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Accepted Manuscript

Research Paper

Manufacturing and testing of an α-type Stirling engine

Can Ç ına, Fatih Aksoy, Hamit Solmaz, Emre Yılmaz, Ahmet Uyumaz

PII: S1359-4311(17)34052-8
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2017.11.132
Reference: ATE 11502

To appear in: Applied Thermal Engineering

Received Date: 15 June 2017


Revised Date: 15 November 2017
Accepted Date: 25 November 2017

Please cite this article as: C. Ç ına, F. Aksoy, H. Solmaz, E. Yılmaz, A. Uyumaz, Manufacturing and testing of an
α-type Stirling engine, Applied Thermal Engineering (2017), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applthermaleng.
2017.11.132

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Manufacturing and testing of an α-type Stirling engine

Can Çınar1, Fatih Aksoy2, Hamit Solmaz1, Emre Yılmaz1*, Ahmet Uyumaz3

cancinar@gazi.edu.tr, faksoy@aku.edu.tr, hsolmaz@gazi.edu.tr,

emreylmz@gazi.edu.tr, auyumaz@mehmetakif.edu.tr
1
Automotive Engineering Departmemetric study
nt, Faculty of Technology, Gazi University, 06500, Teknikokullar, Ankara, Turkey
2
Automotive Engineering Department, Faculty of Technology, Afyon Kocatepe University, 03200, Afyon,
Turkey
3
Department of Automotive Technology, Vocational High School of Technical Sciences, Mehmet Akif
Ersoy University, 15100 Burdur, Turkey

*Corresponding author
e-mail: emreylmz@gazi.edu.tr
Tel.: +90 3122028653
Fax: +90 3122028649

ABSTRACT

This paper presents construction and performance tests of an α-type Stirling engine.

Experiments were performed within the range of 1-4 bars charge pressure with air and

helium as the working fluid. The outer surface of the expansion cylinder was heated

with an electrical heater within the range of heater temperature 800-1000 °C with 50 ºC

increments. The outer surface of the compression cylinder was cooled by circulating

water. Heater temperature and charge pressure were assumed as operating parameters

and the engine torque was measured for different engine speeds with air and helium.

The engine produced a maximum power of 30.7 W at 437 rpm engine speed, at the

heater temperature of 1000 °C and 3.5 bars charge pressure with helium. Engine torque

increased with the increase of charge pressure up to 3 bar then started to decrease. By

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looking the point of engine speed range of the engine, 1000 oC hot end temperature and

3 bar charge pressure was the optimal values.

KEY WORDS: Stirling engine; v-type; alpha engine; manufacturing

1. INTRODUCTION

Concerns about global warming and climate change are growing all around the world.

Countries are increasingly taking steps to combat climate change and global warming.

Reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission, which is a major greenhouse gas, is the

most important measure in combating global warming [1-3]. CO2 is mostly resulted

from the combustion of fossil-based fuels. In order to achieve low CO2 release level,

diversity of the energy sources must be increased. On the other hand, the world is faced

with the risk of depletion of fossil fuels [4,5]. Because of these concerns, supports to

researches on renewable energy and high efficiency energy conversion technologies has

been increased [6,7]. It was reported that the production of the renewable energy in

Europe increased by 84.4 % between 2003 and 2013 [8]. Renewable energy can be

derived from several energy sources such as wind, internal heat of the earth, solar

radiation, wind, flowing water, and biomasses such as energy crops, and agricultural

wastes [9,10]. However, in order to meet energy demand, high efficient, low-cost and

long-lasting devices that can produce energy from these sources are required.

Stirling engine, which was invented by Robert Stirling in 1816 [11], is capable to run

with any kind of energy including waste heat [12,13]. Stirling engines draw attention

because of their high thermal efficiency. The efficiency of a Stirling engine can reach

Carnot efficiency theoretically [14-16].Moreover they need lower maintenance cost and

they can run with different kinds of energy source [17-19]. The Stirling engine is an

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externally heated reciprocating device, which operates on a closed thermodynamic cycle

consisting of two isothermal and two constant volume processes. Although the

theoretical thermal efficiency of Stirling cycle is high enough compared to Carnot cycle,

heat transfer resistance, energy losses such as gas leakages and heat losses can be seen

for real Stirling cycle resulting in lower thermal efficiency [20]. These leakages are seen

between compression and expansion during displacer-cylinder gap. Furthermore, flow

configuration of the working gas affects the mentioned gas leakages and thermal

efficiency [21,22]. It can be also pointed that charge pressure of working fluid and the

heater temperature are the other important parameters effecting engine efficiency.

