|Title of Invention||
A STIRLING CYCLE MACHINE
|Abstract||The present invention relates to a Stirling cycle machine comprising a heated section and a cooled section wherein a working fluid und~rgoes heating and cooling cycles, the improvement comprising a combustor for providing thermal energy; a heater head having an interior surface and an exterior surface, the heater head for transferring the thermal energy provided by the combustor to the working fluid; and a first plurality of pins on the interior surface of the heater head, the fIrst plurality of pins for transferring thermal energy across the heater head.|
Technical Field The present invention pertains to improvements to a Stirling cycle heat engine or refrigerator and more particularly to improvements relating to mechanical and thermal components of a Stirling cycle heat engine or refrigerator which contribute to increased engine operating efficiency and lifetime, and to reduced size, complexity and cost.
Background of the Invention
Stirling cycle machines, including engines and refrigerators, have a long technological heritage, described in detail in Walker, Stirling Engines, Oxford University Press (1980), incorporated herein by reference. The principle underlying the Stirling cycle engine is the mechanical realization of the Stirling thermodynamic cycle: isovolumetric heating of a gas within a cylinder, isothermal expansion of the gas (during which work is performed by driving a piston), isovolumetric cooling, and isothermal compression. The Stirling cycle refrigerator is also the mechanical realization of a thermodynamic cycle which approximates the ideal Stirling thermodynamic cycle. In an ideal Stirling thermodynamic cycle, the working fluid undergoes successive cycles of isovolumetric heating, isothermal expansion, isovolumetric cooling and isothermal compression. Practical realizations of the cycle, wherein the stages are neither isovolumetric nor isothermal, are within the scope of the present invention and may be referred to within the present description in the language of the ideal case without limitation of the scope of the invention as claimed.
Various aspects of the present invention apply to both Stirling cycle engines and Stirling cycle refrigerators, which are referred to collectively as Stirling cycle machines in the present description and in any appended claims. Additional aspects of Stirling cycle machines and
improvements thereto are discussed in a co-pending U.S. patent application entitled . _
'Cantilevered Crankshaft Stirling Cycle Machine," filed July 14,1998, and incorporated herein by reference.
The principle of operation of a Stirling engine is readily described with reference to FIGS. la-le, wherein identical numerals are used to identify the same or similar parts. Many mechanical layouts of Stirling cycle machines are known in the art, and the particular Stirling engine designated generally by numeral 10 is shown merely for illustrative purposes. In FIGS, la to 1 d, piston 12 and a displacer 14 move in phased reciprocating motion within cylinders 16 which, in some embodiments of the Stirling engine, may be a single cylinder. A working fluid contained within cylinders 16 is constrained by seals from escaping around piston 12 and displacer 14. The working fluid is chosen for its thermodynamic properties, as discussed in the description below, and is typically helium at a pressure of several atmospheres. The position of displacer 14 governs whether the working fluid is in contact with hot interface 18 .or cold interface 20, corresponding, respectively, to the interfaces at which heat is supplied to and extracted from the working fluid. The supply and extraction of heat is discussed in further detail below. The volume of working fluid governed by the position of the piston 12 is referred to as compression space 22.
" During the first phase of the engine cycle, the starting condition of which is depicted in FIG. la, piston 12 compresses the fluid in compression space 22. The compression occurs at a substantially constant temperature because heat is extracted from the fluid to the ambient environment. In practice, a cooler 68 (shown in FIG. 2) is provided, as will be discussed in the description below. The condition of engine 10 after compression is depicted in FIG. lb. During the second phase of the cycle, displacer 14 moves in the direction of cold interface 20, with the working fluid displaced from the region of cold interface 20 to the region of hot interface 18. This phase may be referred to as the transfer phase. At the end of the transfer phase, the fluid is at a higher pressure since the working fluid has been heated at constant volume. The increased pressure is depicted symbolically in FIG. Ic by the reading of pressure gauge 24.
During the third phase (the expansion stroke) of the engine cycle, the volume of Compression space 22 increases as heat is drawn in from outside engine 10, thereby converting
neat to work, in practice, heal is provided to the fluid by means of a heater 64 (shown in FIG. 2) which is discussed in greater detail in the description below. At the end of the expansion phase, compression space 22 is full of cold fluid, as depicted in FIG. Id. During the fourth phase of the engine cycle, fluid is transferred from the region of hot interface 18 to the region of cold interface 20 by motion of displacer 14 in the opposing sense. At the end of this second transfer phase, the fluid fills compression space 22 and cold interface 20, as depicted in FIG. la, and is ready for a repetition of the compression phase. The Stirling cycle is depicted in a P-V (pressure-volume) diagram as shown in FIG. le.
