Fun Devices: Engine DIY

Jansen's Linkage Walker

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Jansen’s Linkage Walker: a mesmerizing motorized sculpture that features Jansen’s linkage- a unique leg mechanism which converts rotary motion of a crackshaft into smooth walking motion. The linkage used here was invented by artist Theo Jansen for his “strandbeest” creations which are usually a couple meters high and walk the beaches of the Netherlands powered by the wind. This kinetic sculpture is powered by two AAA batteries and comes with complete with display stand.

Mini Acoustic Levitator

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Acoustic Levitator

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Mini Acoustic Levitator: small pieces of styrofoam become trapped between areas of higher pressure induced by high frequency sound waves. Ultrasonic transducers placed at the top and bottom are basically speakers that emit sound waves at a frequency of 43,000 Hz, which corresponds to a wavelength of 8mm for dry air. If the transducers are positioned just right standing waves are produce with nodes of low pressure at half wavelength intervals- and low mass objects like these foam pellets will be suspended against gravity when placed near one of these nodes. Here we see a stack of three pellets with a spacing of about 4mm which is the expected distribution of the nodes. To place the pellets into the sound stream without disrupting the standing waves this device comes with a small screen with a handle which allows the sound waves to flow through the holes in the mesh and trap piece of foam. Although the device uses sound it appears silent as the frequency used is way above that which humans can hear (20Hz to 20kHz).

 

Thermobile: Nitinol Loop Engine

Get this amazing heat engine here: 
From EngineDIY: BUY NOWNitinol Loop Heat Engine

Get a sample of Nitinol wire here:
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Nitinol Memory Wire Spring 

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Thermobile: Nitinol wire loop heat engine- the memory wire forcibly straightens out when heated (contact with heat conducting smaller wheel) causing the wheels to spin and providing mechanical kinetic energy from a cup of warm tea water. Nitinol wire is a special alloy of nickel and titanium that can be trained to a specific shape at high temperature- bend it up at room temperature and it will snap back into shape when exposed to moderate heat such as hot water. This remarkable property is a type of solid state reversible phase transition known as a martensitic transformation. 


Simple Stirling Engine

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Simple Stilring Engine

See other featured DYI devices here: EngineDIY Models

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Simple Stirling Engine: Perhaps the simplest piston engine ever devised- a single piston powered by a tiny alcohol lamp. Glass components allow a view of the internal workings of this design, and the interesting startup behavior from oscillation to full rotation. Heat engines produce mechanical motion from a difference in temperature- here the piston side is near room temperature (the central aluminum post is an excellent conductor and acts as a heat sink as the gas flows through), and the test tube is kept at high temperature via the flame, with metal fibers to help conduct the heat into the air (this component is called the regenerator). Swipe to see the elegant assembly of this model, and swipe again to see the engine power down. This external combustion design is attributed to Scottish engineer Robert Stirling back in 1816.

Solenoid Magnetic Accelerator

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Steel Ball Cyclotron Accelerator

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Solenoid Magnetic Accelerator: six electromagnet coils push a steel ball to terminal velocity. Each coil is triggered to briefly energized only when an infrared led and sensor circuit detects the presence of the ball. The steel ball’s speed seems limited by the strength of the temporary magnetic field and the friction it encounters from the track. This ring configuration demonstrates proof of concept for a means of accelerating steel marbles and I hope to incorporate these coils in other marble run designs I will share in the future. Uses a 12V power supply. 

Hero's Engine

This live steam engine is available here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Hero's Engine

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Hero’s Engine: the very first steam engine ever devised, the Aeolipile is a radial steam jet reaction turbine, an a invention attributed to Hero of Alexandria in the year 1 AD. Water within the spherical container is heated to produce steam which exits through nozzles directed at right angles to the radial direction, and by Newton’s third law these jets produce a torque about the rotation axis. There is no historical record of this engine being put to practical use in ancient times- except perhaps as the world’s first physics toy!


Vacuum Engine 

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Vacuum Flame Licker Engine

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Flame Eater Engine: also called a vacuum engine- operates by opening a valve during the piston intake stroke to pull in a bit of burning gas from the flame- the valve closes and the trapped hot gas expands pushing the piston. The exhaust stroke then has the gas cool, contract, and get pushed out the same valve right before the process repeats. Slow motion captures the intake of the flame through the valve/mouth at the cylinder head which gives the appearance that flame is being chewed- hence the name. Note this engine design does not need to warm up and starts instantly, but is very inefficient as only a fraction of the burning fuel (alcohol) is used by the thermodynamic process each cycle. 

