Carnot-Equivalent Stirling Engine and Heat Pump

ORGANIZATION NAME: Berkana Technology Group (Berkana LLC)

SUMMARY: Our purpose is to bring about a revolution in the efficiency of energy production and consumption by addressing the fundamental problems of engine and heat pump inefficiency. Heat engines and heat pumps are the technologies at the center of mankind’s energy problem because of the fuels they require and the quantities of fuel they waste. With few exceptions, mankind’s power plants and transportation technologies depend on the conversion of heat flow into work, while the industrialized world’s food handling as we know it would cease to exist without refrigeration—the use of work to force the flow of heat. These needs are here with us to stay and growing in importance. Whereas many attempts to solve our energy crisis merely deal with power generation, our solution addresses both generation and consumption, and anticipates the need for efficiency due to growing demand. Our solution opens up opportunities for others to apply our breakthroughs to enhance their solutions for the greatest possible impact.
Our strategy’s key element is the patent-pending Liu-Stirling Engine (LSE), whose PV cycle follows the ideal Stirling cycle, therefore achieving near-Carnot efficiency—the physical limit of efficiency for an engine or heat pump. Conventional Stirling engines fail to implement the Stirling cycle; rather, they implement the pseudo-Stirling cycle, which expresses only a fraction of the efficiency of the Stirling cycle. Furthermore, this engine has additional profound implications. Reversible operation:The LSE is also a heat pump: When placed between a temperature difference, the device converts heat flow into work, but when forcibly worked, it creates a temperature difference by forcing heat to flow. This one device is not merely a Carnot-efficient engine, it is also a Carnot-efficient refrigerator that doesn’t require harmful refrigerants.
External combustion: Whereas internal combustion engines lack fuel flexibility, external combustion engines can be adapted to use any heat source, including concentrated sunlight. Because of this, the LSE can be adapted for alternative fuels and conditions. As a patent-pending engine developed over the past 7 years, the Liu-Stirling Engine is a serious engine design. Engine testing technology already in use in industry could verify our claims to efficiency, and its simplicity lends itself to being scaled to various applications.

PROBLEM SPACE: Our strategy addresses two of the fundamental interacting issues responsible for our present condition—the inefficiency of engines and heat pumps. If successful, our strategy would result in nothing less than the displacement of several inefficient engine and refrigeration technologies that have dominated the industrial world for over a century—truly a comprehensive impact.

We are confident that our strategy is anticipatory, recognizing that both heat engines and heat pumps are cornerstones of life in industrial societies and are rapidly being adopted by developing nations. Our strategy is ecologically responsible because its adoption will vastly reduce the energy we use and enable greater competitiveness for alternative fuels and renewable heat sources.

Our strategy doesn’t depend on unproven theories nor physics of questionable veracity; our engine is feasible and verifiable, implementing long-established classical thermodynamics, using parts that can be built using existing manufacturing processes. We make no claims that cannot be tested. And lastly, both the technology and our business plan are replicable, and can be scaled and adapted for use with other people’s solutions.

SOLUTION: We are currently modeling the Liu-Stirling Engine (LSE) in CAD for the purpose of simulating its operation for physical validation. Our plan over the next three years is to build a prototype, patent the LSE internationally, and license to manufacturers of engines and heat pumps, while serving as consultants to assist licensees in adapting the LSE to their applications. In so doing, we hope to disseminate the knowledge of our engine technology so that eventually the LSE displaces the less efficient engine and heat pumps that dominate the industry.

In our first year, we intend to complete the computer model of the engine for validation and build a prototype. Then we will present our prototype and simulations to potential licensees and developers. In our second year, we intend to market the engine as a heat pump to manufacturers of refrigeration equipment, and as an efficiency-enhancing technology for solar-thermal and geothermal ventures, and as a retrofit for existing steam-powered power plants.

To eventually displace the inefficient engine designs widely in use, it will also be necessary to instruct engineering students in the concepts and approach behind the LSE so that our technology becomes part of the problem-solving toolset of engineers. As the LSE gains popularity and proves itself in real-world applications and our intellectual property rights are recognized, we would work with universities, engineering journals, and textbook publishers to integrate our findings and designs into mechanical engineering course material, sponsoring and investing in research projects that could find novel and practical uses for the LSE. Our hope is that we would be able to successfully commercialize and popularize the LSE so that by the time our patent expires, we would have fundamentally changed the way engines and heat pumps are designed and studied throughout the world.