Simple Heat Engines

Einstein's Drinking Bird Toy

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Wikipedia has wonderful details about the rich history (and further descriptions of the operational principals) of the Drinking Bird

Einstein’s Drinking Bird: this antique drinking bird toy was made in 1946, and this exact version sat on the kitchen table of Albert Einstein where many reports by friends and family told how the famous physicist was greatly amused by it, and that over a period of a few weeks he figured out its hidden operating principles. It turns out that this classic physics toy is a functional heat engine (swipe to see a familiar modern version) where cooling by evaporation at the head/beak leads to lower pressure in the top bulb, the pressure in the bottom bulb pushes the dichloromethane fluid (here dyed red) up the neck making the bird top heavy and the bird tips over dipping its beak and letting the fluid return to the bottom bulb. The process repeats, and as long as the top bulb stays wet and cooler than the bottom this heat engine will continue to cycle. 

Tea Candle Steam Engine

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Other interesting engines available here: Simple Heat Engines

Tea Candle Steam Engine: a functional piston steam engine complete with boiler and flywheel. Takes about 2 minutes to get going after the candle is lit. The invention that powered the industrial revolution on a desktop! Made by Wilesco. 

Vintage Wilesco Steam Engine

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Often available on eBay: BUY NOW: Wilesco D16 Engine

Click this link for the: small candle engine

Wikipedia has a very nice description of the history and inner workings of steam engines 

Vintage Wilesco Steam Engine: a working model reciprocating piston steam engine complete with boiler, flywheel, governor, and whistle. The invention that powered the industrial revolution on a desktop! My father bought this model D16 in 1970- with just a little cleaning and oiling it fired right up. Wilesco has been producing model steam engines since 1960 and still manufactures and sells the D16.

Holiday Pyramid

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Holiday Pyramid: a simple heat engine- rotational motion resulting from the convection of hot air due to the candle flames of two tea lights. These holiday decorations come from a German Christmas tradition, Weihnachtspyramide, that dates back more than 200 years! Energy transfer: chemical bonds to heat to kinetic energy of the rising air to rotational kinetic energy of the turbine and reindeer. 

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.

Thermobile: Nitinol Loop Engine

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From EngineDIY: BUY NOWNitinol Loop Heat Engine

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

Thermobile: Nitinol wire loop heat engine- the memory wire straightens out when heated (contact with heat conducting small wheel) causing the wheels to spin, providing mechanical kinetic energy from a cup of warm tea water. Swipe for a demonstration of Nitinol wire, 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 tea water. This remarkable property is a type of solid state reversible phase transition known as a martensitic transformation. 

Bimetal Seesaw Engine

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Bimetal Seesaw Engine: candle powered heat engine. A coiled bimetal strip, like that found in a thermostat, uncoils when heated by the flame while moving a counterweight that shifts the center of mass to the left and takes the coil out of the flame. The coil then cools returning the counterweight to the right which places the coil back over the flame- and the process repeats until the candle burns out. Any device that converts heat energy into mechanical motion is called a heat engine- like the very simple one here.