Introduction: The Amazing Pringles Stirling Engine

Picture of The Amazing Pringles Stirling Engine
The amazing pringles Stirling engine, made from cardboard Pringles tube. When I saw this video by MarekSHayward I just had to have my own! It impressed me seeing a Stirling engine made mostly out of cardboard, something which wouldn't normally be workable in an external combustion engine.  This is a really easy to build Stirling that should be accessible to almost anyone.

How does it work ?

This engine uses air which is repeated heated and cooled. To allow the air to be heated and cooled the pringles tube contains a displacer which is like a loose piston that can move up and down forcing the air around the engine. When the air is heated it expands pushing the diaphragm (balloon) outward which turns the cranks. When the cranks turn they move the displacer down so that the air is near the top where it is cooled causing it to shrink and pull the cranks back, which of course moves the displacer upwards allowing the air to be heated at the bottom, this repeats over and over!

Materials :

  • 4 x Pringles tubes, clean and dry
  • 1 x Balloon
  • 1 x Air freshener lid/ small aerosol lid
  • Cardboard from an old shipping box
  • Several plastic straws
  • General purpose adhesive
  • Hot melt glue
  • Fishing line (the creator of the original engine used cotton thread instead)
  • Cotton wool

Tools :

  • Scissors
  • Compass
  • Drill (with 2mm and 5mm drill bits)
  • Mark pen
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Pliers
  • Box cutter
  • Hot melt glue gun


Shwen1 (author)2014-10-06

is the only way to get the directions through the download that costs money?

scraptopower (author)Shwen12014-10-07

No, go on my website They are all free on there.

watson9194 (author)2011-01-23

one of the coolest things Ive seen on instructables.The instructions are very clear and easy to understand.

glome4d (author)2011-01-21

Hey great tutorial. I got mine working after trying it with two tea candles. The video of the engine in working order can be found here.

scraptopower (author)glome4d2011-01-22

Superb! It looks a lot neater than mine, well made. Thanks for posting!

darcy2456808 (author)2016-10-23

how do we extract the energy?

CrumbleG made it! (author)2015-04-26

isn't work pls help me

AkatsukiKawa made it! (author)2014-03-10

Cool and great instruction! Thank you :D!

heathbar64 (author)2012-09-16

AWW Man!! This is just too sweet! I'm definitely makin one of these!

A Das (author)2012-07-10

Hello scraptopower!
I tried searching for the steel wire wool for the stirling engine fan but it wasn't available anywhere around. Could you suggest any alternatives which would work without fail?
Waiting for your reply,
Thank You

ankitcoolmaggu (author)2011-09-28

In material list u right cotton Wool there is no description about this and the fishing thread which is connected to the crank rod And its other end connected to the displacer how .....

It's all there in "Step 1".

inventorrr (author)scraptopower2012-04-30

i don't understand...
firstly we made a tube with the piston and cotton wool. but where did that tube

inventorrr (author)2012-04-30

i don't understand...
firstly we made a tube with the piston and cotton wool. but where did that tube

inventorrr (author)2012-04-30

where is the piston that we put the pringles

rmoha (author)2011-07-10

Great job, i'm using this for a project in my school, i was wondering how long fishing line should be??

000Ike (author)2011-06-15

Thats extremely cool. 2 questions:
1. does the stirling engine keep working infinitely until there is no more heat?
2.would hot water be a safer alternative to fire? to use the steam as heat.

- thanks

scraptopower (author)000Ike2011-06-19

It will work as long as there is heat.
Hot water wouldn't be hot enough to run this engine, unfortunately.

Nirnaeth (author)2011-06-15

Quick question... what did you use for the engine in order to make everything function?

scraptopower (author)Nirnaeth2011-06-15

Sorry I don't understand your question, could you be more specific ?

Nirnaeth (author)scraptopower2011-06-15

It says above the candle there is a engine, what does that engine consist of

scraptopower (author)Nirnaeth2011-06-15

The engine is the Pringles tube and balloon and displacer inside. It works off the heat from the candle expanding the air inside of the tube which pushes on the balloon making the engine turn. That moves the displacer inside of the engine which pushes the air up to the top where it cools, this pulls the balloon back in, starting over again.

