Physics of the Stirling engine © Siemens Stiftung 2020 CC BY-SA 4.0 international

Physics of the Stirling engine


Information module (with video):
The Stirling engine is the simplest form of heat engine and provides an easy model for understanding thermodynamics.

English, German, Spanish (CREA)
Interactive (5.2 MByte)
The Stirling engine is particularly well suited for explaining the general principle of the heat engine as the technical implementation of a thermodynamic cyclic process. The different temperature levels needed for a cyclic process are clearly visible with the Stirling engine in the same way as the closed process cycle. A video shows a Stirling engine in operation. The construction and functioning are explained on the basis of schematic drawings. The ideal efficiency is derived from the p-V diagram and compared with the actual efficiency. Through comparison with other cyclic processes (Otto, Diesel, Clausius-Rankine) the p-V diagram of the Stirling cyclic process promotes the better understanding of other piston engines (Otto engine, diesel engine and steam engine). Finally, the use of the Stirling engine is presented, especially in connection with the use of regenerative energies. Particularly in modern solar thermal plants the Stirling engine is frequently used for the generation of electric power.

Information and ideas:
Why was the Stirling engine not adopted for powering vehicles?
Interactive graphic
Physics; Technology
Grade 5 to 6; Grade 7 to 9; Grade 10 to 13
Middle/high school
Energy; Energy supply; Engine; Physics; Power generation; Stirling, Robert; Cyclic process; Efficiency; Electric power generation; Energy conversion; Energy efficiency; Engine; Stirling engine; Thermodynamics
Siemens Stiftung Media Portal
MediaHouse GmbH using material from: Björn Appel, Username Warden (Applications/photo: EURODish; license: CC BY-SA 3.0 unported)
© Siemens Stiftung 2020
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