This Instructable will describe a model Stirling cycle engine I built. More importantly, it will list design criteria, materials of construction, and tips so that you can build one of your own design.
This type engine is called a low temperature difference (LTD) Stirling engine, and there are several ways to build one, some of which are described in other Instructables on this site.
Step 1: What is a Stirling cycle engine?
The Stirling cycle engine was invented by Robert Stirling in 1816, so it has been around for a while. It is a heat engine, and is based upon a cycle of heating, then cooling, of a gas (usually air) contained within the engine. Since a Stirling engine is air tight, during the heating phase the air pressure inside increases, and during the cooling phase the pressure decreases. A displacer connected to the crankshaft moves the internal air from hot side to cold side of a cylinder. The change in pressure drives a power piston, which is also connected to the crankshaft. Since there are two stages, hot and cold, it is a two cycle engine
This diagram shows the concept of a traditional LTD Stirling cycle engine. The components of the engine described in this Instructable are arranged differently, but the concept is the same.
Step 2: Components
Here are the components of the engine I built, which are similar to those shown in the previous diagram. I used copper for many of the components due to its excellent thermal conductivity. I used aluminum also; its thermal conductivity is good but not as good as copper. Both materials are very easy to work using common shop tools.
The steps that follow will describe design details of the flywheel and crankshaft, displacer cylinder and displacer piston, and the power piston.