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

Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
1-40 of 66Next »
Shwen15 months ago

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

scraptopower (author)  Shwen15 months ago

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

watson91944 years ago
one of the coolest things Ive seen on instructables.The instructions are very clear and easy to understand.
glome4d4 years ago
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)  glome4d4 years ago
Superb! It looks a lot neater than mine, well made. Thanks for posting!
AkatsukiKawa made it!1 year ago

Cool and great instruction! Thank you :D!

heathbar642 years ago
AWW Man!! This is just too sweet! I'm definitely makin one of these!
A Das2 years ago
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
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 .....
scraptopower (author)  ankitcoolmaggu3 years ago
It's all there in "Step 1".
i don't understand...
firstly we made a tube with the piston and cotton wool. but where did that tube
inventorrr2 years ago
i don't understand...
firstly we made a tube with the piston and cotton wool. but where did that tube
inventorrr2 years ago
where is the piston that we put the pringles
rmoha3 years ago
Great job, i'm using this for a project in my school, i was wondering how long fishing line should be??
000Ike3 years ago
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)  000Ike3 years ago
It will work as long as there is heat.
Hot water wouldn't be hot enough to run this engine, unfortunately.
Nirnaeth3 years ago
Quick question... what did you use for the engine in order to make everything function?
scraptopower (author)  Nirnaeth3 years ago
Sorry I don't understand your question, could you be more specific ?
It says above the candle there is a engine, what does that engine consist of
scraptopower (author)  Nirnaeth3 years ago
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.
what is the displacer?
lukeD3 years ago
this is so cool! I have all the stuff to make it. but... how long is the displacer?
scraptopower (author)  lukeD3 years ago
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 ?
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.

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.
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.
bibbibbib4 years ago
with a hotter/bigger flame will it go faster?
scraptopower (author)  bibbibbib4 years ago
Yes - up to the point where you set fire to the cardboard :D
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)  bibbibbib4 years ago
No chance - you'd need about a million of these to run a car, even then, it would be the worlds slowest car :)
Great! thank you
whiplash4 years ago
we never have pringles, my life is now ruined :P

anyway great instructable :D
Im using frozen oj concentrate container
scraptopower (author) 4 years ago
Assuming you mean a metal one, yes - they're a bit tough to bend though. Remove the rubbery plasticy coating.
ok just one last thing. why is the cardboard discs nessesasry? cant you use something else?
scraptopower (author)  The3rdPunch4 years ago
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 .
is it possible to make the flywheel into a fan?
Fans were one very popular use for Stirling Cycle engines. But you still need a flywheel to carry the rotational energy past TDC/BDC.
1-40 of 66Next »