Stirling Engine

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine

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Stirling Engine: a very pretty and fully functional model of the famous external combustion heat engine, powered here by a tiny alcohol lamp (with an almost invisible flame). Heat engines produce mechanical motion from a difference in temperature- here the glass cylinder and piston side is kept at high temperature via the flame (to expand the gas within), and the cool side is the metal cylinder and displacer piston which acts as a heat sink to re-cool (and contract) the gas and then send it back to be heated again each cycle. This module also includes a tiny generator and LED circuit. Swipe to see more detail and watch the engine power up. This closed-cycle regenerative heat engine design is attributed to Scottish engineer Robert Stirling back in 1816.

Disk Tesla Coil

Create amazing Telsa coil lighning at an affordable price! Please be sure to employ all appropriate safety precautions when utilizing any electrical circuity.  

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Disk Tesla Coil

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Disk Tesla Coil: incredible coronal brush discharges form intricate miniature lightning in this variation of the famous air core double-tuned resonate transformer invented by Nikola Tesla in 1891. In this novel design the coil is created using modern printed circuit board (PCB) technology producing a spiral of many conductive windings, so thin and close together it looks a bit like a gold phonograph record. The 10 cm long sparks are made possible by a very high voltage, but also a very fast discharge of a capacitor, and each lightning flash is accompanied by a dramatic popping sound characteristic of capacitor discharge (shown up close in 240fps slow motion). Powered by a 24V DC supply, this unit is fairly safe due to a low current (mA)- the discharge feels like a light tickle (but don’t touch the electrode- it gets hot). 


Stirling Engine

Get this very nice working model engine here, choose a configuration:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine 
From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine with Generator
From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine Simple Vehicle  

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Stirling Engine: an elegant model of an external combustion heat engine with dual reciprocating pistons which operates by cyclic compression and expansion of air. Heat one cylinder with the cute little alcohol burner and this model gets up to speed quickly. Pyrex glass allows one to view the hot cylinder in operation (shown here in slow motion) and this version of the model includes a small generator to convert some of the mechanical energy into electrical energy which then powers some LED lamps. This design is attributed to Scottish engineer Robert Stirling back in 1816- a working piece of the industrial revolution for your desk top!

 

In-Feed Google 5

Butterfly Mendocino Motor

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From engineDIY: BUY NOW Solar Levitating Motor

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Butterfly Mendocino Motor: an elegant version of this motor with only two photovoltaic cells mounted with care to ensure precision balance. This motor will spin quietly to high RPMs on any sunlit windowsill. In this model each of the two photovoltaic solar cells is connected to a coil of copper wire under the opposing solar cell. When the rotor is lit from above the top solar cell provides electric current to the coil in the bottom position which becomes a temporary electromagnet that pushes against the two mounted rectangular permanent magnets propelling the rotor to rotate. As the rotor turns, the coil that moves into the bottom position is likewise energized by the solar cell currently at the top- one can say the light commutates this motor. 2D magnetic levitation is provided by permanent magnets where an acrylic plate constrains the third dimension, and makes for a nice bearing surface for minimal friction. Invented in the 1960s by Daryl Chapin of Bell Labs and popularized by Larry Springs of Mendocino CA


Emission Spectra Gases on Radial Mount

I made the display holder and I got this set of gas tubes here (about $9 per tube): 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Gas Pure Element Samples

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Tesla Coil
For the price, this is the best one on the market- and beautiful to look at in copper- and it comes with three accessories for the top. Please be sure to employ all appropriate safety precautions when utilizing any electrical circuity!

Note: this site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated

The mount is made by driling holes in this acrylic tube: 4" Acrylic Tube

The breakdown voltages of the elements featured in this post are described by Paschen's Law: 
 
Here is a excellent article with an overview of the physics of glow discharge and its application in lighting and other technologies. 

Click this link to see the mini Tesla coil in action

Emission Spectra Gas Samples: pure samples of hydrogen, nitrogen and five noble gasses are subjected to the high frequency pulsed field of a miniature Tesla coil. Each gas has a characteristic breakdown voltage and emission spectrum- note that Nitrogen has the highest breakdown voltage and begins to glow after the presence of my hand temporarily lowers the resistance to current flow for that tube. The color of each gas is due to a mix of the colors emitted from electron energy transitions specific to each element- the basis of spectroscopy. Notice also that the purple color of the brush discharge at the top of the Tesla coil matches closely to the color of the nitrogen sample, which makes sense as air is 78% nitrogen. 

