Simple Heat Engines

Simple Stirling Engine

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Simple Stilring Engine

See other featured DYI devices here: EngineDIY Models

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.

Vintage Wilesco Steam Engine

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

Often available on eBay: BUY NOW: Wilesco D16 Engine


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.

Bimetal Seesaw Engine

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

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.


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 

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

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From Amazon: BUY NOW Low Temp Stirling Engine 
From eBay: BUY NOW Stirling Engines 

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.

Drinking Bird Heat Engine

Get this famous physics toy from these sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW 
Drinking Bird Engine 

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Drinking Bird Engine 


Wikipedia has wonderful details about the rich history (and further descriptions of the operational principals) of the Drinking Bird
Drinking Bird Heat Engine: time lapse of 15 minutes into 15 seconds (4 cycles). Cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the dichloromethane fluid rises 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 time lapse allows a clearer picture of how the fluid rises, shifting the center of mass, and how tipping makes the glass column lift out of the fluid in the bottom allowing the pressure to equalize and letting gravity pull the fluid to return to the base. Process repeats as long as the top stays wet. So much physics in one hypnotic toy!


Precision Stirling Engine

The Kontax KS90 Stirling Engine is guaranteed to run off the heat of your hand! 

From eBay: BUY NOW: Kontax KS90 Engine

Less expensive models will run off the heat from a cup of coffee/tea:

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine

Precision Stirling Engine: low temperature difference engine turns body heat into mechanical motion. For this engine the heat source is my hand, and the heat sink is the room temperature air- warming the bottom black plate with only the heat of my hand will set this engine running for several minutes. This beautiful KS90 engine is manufactured with precision machined parts by Kontax Engineering Ltd.

 

Bimetal Seesaw Engine

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

Bimetal Seesaw Engine: candle powered heat engine- with bears! 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.

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

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.


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 

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. 

Turbine Convection Color Candle

Available here: 
From MOMA: BUY NOW Convection Color Candle 

Turbine Convection Color Candle: a simple heat engine by designer Achille Castiglioni- rotational motion resulting from the convection of hot air due to the candle flame of a tea light. All moving parts of thin stainless steel with semitransparent colored panels. Energy transfer: chemical bonds to heat to kinetic energy of the rising air to rotational kinetic energy of the turbine. 

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 

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.


Thermobile: Nitinol Engine

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From Amazon: BUY NOWNitinol Loop Heat Engine

Thermobile: Nitinol wire loop heat engine- the memory wire straightens out when heated (contact with heat conducting brass wheel) causing the wheels to spin, providing mechanical kinetic energy from a cup of warm tea water. Swipe for a demonstration of Nitinol wire, 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 tea water. This remarkable property is a type of solid state reversible phase transition known as a martensitic transformation. 

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

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. 

Pop Pop Boat

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

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.


Rocking Stork Drinking Bird

This artisitic version of the Drinking Bird available here:
From drinkingbird.eu: BUY NOW: Rocking Stork

Get a standard Drinking Bird from these sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW 
Drinking Bird Engine 

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Drinking Bird Engine 


Wikipedia has wonderful details about the rich history (and further descriptions of the operational principals) of the Drinking Bird
Rocking Stork: this species of drinking bird toy comes from the Czech Republic where each is crafted in blown glass by an artisan. This classic physics toy is a functional heat engine- 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.

Hero's Engine

This live steam engine is available here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Hero's Engine

Hero’s Engine: the very first steam engine ever devised, the Aeolipile is a radial steam jet reaction turbine, an a invention attributed to Hero of Alexandria in the year 1 AD. Water within the spherical container is heated to produce steam which exits through nozzles directed at right angles to the radial direction, and by Newton’s third law these jets produce a torque about the rotation axis. There is no historical record of this engine being put to practical use in ancient times- except perhaps as the world’s first physics toy!

Galileo Thermometer

Many versions to choose from- get one here!

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Galileo Thermometer

Galilean Thermometer: time lapse- 60 minutes condensed to 30 seconds. One of my favorite physics toys, but challenging to make into any kind of interesting video. Here a change of about 14 degrees F is shown as the device cools down and the bulbs rise. I filmed the process three times each with somewhat different intermediate states. This thermometer works on Archimedes' principle of buoyancy- as the the water in the column cools down its density increases and objects (glass bulbs) with less mean density begin to rise. The bulbs are calibrated into 2 degree F increments from 70 F to 82 F.