Simple Heat Engines

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

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

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.

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

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

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.

 

Horizontal Hand Boiler

This device available here:

From Edicational Innovations: BUY NOW: Horizontal Hand Boiler

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Horizontal Hand Boiler: liquid-gas phase transition. The boiling point of dichloromethane is slightly below body temperature and heat from a hand will induce vaporization of the liquid which increases pressure in one bulb pushing the red (dyed) liquid through the glass pipe to the other bulb. The process can repeat by switching the hand to the other side, but as both sides heat up the transfer is less vigorous. An inexpensive toy demonstrating phase changes and other thermodynamic physics. 


Drinking Bird Engine Experiment

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

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

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

Drinking Bird Engine Experiment: what happens if you feed a drinking bird alcohol? This experiment compares the drinking rate (time per one full engine cycle) of two identical bird devices- but the glass on the left is filled with 70% isopropyl alcohol whereas the glass on the right contains tap water. After wetting the tops of both birds we count how many times each one “takes a drink” over a 5 minute duration (shown at x6 speed). This classic physics toy is a functional heat engine where cooling by evaporation at the head/beak provides the operating temperature difference. Isopropyl alcohol has a more rapid evaporation rate than water for room temperature and low humidity- so which bird will win? 

Bouillant de Franklin (Hand Boiler)

A variety of shapes and colors are available 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW: Hand Boilers 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Hand Boilers 

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Bouillant de Franklin (Hand Boiler): reversible liquid-gas phase transition device made famous by Benjamin Franklin who was one of the first to describe the physics of its operation. The boiling point of dichloromethane is slightly below body temperature - heat from a hand increases pressure in the bottom bulb pushing the green (dyed) liquid through the glass pipe to the top. A vintage handmade version from France.

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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 here:  
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Drinking Bird Engine 

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

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.

Double Radiometer

Single fly radiometers available from these sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Radiometer  (with disk shaped vanes)

A wide variety available here, including some nice blown glass displays: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Radiometers 

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Double Radiometer: a rare version of this classic physics toy with two rotators enclosed in the same partial vacuum chamber. Light heats up the vanes which then heat up the very thin gas left in the bulb- the black side of the vane is hotter and any gas molecules that comes into contact with the black fly off at a faster speed imparting impulse to the rotor. The bottom rotor has black on the right side of each vane and rotates clockwise, the top rotor has black on the left sides and thus has the opposite rotation.

Bimetal Seesaw Engine

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

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

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.


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 

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

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!

Holiday Pyramid

Many types and themes available: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Christmas Pyramids 

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Holiday Pyramid: a simple heat engine- rotational motion resulting from the convection of hot air due to the candle flames of two tea lights. These holiday decorations come from a German Christmas tradition, Weihnachtspyramide, that dates back more than 200 years! Energy transfer: chemical bonds to heat to kinetic energy of the rising air to rotational kinetic energy of the turbine and reindeer. 

Galileo Thermometer

Many versions to choose from- get one here!

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Galileo Thermometer

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

Galilean Thermometer: time lapse- 60 minutes condensed to 20 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.


Turbine Convection Color Candle

Available here: 
From MOMA: BUY NOW Convection Color Candle 

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

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. 

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