Solar Stirling

The Solar Stirling project was completed by three colleagues and myself in 2011 during our engineering undergraduate studies at Imperial College London. The task defined was to determine and track the sun’s position throughout the day and subsequently concentrate enough London sun rays to power a Stirling engine. The concept of using an external combustion engine to convert solar power into mechanical or electrical power is particularly elegant since it runs on a heat differential and therefore does not depend on a specific kind of fuel.

Solar Stirling

The solar concentration was achieved by a Fresnel lens and the tracking mechanisms were powered by a motor cycle battery hooked up to two windscreen wiper motors. At the completion of the project the product was successfully tracking the sun by comparing the resistance of photoresistor pairs and focused enough heat onto the Stirling engine hot end to sustain operation at 900 rpm. The success of the project resulted in the team being awarded the 2011 Renishaw Prize for Best project of the year in competition with 35 very capable teams.

Videos of the Stirling engine show Tracking and operation and Close-up.

Commercial ventures in Solar Thermal Energy using similar technology (e.g. Dish Stirling) have been started in recent years. Recommended reading starting point: Solar Thermal Energy: Dish Stirling.

The final report is available in pdf format at Solar Stirling Final  Report.