Simple Heat Engines

Vintage Wilesco Steam Engine

Available from these sellers: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Wilesco Model Steam Engines 

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

Many types and themes available: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Christmas Pyramids 
From eBay: BUY NOW Christmas Pyramid

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

Get this beautiful little engine here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Stirling Engine

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

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 

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

Available in limited supplies here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Candle See-Saw 
From eBay: Search NOW Candle See-Saw

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.

Fire Piston

Get a set here: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Fire Piston Demonstration 

Fire Piston: rapid adiabatic compression creates enough heat to ignite and incinerate a small ball of cotton. Similar physics to how Diesel engines ignite fuel without a sparkplug. Adiabatic processes are those in which heat does not flow from the system to the environment, achieved here by the short duration of the compression- to get a flame it has to be done quickly with some force! 

Hero's Engine

This live steam engine is available here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Hero's Engine

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 

Get this amazing engine here:

From EngineDIY: BUY NOW: Vacuum Flame Licker Engine

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. 

Drinking Dino Heat Engine

This dinosaur themed heat engine available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Drinking T-rex Desk Toy

Get also: the related Drinking Bird Heat Engine 

Drinking Dino Heat Engine: So what physics presents did you get this year? I got this Dippy Dino heat engine- where cooling by evaporation at the head leads to lower pressure in the top bulb such that the dichloromethane fluid (colored green) rises up the neck making the T-Rex top heavy and the dino tips over dipping its face in the water and letting the fluid return to the bottom bulb. The process repeats as long as the top stays wet. A fun and silly variation on the famous drinking bird physics toy- and the T-Rex was a closely related ancestor to the dinosaurs that live today- birds! 

Boiler Pen

This vintage item often avalable here:

Fron eBay: BUY NOW: Boiler Pen

See other "Boiler's of Franklin" in my collection

Boiler Pen: a miniature “hand boiler” is built into the top of a pen in this odd vintage item in my collection. The boiling point of dichloromethane is slightly below body temperature such that heat from from a finger and thumb will increase pressure in the bottom bulb which then pushes the purple (dyed) liquid through the thin glass pipe to the top. Heating the top bulb will hasten the return of the liquid to the bottom. Such glass devices demonstrate a reversible liquid-gas phase transition and were made famous by Benjamin Franklin, who was one of the first to describe the physics of their operation. Hence these are sometimes referred to as a “Bouillant de Franklin”. 

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 

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.

Double Radiometer

Single fly radiometers available from these sources: 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW Radiometer  (with disk shaped vanes)

A wide variety available here, including some nice blown glass displays: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Radiometers 

Double Radiometer: a rare version of this classic physics toy with two rotators enclosed in the same partial vacuum chamber. Light heats up the vanes which then heat up the very thin gas left in the bulb- the black side of the vane is hotter and any gas molecules that comes into contact with the black fly off at a faster speed imparting impulse to the rotor. The bottom rotor has black on the right side of each vane and rotates clockwise, the top rotor has black on the left sides and thus has the opposite rotation.

Bouillant de Franklin (Hand Boiler)

A variety of shapes and colors are available 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW: Hand Boilers 
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Hand Boilers 

Bouillant de Franklin (Hand Boiler): reversible liquid-gas phase transition device made famous by Benjamin Franklin who was one of the first to describe the physics of its operation. The boiling point of dichloromethane is slightly below body temperature - heat from a hand increases pressure in the bottom bulb pushing the green (dyed) liquid through the glass pipe to the top. A vintage handmade version from France.