The paper presents the results of simulation tests of hydraulic resistance and temperature distribution of the prototype Stirling alpha engine supplied with waste heat. The following elements were analyzed: heater, regenerator and cooler. The engine uses compressed air as a working gas. Analyses were carried out for three working pressure values and different engine speeds. The work was carried out in order to optimize the configuration of the engine due to the minimization of hydraulic resistance, while maintaining the required thermal capacity of the device. Preliminary tests carried out on the real object allowed to determine boundary and initial conditions for simulation purposes. The simulation assumes that there is no heat exchange between the regenerator and the environment. The solid model used in simulation tests includes the following elements: supply channel, heater, regenerator, cooler, discharge channel. Due to the symmetrical structure of the analyzed elements, simulation tests were carried out using 1/6 of the volume of the system.
The Stirling engine type alpha is composed of two cylinders (expansion space E and compression space C), regenerator that forms the space between the cylinders and the buffer space (under the pistons). Before the start-up and as a result of long-term operation, the average pressure in the working space (above the pistons) and in the buffer space is the same. However, in the initial phase of operation, the average pressure in the working space is different then the average pressure in the buffer space depending on the crankshaft starting position (starting angle). This, in turn, causes a large variation in the starting torque. An additional unfavorable factor caused by a large variation in the course of the indicated torque is the rotational speed variation and the formation of torsional vibrations in the drive system. After some time, depending on the quality of the engine piston sealing, the average pressure in the working and buffer space will equalize. The occurrence of the above-described phenomenon affects the selection of the starting electric motor, which can be significantly reduced, when the crankshaft starting position is optimized (the starting torque is several times greater than the average torque occurring in the generator operation mode). This paper presents the analysis of the impact of the crankshaft starting position on the course of the indicated torque and the resulting start-up energy. Starting the engine at an unfavorable position of the crankshaft may, in extreme cases, increase the starting torque even three times.
In this article, a comparison of economic effectiveness of various heating systems dedicated to residential applications is presented: a natural gas-fueled micro-cogeneration (micro-combined heat and power – μCHP) unit based on a free-piston Stirling engine that generates additional electric energy; and three so-called classical heating systems based on: gas boiler, coal boiler, and a heat pump. Calculation includes covering the demand for electricity, which is purchased from the grid or produced in residential system. The presented analyses are partially based on an experimental investigation. The measurements of the heat pump system as well as those of the energy (electricity and heat) demand profiles in the analyzed building were conducted for a single-family house. The measurements of the μCHP unit were made using a laboratory stand prepared for simulating a variable heat demand. The overall efficiency of the μCHP was in the range of 88.6– 92.4%. The amounts of the produced/consumed energy (electricity, heat, and chemical energy of fuel) were determined. The consumption and the generation of electricity were settled on a daily basis. Operational costs of the heat pump system or coal boiler based heating system are lower comparing to the micro-cogeneration, however no support system for natural gas-based μCHP system is included.