Alpha-Type Stirling Engine

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A Stirling engine takes advantage of the thermodynamic properties of compression and expansion of gases to produce work. This Demonstration tracks the changes in pressure (atm) and volume (L) of the working fluid during a reversible Stirling cycle as it cycles through the four characteristic thermodynamic steps:


1. isothermal expansion

2. isochoric cooling

3. isothermal compression

4. isochoric heating.

Accompanying this is an animation of the alpha-type engine, as well as work produced per cycle (J) and Carnot efficiency of the engine. The alpha-type Stirling engine is functionally equivalent to other Stirling engines, but has two pistons in separate cylinders, one with a heater (red), the other with a cooler (blue), that are connected by a heat regenerator (not shown in the animation).


Contributed by: David Niemann, Katherine Sanchez and Katherine Bunnell (November 2018)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA


Submission from the Compute-to-Learn course at the University of Michigan.


[1] R. Chang, Physical Chemistry for the Biosciences, Sansalito, CA: University Science, 2005.



Stirling cycle

heat engine


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