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Gadget Freak Case #204: Self-Starting, Solar-Powered Stirling Engine
2/7/2012

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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.
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.

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Beth Stackpole
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Engine a piece of art
Beth Stackpole   2/7/2012 7:04:12 AM
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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.

naperlou
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Re: Engine a piece of art
naperlou   2/7/2012 8:44:40 AM
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Beth, that's a great question.  I guess to the engineer it doesn't really matter.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Engine a piece of art
Rob Spiegel   2/7/2012 10:06:45 AM
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I would think  the ultimate need does matter to the engineer, Naperlou. The design solution should have the that need in mind, since there could be a varity of solutions based on that need.

At any rate, Doug Conner will weigh in on this question soon.

naperlou
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Re: Engine a piece of art
naperlou   2/7/2012 10:43:14 AM
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Actually, Rob, considering some of what passes for art these days, the engine might be the most aesthetically appealing part of the display. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Engine a piece of art
Rob Spiegel   2/7/2012 10:44:58 AM
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Good point, Naperlou. That's funny, and in many cases true. 

dconner
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Iron
Re: Engine a piece of art
dconner   2/7/2012 11:40:27 AM
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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.

williamlweaver
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Platinum
Re: Engine a piece of art
williamlweaver   2/7/2012 12:03:44 PM
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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...  =]

Jon Titus
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Very Good Engineering
Jon Titus   2/7/2012 12:44:49 PM
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Very nice, Doug.  I heard you had designed and built several Sterling engines.  You must have a nice machine shop.  How about a few photos?  Cheers. --Jon

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Engine a piece of art
Rob Spiegel   2/7/2012 12:58:20 PM
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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.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Engine a piece of art
Ann R. Thryft   2/7/2012 1:36:57 PM

What a cool idea. That looks like something that could power up all the weird SF Bay iron sculpture and make it move, if the artists so desired. The last time I saw them they were all static.


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