Mobile hydraulic power supply: Liquid piston Stirling engine pump

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20 Scopus citations


Conventional mobile hydraulic power supplies involve numerous kinematic connections and are limited by the efficiency, noise, and emissions of internal combustion engines. The Stirling cycle possesses numerous benefits such as the ability to operate from any heat source, quiet operation, and high theoretical efficiency. The Stirling engine has seen limited success due to poor heat transfer in the working chambers, difficulty sealing low-molecular weight gases at high pressure, and non-ideal piston displacement profiles. As a solution to these limitations, a liquid piston Stirling engine pump is proposed. The liquid pistons conform to irregular volumes, allowing increased heat transfer through geometry features on the interior of the working chambers. Creating near-isothermal operation eliminates the costly external heat exchangers and increases the engine efficiency through decreasing the engine dead space. The liquid pistons provide a positive gas seal and thermal transport to the working chambers. Controlling the flow of the liquid pistons with valves enables matching the ideal Stirling cycle and creates a direct hydraulic power supply. Using liquid hydrogen as a fuel source allows cooling the compression side of the engine before expanded the fuel into a gas and combusting it to heat the expansion side of the engine. Cooling the compression side not only increases the engine power, but also significantly increases the potential thermal efficiency of the engine. A high efficiency Stirling engine makes energy regeneration through reversing the Stirling cycle practical. When used for regeneration, the captured energy can be stored in thermal batteries, such as a molten salt. The liquid piston Stirling engine pump requires further research in numerous areas such as understanding the behavior of the liquid pistons, modeling and optimization of a full engine pump, and careful selection of materials for the extreme operating temperatures. Addressing these obtainable research quandaries will enable a transformative Stirling engine pump with the potential to excel in numerous applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2317-2322
Number of pages6
JournalRenewable Energy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Liquid hydrogen
  • Liquid piston Stirling engine
  • Stirling engine pump


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