Because heat losses could be reduced through expansion cylinder with higher heating

temperature and more charge mixture caused to obtain higher thermal efficiency [23-

25].

Stirling engines are generally classified in two groups as free piston and kinematic

engines. In free piston engines piston and displacer synchronization is provided by

springs and gas pressure. Kinematic Stirling engines includes a drive mechanism such

as crank [17], rhombic [18], lever [19], ross-yoke etc. [26]. According to piston

configurations, Stirling engines are also classified in three groups as alpha, (α) beta (β)

and gamma (γ) [27]. Beta type Stirling engine has one cylinder and both power piston

and displacer are placed coaxially in this cylinder. α and gamma type engines have two

cylinder. In α-type engine both of the cylinders contain a piston. However, in gamma

type Stirling engines, one of the cylinder contains a power piston and the other cylinder

contains a displacer [27, 28]. In the past century, numerous studies were performed

about Stirling engines. The main researches were conducted on manufacturing, testing

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and development [29-32]. There are also numerical studies to predict the engine

performance and make an optimization [33-36].

Trayser and Eibling [37] performed a design study to develop 50 W portable solar-

generator for rural applications. It was depicted that a portable, lightweight and reliable

solar-powered Stirling engine can be built with a reasonable cost. The overall efficiency

was 7.5 % and the total cost of the device was 470 dollars. Markman et al. [38]

conducted a study on a beta-type Stirling engine. The performance parameters were

investigated to reach 200W power density by measuring the thermal flux and

mechanical power loss. Hirata et al. [39] performed a study on a 100 W displacer type

Stirling engine to improve the engine performance efficiently. An analysis model was

developed to simulate the engine performance of Ecobody-SCM81 engine, which was

developed by Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers. Pressure loss in the regenerator,

buffer space loss and mechanical loss were taken into consideration in the analysis.

Most of the studies were focused on beta-type Stirling engine because of its higher

power density [40]. Therefore there are only a few studies conducted with α-type

Stirling engines. Podesser [41] designed and constructed an α type Stirling engine that

was heated with flue gas of a biomass furnace. The aim of the study was to meet the

electrical demand in rural villages. α type engine was preferred because of its low cost

and maintenance expenditures. Shaft power of the engine reached 3.2 kW with a

working gas pressure of 33 bar at 600 rpm. Engine efficiency was 25 % for same

operation conditions. Batmaz and Ustun [42] designed and manufactured a v-type α

Stirling engine for solar applications. Their engine was having two heater cylinder. The

engine was designed to obtain 500 W output power, however, the maximum power was

obtained as 118 W at 1 bar charge pressure with a hot source temperature of 950 oC.

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Thermal efficiency of the engine was 11 %. It was reported that the low power and

thermal efficiency was caused by excessive leakage in the system and high dead

volume. In an experimental study, carried out by Demir and Gungor [43] an air-charged

v-type α Stirling engine was manufactured and tested. The performance characteristics

of the engine were obtained under different heater temperature and charge pressure

values. The maximum power output was obtained as 31 W at 1050 ºC heater

temperature and 1.5 bar charge pressure. Çınar et al. [44] manufactured and tested a

beta-type Stirling engine with rhombic mechanism. They tested the engine with

different charge pressures with air and helium working fluid. They obtained maximum

power and torque as 95.77 W at 575 rpm and 1.98 Nm at 410 rpm respectively.

