Discover the Stirling engine, a simple, clean and efficient energy technology that is quickly becoming a viable source of electricity as the availability of fossil fuels declines. The Stirling engine in this kit uses renewable energy from the sun to drive a generator, which charges a rechargeable battery to power an electric car. Named after its inventor, Robert Stirling, the original Stirling engine dates back almost 200 years. Today, high-tech Stirling engines are being used in arrays of giant mirrored solar collectors and common applications like compact generators. NASA is even working on using Stirling engines to power a human outpost on the moon!
Like a steam engine, a Stirling engine is a heat engine that converts heat energy into mechanical work, usually to drive a generator that then converts the mechanical energy into electricity. But instead of water and steam, the Stirling engine uses a permanently enclosed volume of gas, such as air or helium, to perform the mechanical work. Stirling engines are highly efficient, can operate very quietly, and can use many different sources of heat: combustion of fuels, nuclear fission, geothermal, or solar heat, as this model uses.
The Stirling engine in this kit is located in acharging station with a mirrored parabolic dish. The dish focuses the sun's rays onto the cylindrical glass bulb of the Stirling engine to heat it up. The air inside the bulb heats up and pushes a piston, which turns an electric generator. The generator produces electricity that charges a rechargeable battery in the car. The car runs on an electric motor powered by the battery.
The kit includes the charging station with a beta type Stirling engine, the electric car, and a full-color, 64-page manual. Ages 12 and up.