Here’s a gadget that offers an engineering nod to art. When Doug Conner was faced with an engineering challenge he created a self-starting solar power Stirling engine. The engine was requested by an artist to work as power source for a sculpture. The engine is solar powered, and it runs all year when the sun is visible from the sculpture's location. The engine can shut down when the sun isn’t visible, and it can restart by itself when the sun comes back up.
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This project began at the request of an artist who had proposed a Stirling-engine-powered sculpture to a client. The engine only had to run, not really produce any power.
Cool looking engine and the creator seems to have done a solid job engineering a solution that can work around temperature swings. What exactly did this stirling engine do in terms of running a scupture? It wasn't evident from the video.
This is a case where I agreed to design and build a functioning prototype engine and the artist could modify it artistically to do whatever he wanted. I explained that it wouldn't generate enough power to really do anything except run. The artist can do more interesting things with the colors, finishes, and some of the shapes, particularly the flywheel and displacer. I get a kick out of watching the utilitarian prototype quietly running. I'm curious to see what the artist comes up with for the finished sculpture too.
Thanks, Doug. Fantastic answer. I was musing about what the artist could do with all of the extra power generated by the Sterling engine and then I recalled the efficiency of the Sterling is barely enough to keep itself in motion. I'm not sure what the artist will augment, but your creation is a fine piece of performance art as it is... =]
We have a similar installation here in Albuquerque, just before I-40 comes into the city. Up on the canyon hills there's a sculpture that looks like a large steel flower. Next to it is a solar-powered light that shines the colors of the rainbow one by one. So the metal flower turns blue, then green, etc. Needless to say, when the sky has been overcast for a few days, the motor and light don't work. But it's rarely overcast for long here, so most of the time it works. There must be a light sensor connected to the motor, since it is idle during sunlight.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.