Karabulut et al. [19] showed test results of the Stirling engine working with a lever

controlled displacer driving mechanism. Helium was used in the experiments. They

determined that maximum torque and power were measured 3.99 Nm and 183 W at 4

bars charge pressure and 260 °C hot end temperature. Kazimierski and Wojewoda [45]

simulated the two stroke externally heated air valve engine (EHVE) which is different

from typical Stirling engine. They compared the EHVE and Stirling engine under the

same maximum pressures. They pointed that EHVE showed reasonable performance

compared to typical Stirling engine. Almajri et al. [46] investigated the performance of

V- α type Stirling engine at different operating conditions via combining

thermodynamic model with 3D CFD analysis. They developed 3D CFD model and

compared the results with thermodynamic model. Maximum power could be obtained

with the increase of porosity up to 80%. They also pointed out that using CFD

modelling was useful in order to enhance the V- α type Stirling engine performance.

Shendage et al. [47] investigated the design methodology of Beta type Stirling engine

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with rhombic drive mechanism. They researched the optimization of the phase angle

and the effects of overlapping between the compression and expansion processes.

Abuelyamen et al. [48] performed a parametric study on a β-type Stirling engine with

ANSYS fluent 14.5 software. They investigated the effects of initial charge pressure,

thermal boundary condition; and three different types of working fluids (Air, He and

H2). It was determined that the best performance was obtained with H2 gas. It was also

found that small pressure difference across the engine chambers.

Most of the studies related to Stirling engines were performed on beta type

engines. There are very few studies related about V-type α engines. In the present study,

design, construction and performance tests of an α-type Stirling engine are presented.

Helium and air are used as working fluid. An electrical furnace is used as the heat

source.

2. ENGINE SPECIFICATIONS

2.1. Test Engine

The schematic view and the photograph of the test engine are illustrated in Figure 1 and

2, respectively. The engine consists of two pistons, called the hot and cold pistons, a

crankcase, a crankshaft, two connecting rods, a flywheel and a connection pipe. The

expansion and compression spaces are formed in separate cylinders, situated at 90º

angles to each other. Two pistons were connected to the same crankshaft rod journal by

two lightweight connecting rots made of aluminum. Pistons were made of sphero cast

iron considering its low friction. Pistons were extended with hubs made of stainless

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steel. A 1 mm gap was left between piston hubs and cylinders. The gap between the

cylinder wall and the hot piston hub was used as heating passage and the gap between

the cylinder wall and the cold piston hub was used as cooling passage (Figure 1). The

contact surfaces of pistons were machined to super-finish quality by grinding and

polishing. Inner surfaces of the cylinders were machined by boring and grinding. A 0.02

mm working clearance was left between pistons and cylinders. The external surface of

the compression cylinder was cooled by circulating water trough the water jacket

around it. The crankshaft was dynamically balanced to reduce engine vibration.

Construction details of the engine are given by Cinar [49]. Technical specifications of

the engine are shown in Table 1.

2.2. Principle of Engine Operation and Kinematic Relations

The theoretical cycle of the Stirling engine consists of four processes namely

isothermal compression, constant volume heating, isothermal expansion and constant

volume cooling processes (Figure 3). As shown in Figure 1, when the crank pin moves

from 1 to 2, both pistons move simultaneously upward. During this process, the

working fluid gives heat to the cooling water and the isothermal compression is

performed. As the crank pin moves from 2 to 3, the hot piston moves downward and the

cold piston moves upward. During this process, the working fluid is expelled from the

cold space to the hot space and constant volume heating process is performed. While the

crank pin moves from 3 to 4, both pistons move downward and the isothermal

expansion process is realized. While the crank pin moves from 4 to 1, the cold piston

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moves downward and the hot piston moves upward and constant volume heat rejection

is performed.

The variation of cold volume, hot volume and total volume versus the crank angle

is illustrated in Figure 4. Implementation procedure and details of the analysis were

presented by Cinar [49]. To calculate the values of cold volume and hot volume the

kinematic relations,

hh = r cosθ + lb cos β h + h p + hu (1)

π 
hc = r cos − θ  + lb cos β c + h p + hu (2)
2 

are used. In these equations, β c and β h are angles made by cold piston rod and hot

piston rod with cylinder axis, respectively and are shown in Figure 1. Relations between

θ and β c , β h are,

 r 
β c = Arcsin  sin θ  (3)
 b 

 r π  
β h = Arcsin  sin  − θ  (4)
l
 b  2 

3. EXPERIMENTAL APPARATUS

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The schematic view of the test equipment is shown in Figure 5. An electrical heater was

used as the heat source. The temperature of the heater was adjustable between 0 °C and

1200 °C with an accuracy of 1 °C. The hot end of the expansion cylinder was inserted

into the heater and it was heated within the heater temperature of 800-1000 ºC.

