Surfing on Internet
for articles about Stirlings I found a fairly vague photograph of a
small device that, according to the accompanying text, was used on schools
to explain the stirling-principle. It showed a glass test tube with
glass balls in it. This tube was connected with a rubber hose to something
that looked like a cylinder with a piston in it, but there was no further
explanation. The looks of the model was, with respect, very "elementarily".
Because I already had build several Stirlings I thought to understand
how it worked or could work. Judging by that faith, I start designing
and building an engine that, at the end, proved to be a very unique
and nice Stirling engine. It is very close to the basics of the stirling
principle which you can see very well.
With this design there is kind of swinging movement other than a normal
rotation of a flywheel. Because of its somewhat unstable but cute behaviour
I gave this engine the name "Stirling Onrust", free translated
A glass test tube is connected to a brass clamping piece by means of
a rubber O-ring, so that this tube is both mechanically as well as airtight
fixed in it. A small axis square on this clamp piece can turn in a glide
bearing. So the clamping piece with test tube can swing up and down
in the vertical area.
balls in the tube roll from left to right and vice versa, as result
of the swinging movement of the tube. A small bore in the clamping piece
prevents the balls rolling out of the tube. This bore ends in a hose
socket. The thin and flexible hose on it is with the other end connected
to a metal cylinder in which a piston can move up and downwards.
its turn the piston rod is connected to the clamping piece, so that
the testtube is swinging as the piston goes up and down.
A little flame
of a candle or a spirits burner heats the closed end of the glass test
tube. As a result the air in it expands pushing up the piston. By that
the tube swings down and the balls roll to the closed end of the tube.
As a result of that the heated air is pushed between the balls and the
inner wall of the tube to the cold area where the tube is fixed to the
clamping piece. The air is cooling down there as a result of which an
under pressure occurs which make the piston to move down again. As a
consequence also the piston is continuous moving up and down swinging
the tube with the rolling balls in it. And so the working cycle is closed.
system is also working according to the very basic Stirling principle.
Adjustment of the "Stirling Restless"
Adjustment of this instrument took me a lot of time at the beginning,
until I discovered that I had to add a kind of a clock pendulum to
the system. This pendulum causes a certain time constant to the system
and makes it possible to adjust its equilibrium. The pendulum is fixed
wit a screw to the axis of the clamping piece which make it possible
to re-adjust it. This appeared to be necessary because after some time
the amount of air in the tube reduces somewhat due to the overpressure.
Some air escapes along the piston which is, of course, not absolute
airtight. Because of that after some minutes a new equilibrium is set
through which the balls could stick to one end of the tube if one shouldn't
intervene. The original equilibrium can be repaired by readjusting the
pendulum on the axis and fix it again. From that moment the engine proper
keeps moving at which the balls roll "as a little train" aginst
A cute little instrument that swings as long the flame of the candle
is there, with a tempo of about 1 swing per second.
The heat resistant glass tube
This kind of heat resistant (pyrex) “Duran” test tubes are rather standard and common although you cannot buy them on every corner of the street. You can find suppliers for this kind of good quality glass tubes on internet also (try “Duran or Schott Fiolax test tubes” on Google Search), although they mostly sell only rather big packing quantities. But if you contact them they sometimes are willing to send you some free samples if you tell them that you need them for a model engine. I know some model builders succeeded in doing so. The diameters can differ somewhat from the drawing plan but that is no problem as long as you adapt the dimensions of the related parts conform.
Some suppliers for these kind of heat resistant test tubes:
click here or here or here or here
For most model builders it will be difficult to obtain ceramic balls. I could obtain some from my former employer where they are used to pulverize powders in a mill.
It is possible to use play marbles but most glass marbles have such high thermal tension that they burst easily if heated. But apparently there are such marbles with low thermal tension that survive the heat, but you can see that on the outside; it is a matter of luck then.
Ceramic marbles used for play slingshots with the right diameter of 1/2 inch(=12,7mm) can be bought for rather low price on internet; type "Trumark SA50 Ammo,Tracer,1/2",72Ct" on Google Search and you will find several suppliers.
For only one of more examples click here.
I made a CAD drawing plan for this Stirling that is available for every one interested; click here for a request.
I made two variants of this Stirling with ceramic balls:
Maarten"; almost the same engine that I made for my sun in
law Maarten as a birthday present.
Knikker"; a flywheel type with complete different behavior.