Why Stirling engines are not widely used for producing energy?

Why Stirling engines are not widely used for producing energy?

Why Stirling engines are not widely used for producing energy?

Introduction to energy production

  • Energy production

Energy production or electricity generation is the process of generating electricity (energy). This process involves converting a primary source of energy such as mechanical, thermal, chemical or any other type of energy into electrical energy.

Energy producing systems are widely used in different sectors and industries such as hospitals, factories, laboratories and even urban buildings such as houses and apartments.

  • Systems that produce energy

 

Systems that produce energy

As stated beforeو in order to produce energy and electricity, an energy producing system is required. Here are some of the most widely used energy producing systems:

  • Thermal Power Station: Thanks to its reasonable high efficiency, probably the most commonly used energy generating systems are thermal power stations. Thermal power stations burn fossil fuels such as coal in order to boil water. The superheated steam is then used to generate electricity by turning the blades of a turbine which is mechanically attached and coupled to an electrical alternator. This system is able to generate and export electricity 
  • Renewable Energy Generation systems: Renewable energy generation systems are growingly being used in various industries due to them being considered as green and environmentally friendly systems. Solar panel systems are one of the most commonly used renewable energy generation systems. While solar panels have a lower efficiency compared to other traditional systems such as gas or hydro-power, however, the fact that they are green and have a low initial installation cost makes them extremely beneficial to implement and use.
  • Stirling Engines: Stirling engines are in theory and in concept one of the best power generating systems ever invented and that is due to the many advantages and pros they bring to the table. Some of these advantages include the followings:
    • Stirling engines require little maintenance thanks to the fact that they are external combustion engines,
    • They are quieter than most other engines,
    • They have a theoretical high-efficiency rate as well as they have a greater fuel versatility.

Interestingly, despite their many advantages, they are the least used energy generating systems on this list. In this article, we are going to discuss 6 reasons for lack of their popularity among the other systems.

Top 6 reasons that make Stirling engines not widely used

Stirling engines

It is true that the Stirling engine is considered to be a great invention with many advantages. However, they do have a lot of disadvantages and drawbacks which can cripple or even over shine their pros. Here are the 6 main reasons why Stirling engines are not widely used:

  1. In order to generate a higher amount of energy and electricity, Stirling engines have to be large in volume and thus greater in weight which could be a huge problem especially for urban buildings and even for industrial buildings in many cases.
  2. It is true that Stirling engines do require only a little of maintenance, therefore, little cost of maintenance; however, Stirling engines are considered to have a higher economic cost due to the fact that they contain a high-temperature working fluid. This requires that their heat exchanger withstand corrosive effects. In other words, Stirling engines must be made out of materials that could withstand the negative effects of the atmosphere. This makes them quite expensive especially if they are used in large engines.
  3. It is true that Stirling engines have a wide variety of fuel options; however, most if not all of these fuels are expensive. Stirling engines usually use helium or hydrogen. Helium is rare and expensive and on top of all, there is always the possibility of having leakage over time. On the other hand, Hydrogen is also quite expensive. BMW company tried to implement hydrogen for its cars instead of regular gas but due to the same reasons, it did not work out.
  4. Speaking of hydrogen, Stirling engines are more dangerous than any other commonly used energy generating system. The mixture of air and lubricating combustible fluids inside the engine can produce explosive mixtures. This problem, however, could be solved by reducing the amount of hydrogen used or not using any conventional lubricants; however, this will significantly reduce the efficiency of the entire system.
  5. Stirling engines require some significant time in order to warm up and produce a useful amount of power and valuable energy.
  6. Stirling engines are unable to quickly change their power output and this makes it even slower and could be a problem in some cases.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while Stirling engines are theoretically considered as one of the best energy generating systems but when it comes to practicality and feasibility, they are not that great. They are expensive, quite heavy, and could be potentially dangerous and even fatal.

Despite its setbacks, Stirling engines are still considered as a new opportunity for better development and optimization, and that is why it has not been put aside from extensive technological research.

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