on a desktop! Made by Wilesco. 

Fire Piston

Get a set here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Fire Piston Demonstration 

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Fire Piston: rapid adiabatic compression creates enough heat to ignite and incinerate a small ball of cotton. Similar physics to how Diesel engines ignite fuel without a sparkplug. Adiabatic processes are those in which heat does not flow from the system to the environment, achieved here by the short duration of the compression- to get a flame it has to be done quickly with some force! 

Vacuum Engine 

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Vacuum Flame Licker Engine

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Flame Eater Engine: also called a vacuum engine- operates by opening a valve during the piston intake stroke to pull in a bit of burning gas from the flame- the valve closes and the trapped hot gas expands pushing the piston. The exhaust stroke then has the gas cool, contract, and get pushed out the same valve right before the process repeats. Slow motion captures the intake of the flame through the valve/mouth at the cylinder head which gives the appearance that flame is being chewed- hence the name. Note this engine design does not need to warm up and starts instantly, but is very inefficient as only a fraction of the burning fuel (alcohol) is used by the thermodynamic process each cycle. 


Tea-Light Floating Engine

Get one from my friends at Grand Illusions! 
From Grand Illusions Ltd.: BUY NOW Floating Steam Engine 

Engines of similar design are used in pop-pop boats 

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Tea-Light Floating Engine: a candle powered super simple steam engine. The engine is just a coil of copper tubing filled with water. Steam builds up pushing water out with an explosive jet- which then results in a vacuum in the coil which pulls more water in to repeat the process. The water expulsion is in the form of jet directed out the end of the tube whereas the refill comes back in to the tube from a larger range of angles- so on balance the engine moves opposite to the direction of the jets. 

Oscilating Cylinder Steam Engine

Get this tiny working engine here: (brass and stainless steel) 

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Tiny Steam Engine

Two other similar mini-engines to consider: BUY NOW: Mini-Steam 1, Mini-Steam 2 

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Oscillating Cylinder Steam Engine: a functional “wobbler” type piston steam engine complete with boiler and flywheel. In this design the cylinder and piston both rock back and forth, acting as the valve mechanism to allow the hot steam to enter through a small hole, and then exit on the next stroke out through the tiny exhaust port in the top. Takes about 4 minutes to get going after the lamp is lit. A tiny version of the invention that powered the industrial revolution.

Stirling Engine

Get this beautiful little engine here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine

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Stirling Engine: a very pretty and fully functional model of the famous external combustion heat engine, powered here by a tiny alcohol lamp (with an almost invisible flame). Heat engines produce mechanical motion from a difference in temperature- here the glass cylinder and piston side is kept at high temperature via the flame (to expand the gas within), and the cool side is the metal cylinder and displacer piston which acts as a heat sink to re-cool (and contract) the gas and then send it back to be heated again each cycle. This module also includes a tiny generator and LED circuit. Swipe to see more detail and watch the engine power up. This closed-cycle regenerative heat engine design is attributed to Scottish engineer Robert Stirling back in 1816.


Einstein's Drinking Bird Toy

Get a  Drinking Bird here:  
From Amazon: BUY NOW Drinking Bird Engine 
From Etsy: BUY NOW: Fancy Drinking Birds

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Wikipedia has wonderful details about the rich history (and further descriptions of the operational principals) of the Drinking Bird

Einstein’s Drinking Bird: this antique drinking bird toy was made in 1946, and this exact version sat on the kitchen table of Albert Einstein where many reports by friends and family told how the famous physicist was greatly amused by it, and that over a period of a few weeks he figured out its hidden operating principles. It turns out that this classic physics toy is a functional heat engine (swipe to see a familiar modern version) where cooling by evaporation at the head/beak leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the pressure in the bottom bulb pushes the dichloromethane fluid (here dyed red) up the neck making the bird top heavy and the bird tips over dipping its beak and letting the fluid return to the bottom bulb. The process repeats, and as long as the top bulb stays wet and cooler than the bottom this heat engine will continue to cycle. 

