Make: how to make a teacup Stirling engine

Marc De Vinck shows how to make the teacup Stirling engine we presented in Make Vol. 17, the "Lost Knowledge" issue. It uses the heat from a hot cup of water to run the engine. Teacup Stirling engine


  1. It doesn’t so much use the heat as the heat differential to run. You could use ice cubes to create a heat differential with room temperature, and it will run just as well.

  2. I won’t claim to know anything about the physics, but for others attempting this build using the same specs there are ‘wire bending jigs’ that you can procure or make make. Think of a domino, with the holes that go clean through. You put pegs in the holes, lines, whatever, and it is a miniature setup to get nice, even consistent wire bends.
    my 2$,
    neat build,

  3. I suspect from the reluctance of the engine to run properly (it should run on the hot water or the ice, but not need both) is due to the displacer crank being the wrong dimension. If the crank is too short the displacer will not get close enough to the ends of the displacer cylinder to move the air to the other end of the cylinder, stopping the air from changing temperature/pressure. If the crank is too long the displacer will crash into one or both of the ends of the cylinder and cause nearly catastrophic friction.

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