Nirnaeth (author)scraptopower2011-06-15

what is the displacer?

lukeD (author)2011-05-18

this is so cool! I have all the stuff to make it. but... how long is the displacer?

scraptopower (author)lukeD2011-05-19

You should make it 2/3rds of the height of the displacers cylinder.

In hindsight, I shouldn't have made the cylinder so tall, because this makes the displacer heavy, which makes it harder to get balanced. I'd alter it to make the displacer cylinder shorter, say about 9cm ?

lukeD (author)scraptopower2011-05-20

thanks for the fast reply!
okay, I'll try to make the whole thing in this weekend. If it is done, I'll send you a picture of it, and if it works, I'll send you a video.


ilikepieinmyshoe (author)2011-04-13

Cool instructable, I got mine working for about 30seconds to a minute, before puny candles could no longer satisfy my needs for power and i decided to instal a flaming cup of cup of rubbing alcohol in the candle holder. needless to say it caught on fire and i had to hose it down outside.

ilikechemicals (author)2011-04-04

I'm glad to see that i'm not the only one who absolutly loves hot glue. 8D LOL great engine dude i'm going to use your design cause for my stirling except i'm going to make it with some metal tubes. really great instructable i've been trying to figure out how to make a good stirling engine and yours shows absolutly every little detail i needed thanks a lot. REALLY.

bibbibbib (author)2011-01-09

with a hotter/bigger flame will it go faster?

scraptopower (author)bibbibbib2011-01-10

Yes - up to the point where you set fire to the cardboard :D

bibbibbib (author)scraptopower2011-02-09

If it were made of metal, could it, or a couple of them fuel a car

look into wood gas or bio gas engines, people have powered cars and trucks with a woodstove in the back full of pine cones, cherry pits, or whatever was dry enough and burnable. check out make your honda run on trash instrutable.

scraptopower (author)bibbibbib2011-02-10

No chance - you'd need about a million of these to run a car, even then, it would be the worlds slowest car :)

bibbibbib (author)scraptopower2011-01-10

Great! thank you

whiplash (author)2010-12-24

we never have pringles, my life is now ruined :P

anyway great instructable :D

dragonsniper (author)whiplash2011-02-22


14n (author)dragonsniper2011-03-05

Im using frozen oj concentrate container

scraptopower (author)2011-01-12

Assuming you mean a metal one, yes - they're a bit tough to bend though. Remove the rubbery plasticy coating.

The3rdPunch (author)scraptopower2011-01-12

ok just one last thing. why is the cardboard discs nessesasry? cant you use something else?

scraptopower (author)The3rdPunch2011-01-13

It's to keep the momentum of the engine, so it keeps going. I used cardboard here to make it easy for people to build, but you can use anything for the flywheel .

The3rdPunch (author)scraptopower2011-01-14

is it possible to make the flywheel into a fan?

n0ukf (author)The3rdPunch2011-03-05

Fans were one very popular use for Stirling Cycle engines. But you still need a flywheel to carry the rotational energy past TDC/BDC.

The3rdPunch (author)2011-02-08

Ok I got it all together and working, but I just can't get it to move. There is no air leaking(after multiple tests) so i think my counter weighting is off. Does anybody kmow how to fix this problem?

SirStokes (author)2011-01-27

Mine caught on fire, but it worked for a few minutes! Very good instructable. I would advise anyone not to use sterno canisters for this stirling engine, as fire will result.

The3rdPunch (author)2011-01-08

What does it do?

scraptopower (author)The3rdPunch2011-01-10

It spins! Powered by a candle!

The3rdPunch (author)scraptopower2011-01-10

ok im gonna use this for my science fair project so if you could explain a litte more that would be awesome. thank you for answering.

scraptopower (author)The3rdPunch2011-01-13

It just works by heating and cooling the air, when the air is heated it expands pushing the balloon out, and when you cool the air down, it contracts returning it back to the start. The displacer just moves the air from the top to the bottom and vice versa so that it can be heated/cooled.

we have to put the card board having srtaw in both sides between cotton

The3rdPunch (author)2011-01-12

for the displacer tube, what size should that be?

About This Instructable



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