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The History of the Stirling Engine
The first Stirling engine was developed by the Scottish priest Robert Stirling in 1816.
Robert Stirling wanted to create a safe alternative to the high pressure steam engines which were spreading in those days.
High pressure steam engines caused dangerous boiler explosions which often severely injured persons and even caused deaths.
Robert Stirling’s idea was to build an engine that didn’t need high pressures to work, so that the risk of explosions was reduced.
Not only the safety played a significant role in the development of the Stirling engine; the fact that the fuel consumption of the Stirling engine was lower than of steam engines was important, as well. The first Stirling engine was used in 1818 to run a water pump in a mine.
Towards the end of the 19th century the Stirling engine was used as a source of energy in private houses. At the end of the 20th century approximately a quarter million Stirling engines was used all around the world as energy sources for fans or small appliances like sewing machines.
In the 1930s the Dutch company Philips developed the Stirling engine further so that it could function as an easy to handle and portable power source for radios. In this connection the Philips Stirling engine was developed and contained various reforms compared to the previous model.
After the further development stopped during World War II the engine was rediscovered in the middle of the 20th century by various industrial enterprises that tried to use the Stirling engine as a drive for ships and cars.
On account of the fact that the engine worked on many different fuel types the military thought about using it, too, but there never was a competitive invention.
In the mid-70s the Stirling engine gained importance concerning the combined heat and power scheme and block-type thermal power stations.
Especially in the production of very low temperatures the Stirling engines are often used as low-temperature Stirling cooling machines. Furthermore they are also used as solar thermal applications.
Stirling engines run on external heat and therefore gained importance in the search for alternative energy sources. In the 1980s Professor I. Kolin (University of Zagreb) and Professor J. Senft (University of Wisconsin) managed to develop a Stirling engines that could run on temperatures of 20°C and lower.
Our Stirling models and construction kits are inspired by those ideas and impressively show the transformation of heat into kinetic energy.