Stirling Engine

Get this very nice working model engine here, choose a configuration:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine 
From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine with Generator
From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine Simple Vehicle  

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Stirling Engine: an elegant model of an external combustion heat engine with dual reciprocating pistons which operates by cyclic compression and expansion of air. Heat one cylinder with the cute little alcohol burner and this model gets up to speed quickly. Pyrex glass allows one to view the hot cylinder in operation (shown here in slow motion) and this version of the model includes a small generator to convert some of the mechanical energy into electrical energy which then powers some LED lamps. This design is attributed to Scottish engineer Robert Stirling back in 1816- a working piece of the industrial revolution for your desk top!

 


Thermobile: Nitinol Loop Engine

Get this amazing heat engine here: 
From EngineDIY: BUY NOWNitinol Loop Heat Engine

Get a sample of Nitinol wire here:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Nitinol Memory Wire Spring 

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Thermobile: Nitinol wire loop heat engine- the memory wire forcibly straightens out when heated (contact with heat conducting smaller wheel) causing the wheels to spin and providing mechanical kinetic energy from a cup of warm tea water. Nitinol wire is a special alloy of nickel and titanium that can be trained to a specific shape at high temperature- bend it up at room temperature and it will snap back into shape when exposed to moderate heat such as hot water. This remarkable property is a type of solid state reversible phase transition known as a martensitic transformation. 

Simple Stirling Engine

Get this amazing model engine here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Simple Stilring Engine

See other featured DYI devices here: EngineDIY Models

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Simple Stirling Engine: Perhaps the simplest piston engine ever devised- a single piston powered by a tiny alcohol lamp. Glass components allow a view of the internal workings of this design, and the interesting startup behavior from oscillation to full rotation. Heat engines produce mechanical motion from a difference in temperature- here the piston side is near room temperature (the central aluminum post is an excellent conductor and acts as a heat sink as the gas flows through), and the test tube is kept at high temperature via the flame, with metal fibers to help conduct the heat into the air (this component is called the regenerator). Swipe to see the elegant assembly of this model, and swipe again to see the engine power down. This external combustion design is attributed to Scottish engineer Robert Stirling back in 1816.

Bimetal Seesaw Engine

Available in limited supplies here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Candle See-Saw 

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Bimetal Seesaw Engine: candle powered heat engine. A coiled bimetal strip, like that found in a thermostat, uncoils when heated by the flame while moving a counterweight that shifts the center of mass to the left and takes the coil out of the flame. The coil then cools returning the counterweight to the right which places the coil back over the flame- and the process repeats until the candle burns out. Any device that converts heat energy into mechanical motion is called a heat engine- like the very simple one here.


Curie Point Heat Engine

This DIY project is pretty easy to build. One half of one of these inexpensive magnetic necklace clasps will work well for the heated magnet. 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: magnets for curie point engine

A full engine is available from my friends at Grand Illusions Ltd: 
From GI LTD: BUY NOW: Curie Engine 

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Curie Point Heat Engine: when the magnet on the end of the wire heats up to a particular temperature (the Curie point) its magnetic field is temporarily lost until it cools. This engine design uses a second magnet to pull the swinging magnet back into the heat source once the magnetic field is reestablished. Repetition of this process creates mechanical motion as long as the heat source is fueled.

Stirling Engine

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From Amazon: BUY NOW Low Temp Stirling Engine 
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Stirling Engine: low temperature difference engine turns a fraction of the heat of hot tap water into mechanical motion. For this engine the heat source is the hot tap water, and the heat sink is the room temperature air. Really nice model and super inexpensive for a display engine of this type.

Mini-Drinking Bird Heat Engine

Small and large drinking birds available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Mini-Drinking Bird Heat Engine

See more drinking birds in my collection

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Mini-Drinking Bird Heat Engine: this hummingbird sized heat engine is the latest species added to my drinking bird collection. This little guy comes with the traditional top hat and his own plastic goblet- which is the perfect height for a standard drinking bird to share. Cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the pressure in the bottom bulb pushes the dichloromethane fluid up the neck making the bird top heavy and the bird tips over dipping its beak and letting the fluid return to the bottom bulb. The process repeats, and as long as the top stays wet and cooler than the bottom this heat engine will continue to cycle.