A prony brake dynamometer was used to measure the engine torque. The speed of

the engine was measured by a digital tachometer with an accuracy of 1 rpm.

Temperatures were measured by means of multi point temperature indicator (type

ELIMKO-6000) having 1 ºC accuracy. As the working fluid, air and helium were used.

For the regulation of pressure of working fluid, a pressure-reducing valve was used.

Cooling water outlet temperature was kept at 30 °C supplying sufficient water.

4. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

In the experimental investigation a temperature adjustable heater was used as the heat

source. The engine starts to run at 520 ºC heater temperature. Systematic testing was

performed within the range of 800-1000 ºC heater temperature with 50 ºC increments

and 1-4 bars charge pressure with 0.5 bar increments. Heater temperature and charge

pressure were assumed as operating parameters and the engine torque was measured

with an accuracy of 0.003 Nm at various engine speeds by loading with the

dynamometer. The output power was calculated from;

P = 2π T n (5)

where n is engine speed and T is engine torque.

Figure 6. Variation of engine torque versus engine speed

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Figure 6 shows the variation of torque with engine speed at 1000 ºC heater

temperature and different rates of air charge pressures from 1 to 3.5 bars. The maximum

engine torque was obtained at 215 rpm as 0.7 Nm. Increasing charge pressure resulted

with a higher torque level because of increased working fluid mass. However, after

charge pressure of 3 bar, the engine torque started to decrease again. This indicated that

the working fluid cannot be effectively used because of insufficient heat transfer surface

area in the cylinder. It is seen that higher torque is obtained at low engine speeds

because of the longer heating-cooling period. It is also seen that the operation speed

range of the engine enlarges with the increased charge pressure. Increasing charge

pressure implies the increase of the working fluid mass. Higher cyclic work generation

can be obtained with higher mass of working fluid and as a result of this engine speed

can reach a higher level. However, over increasing the mass of the working fluid by

comparing the heat transfer surface area, speed range of the engine may reduce because

of the insufficient heat transfer to the working gas.

Figure 7. Variation of power output versus engine speed

Figure 7 shows the variation of power output as a function of engine speed for

various heater temperatures between 800 ºC and 1000 ºC and 3 bars air charge pressure.

An increase in the power output was obtained depend on the heater temperature. As the

heater temperature increases, the difference between the hot and cold space

temperatures increases. At the heater temperature of 1000 ºC, the maximum power

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output is obtained as 18.13 W. With a lower heater temperature of 800 ºC, the

maximum power output is obtained as 6.5 W. As seen in figure 7, engine power

increases with increase of the engine speed up to a certain value of speed then starts to

decrease. This behavior is an expected behavior for most of the engines, because, cyclic

work generation starts to decrease at higher engine speeds. This reduction in cyclic

work results from insufficient time for heat transfer and insufficient heat transfer surface

area.

Figure 8. Variation of power output versus heater temperature

The variation of power output with heater temperature using air and helium is

shown in Figure 8. It is observed that, an increase in the heater temperature results in an

increase in power output. Because of higher heat transfer capabilities of helium, it has a

higher power output than air for the same heater temperature and charge pressure. At

the heater temperature of 1000 ºC and 3 bars charge pressure, the maximum power

output was measured as 18.13 W at 286 rpm engine speed for air while it was measured

as 27.33 W at 418 rpm engine speed for helium. The working fluids having higher

specific heat capacities such as hydrogen, might be contributed to increase the engine

performance in this manner. The maximum power of the engine was 30.7 W at 437 rpm

engine speed, at the heater temperature of 1000 °C and 3.5 bars charge pressure with

helium. The engine manufactured by Batmaz and Ustun [42] had a maximum power

output of 118 W. The difference in power outputs of the engines may be resulted

because of the heating performances of the engines. Their engine was using double

acting heater cylinder.

