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Bill Nye Demonstration:  The Stirling Engine

Bill Nye Demonstration: The Stirling Engine

Author: Bill Nye

Is it possible to get something spinning with just hot water? The Stirling engine is almost 200 years old and still one of the most efficient heat engines ever invented. Check out just how quiet and smooth this little apparatus is.

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The Stirling Engine

The Stirling cycle uses an external heat source to move the pistons and makes almost no sound in the process. How is it different from other engines?

How it Works

Every Stirling engine has a sealed cylinder with one part hot and the other cold. The working gas inside the engine (which is often air, helium, or hydrogen) is moved by a mechanism from the hot side to the cold side. When the gas is on the hot side it expands and pushes up on a piston. When it moves back to the cold side it contracts. 


Remember that as long as there is a difference in temperature, there is a "heat source", this is steam when on the water and it is the air when on the ice water.


Efficient and silent, a perfect solution perhaps?

Learn More

Here are some extra sites that give you more information about the Stirling cycle, it's history and current uses.

Your Turn!

Have cool science demonstrations you show your classes regularly? Save time and materials by making a quick video tutorial of your own for students. By using demonstrations and lab investigations regularly, students not only will know science, they can apply it!

Check out some resources on doing it yourself: