I've been collecting small steam engines and Stirling engines for over 20 years, mainly as a hobby. Like all of SunnyTech's model engines, this particular Stirling Engine is beautifully crafted and it features a furniture grade wooden platform.
Once you light the lamp (I use off-the-shelf 91% alcohol), the air in the piston heats up and pushes the piston out. A second piston pushes cold air back into the cylinder and the cycle repeats over and over. In this model, there's an additional pulley that connects from the flywheel to a high quality electrical generator that has 4 blue LED lights inside of it. What I like about this model is that the generator itself is made of clear plastic, so you not only see the engine work, but you see the inside of the generator.
It's perfect for parents, teachers and students because it's a wonderful example of how engines work. I keep my collection of model engines in my office and people are always fascinated by them even when they aren't running, so it's particularly exciting when I light them up and show them that they actually work. I wish I had a model like this when I was still in school, it would've made a great science fair project.
Please note. Although this product is an educational toy, as you can see it requires the use of alcohol and an open flame to operate, so you should supervise your children if they are too young to operate it alone.
Not long ago I saw a display of Stirling engines a collector had put together. I’d always been fascinated by this type of technology, one that was invented in 1816 by Robert Stirling. This is an external combustion energy that simply converts heat energy to mechanical. No gas involved, but rather a simple concept that works quite well and is fascinating to watch.
The fuel source you’ll need won’t be that rubbing alcohol, which is 70% isopropyl. What I’m using is 95% isopropyl, but denatured works equally well. You’ll need a higher grade alcohol to burn hot and efficiently. Simply add some to your burner flint glass. The lamp wick quickly absorbs the alcohol so you’ll be up and running in no time. You can purchase extra wicks on Amazon if you need then.
After lighting the wick and letting the flame burn a bit, I spun the flywheel. Make sure your wick isn’t touching the glass tube. It took a couple of tries and was quickly fascinating everyone in the house with the speed and beauty of the engine. If it doesn’t start the first time, give it a minute and try again. It really is an awesome, exciting thing to watch.
Many people do collect these engines and no doubt I could get into it myself, considering the high quality of this particular one. The educational aspects are high, whether you are working in a homeschool or classroom setting. There are a few extra parts in the box, including Allen wrenches for adjustment, two glass replacement tubes, a silicone gasket, and a small plastic bottle for your alcohol. High quality, fascinating engine!
What a great educational tool! Here are the pros:
1. This arrived in a little box that was packaged beautifully.
2. It is very well made, quite substantial and not at all cheap.
3. Works really well and demonstrates what it's supposed to beautifully.
4. I used the standard rubbing alcohol and had no problems whatsoever. It kept going and going.
5. Great for people of all ages. My 6 year old son loves it and my husband wants to take it to his office to put on his desk. A very cool little gadget to have around.
6. It comes with replacement parts so that if you break something, you can simply replace it.
Tip: If you blow out the wick, but decide to start it again, you have to allow it to cool completely for it to function properly.