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Figure 9. Variation of power output versus charge pressure

Figure 9 shows the variation of power output with charge pressure at 900 and 1000

ºC heater temperatures using air and helium. Power output increases with the increase of

charge pressure until a certain power value. More power output was obtained with

helium compared to air working fluid with higher heating temperature. In addition,

maximum power was obtained with helium at 1000 ºC and 3.5 bar charge pressure.

Figure 10 shows the variation of power output with engine speed at a constant heater

temperature of 1000 ºC and different rates of air and helium charge pressures.

Comparison of curves obtained for 3 bars charge pressure air and helium shows that the

maximum power output is obtained at 286 rpm for air and at 417 rpm for helium. As

seen in Figure 10, depending on the engine speed the power output is increased at a

certain level. A decrease in the power is seen after that speed, due to insufficient heat

transfer rate.

Figure 10. Variation of power output versus engine speed

5. CONCLUSIONS

In this study, a small Stirling engine with 98 cc total swept volume was manufactured

and performance tests were performed. The test engine has reached a maximum power

output of 30.7 W at 437 rpm engine speed, at the heater temperature of 1000 °C and 3.5

bars charge pressure using helium as working fluid. An increase trend was observed in

engine torque with the increase of charge pressure up to 3 bar then it started to decrease.

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With an increase in the heater temperature, the power output and torque of the engine

was increased. For the same heater temperature, higher power output was obtained with

helium due to higher thermal conductivity compared to air. However, the use of air as

the working fluid in Stirling engines has great advantages, such as abundant, readily

available and free of charge except for compression cost.

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LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1. Schematic view of the test engine

Figure 2. Photograph of the test engine

Figure 3. Theoretical Stirling cycle

Figure 4. Variation of cold volume, hot volume and total volume with crank angle

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Figure 5. Schematic view of the test equipment

Figure 6. Variation of engine torque versus engine speed

Figure 7. Variation of power output versus engine speed

Figure 8. Variation of power output versus heater temperature

Figure 9. Variation of power output versus charge pressure

Figure 10. Variation of power output versus engine speed

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1. Technical specifications of the engine

FIGURES

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Figure 1. Schematic view of the test engine

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Figure 2. Photograph of the test engine

Figure 3. Theoretical Stirling cycle

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Figure 4. Variation of cold volume, hot volume and total volume with crank angle

Figure 5. Schematic view of the test equipment

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Figure 6. Variation of engine torque versus engine speed

Figure 7. Variation of power output versus engine speed

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Figure 8. Variation of power output versus heater temperature

Figure 9. Variation of power output versus charge pressure

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35

30

25
Power Output (W)
20

15 1.5 bar air


2.0 bar air
2.5 bar air
10
3.0 bar air
2.0 bar He
5 3.0 bar He
3.5 bar He
0
150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500 550 600 650 700
Engine Speed (rpm)

Figure 10. Variation of power output versus engine speed

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TABLE

Table 1. Technical specifications of the engine

Parameters Specification

Mechanical configuration α
Expansion cylinder Bore (mm) 50
Stroke (mm) 50
Swept volume (cc) 98
Compression cylinder Bore (mm) 50
Stroke (mm) 50
Swept volume (cc) 98
Phase angle 90°
Heater temperature (oC) 800 - 1000 oC
Cooler temperature (oC) 30 oC
Charge pressure (bar) 1-4
Working fluid Air and Helium
Cooling system Water cooled
Maximum engine power 30.7 W at 437 rpm

Nomenclature

hc Distance between the cold cylinder head and piston top (m)
hh Distance between the hot cylinder head and piston top (m)
hp The length of the piston (m)
hu The length of the heating passage of piston (m)
r Radius of the crankshaft (m)
lb The length of the connecting rod (m)
θ Crank angle (rad)
βc The angle between connecting rod and vertical axis (rad)
βh The angle between connecting rod and horizontal axis (rad)
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