Vertical Mendocino Motor

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Vertical Mendocino Motor

From engineDIY: BUY NOW Horizontal Levitating Motor (on all models here-remove brown protective film to reveal clear acrylic on rotor)

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Mendocino Motor: vertical and horizontal versions- each face of a solar cell is connected to a coil of copper wire across from the opposing solar cell. When the rotor is lit from one side the lit solar cell provides electric current to the coil in the opposite position which becomes a temporary electromagnet that pushes against the permanent magnets in the base propelling the rotor to rotate. As the rotor turns, the coil that moves into the position near the magnet is likewise energized by the solar cell currently at the top- one can say the light commutates this motor. Magnetic bearings to reduce friction in both models. Invented in the 1960s by Daryl Chapin of Bell Labs and popularized by Larry Springs of Mendocino CA 

Tesla's Egg of Columbus

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From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Tesla's Egg of Columbus
This version comes with a 35mm solid aluminum sphere. 

Get the aluminum phiTOP "egg"  here: BUY NOW phiTOP 

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Tesla’s Egg of Columbus: an aluminum ellipsoid egg (PhiTOP) mysteriously spins and stands upright in this modern version of Tesla’s famous demonstration from the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago that first showcased the principles behind wireless power transfer and his AC induction motor. The base has no moving parts- instead special copper windings (very similar to Tesla’s original design) form four electromagnet coils on a circular steel core, and a special circuit supplies each with AC currents in such a way that a rotating magnetic field is created. This rotating magnetic field from the coils under the concave glass induces electric eddy currents to flow in the aluminum ellipsoid- these currents then create their own magnetic field which oppose the initial fields underneath and pushes the ellipsoid to spin. Finally, the ellipsoid top stands up vertically (when spun with sufficient rotational velocity) due to physics similar to that of the tippe-top. 

 

 


Tesla Coil

For the price, this is the best one on the market I think and beautiful to look at in copper- the music function does not do much, but it is a great little Tesla coil and it comes with three accessories for the top. Please be sure to employ all appropriate safety precautions when utilizing any electrical circuity! 

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Mini Tesla Coil

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Tesla Coil: miniature low current version of the famous air core double-tuned resonate transformer invented by Nikola Tesla in 1891. The thick copper of the primary coil is set into three windings around the many windings of the tall secondary coil. This one uses a modern transistor circuit to excite the radio frequency oscillations that produce a voltage in excess of 50kV in the form of pulses that cycle about 100k times a second. This version is fed by a 24V DC power supply and is fairly safe due to a low current (mA)- but the circuitry does get hot and demands a huge heat sink with fan (the metal base can burn skin when operating). The coils comes with attachments- the spike produces a purple corona discharge as the voltage exceeds the breakdown voltage of air with current flowing into the air or arcing over to a grounded piece of metal. The corona discharge imparts momenta, and here the ends of a bent wire are set into rotation from the slight push of the escaping electrons. Swipe to see the ejected electron stream propel the end of a thin wire into a final state circular orbit. The more interesting behavior occurs during the initial transient orbits which seem to be hypotrochoid type curves beautifully captured here using the Slow Shutter app. 

Precision Stirling Engine

The Kontax KS90 Stirling Engine is guaranteed to run off the heat of your hand! 

From eBay: BUY NOW: Kontax KS90 Engine

Less expensive models will run off the heat from a cup of coffee/tea:

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine

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Precision Stirling Engine: low temperature difference engine turns body heat into mechanical motion. For this engine the heat source is my hand, and the heat sink is the room temperature air- warming the bottom black plate with only the heat of my hand will set this engine running for several minutes. This beautiful KS90 engine is manufactured with precision machined parts by Kontax Engineering Ltd.

 

Oscilating Cylinder Steam Engine

Get this tiny working engine here: (brass and stainless steel) 

From engineDIY: BUY NOW: Tiny Steam Engine

Two other similar mini-engines to consider: BUY NOW: Mini-Steam 1, Mini-Steam 2 

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Oscillating Cylinder Steam Engine: a functional “wobbler” type piston steam engine complete with boiler and flywheel. In this design the cylinder and piston both rock back and forth, acting as the valve mechanism to allow the hot steam to enter through a small hole, and then exit on the next stroke out through the tiny exhaust port in the top. Takes about 4 minutes to get going after the lamp is lit. A tiny version of the invention that powered the industrial revolution.