Additionally, on passing from the region of hot interface 18 to the region of cold interface 20, the fluid may pass through a regenerator 66 (shown in FIG. 2). Regenerator 66 is a matrix of material having a large ratio of surface area to volume which serves to absorb heat from theiluid when it enters hot from the region of hot interface 18 and to heat the fluid when it passes from the region of cold interface 20.
The principle of operation of a Stirling cycle refrigerator can also be described with reference to FIGS, la-le, wherein identical numerals are used to identify the same or similar parts. The differences between the engine described above and a Stirling machine employed as a refrigerator are that compression volume 22 is typically in thermal communication with ambient temperature and expansion volume 24 is connected to an external cooling load (not shown). Refrigerator operation requires net work input.
Prior art means for conveying external heat radiation to the working fluid of a Stirling engine have required a quartz window for coupling the radiation to the fluid. This means is not satisfactory at operating temperatures above the softening point of quartz since, t\^ically, significant pressure differences must be sustained between the working fluid and the ambient environment.
Stirling cycle engines have not generally been used in practical applications, and Stirling cycle refrigerators have been limited to the specialty field of cryogenics, due to several daunting engineering challenges to their development. These involve such practical considerations as efficiency, vibration, lifetime, and cost. The instant invention addresses these considerations.
Summary of the Invention . In accordance with one aspect of the invention, in one of its embodiments, there is provided a rhombic drive for interconverting rotary motion and reciprocating linear motion of a first and a second connecting rod, the linear motion of the first connecting rod bearing a phased relationship to the linear motion of the second connecting rod. The rhombic drive has a rotary motion assembly having two engine axles, and two linkage mechanisms: an upper linkage mechanism and a lower linkage mechanism. The upper linkage mechanism, which transmits motion from the rotary motion assembly to the first connecting rod, has a first upper link arm having a first end coupled eccentrically about the first engine axle and a second end, as well as a second upper link arm having a first end coupled eccentrically about the second engine axle and a second end flexibly coupled at a common pivot to the second end of the first upper link arm, the common pivot being a flexure. The lower linkage mechanism transmits motion frpm the rotary motion assembly to the second connecting rod and has at least two links coupled eccentrically to the engine axles by means of rotary bearings.
In accordance with another aspect of the invention, there is provided a rhombic drive for interconverting rotary motion and reciprocating linear motion of a first and a second connecting rod wherein at least one connecting rod is coupled to at least one piston by means of a flexure joint coupling. In an alternate embodiment of the invention, a rhombic drive may have two timing gears, each including a stack of two helical gears mounted coaxially with countervailing pitches. The first and second timing gears may further include shims separating the helical gears for fine adjustment of phase between motions of the first and second connecting rods, and the rhombic drive may also include at least two spring bands for preloading the rotary bearings.
In accordance with other aspects of the present invention, a Stirling cycle machine of the type wherein a piston and a displacer having a high temperature end and a low temperature end undergo reciprocating motion within a cylinder may have a regenerator ring surrounding the high-temperature end or low-temperature end of the displacer. In accordance with a further alternate embodiment of the invention, a radiator may be circumferentially disposed with respect to the heater head of a Stirling cycle engine for transferring heat to the heater head by radiation,
and the radiator may have a stack of radiating members such fins circumferentially disposed with respect to the heater head. The heater head may be a ceramic heater head transparent to thermal radiation, and may be chosen from among the materials of magnesium aluminate spinel, aluminum oxy-nitride, and lanthanum-doped yttrium.
In accordance with a further aspect of the present invention, a method is provided for manufacturing a bellows having a series of convolutions for separating a region having a first gas pressure from a region having a second gas pressure, where the first gas pressure exceeds the second gas pressure. The method has the steps of mechanically joining alternating segments at joints extending into the region having the second gas pressure and sealing alternating segments at joints extending into the region having the first gas pressure.
Accordingly the present invention provides a Stirling cycle machine comprising a heated section and a cooled section wherein a working fluid undergoes heating and cooling cycles, the improvement comprising a combustor for providing thermal energy; a heater head having an interior surface and an exterior surface, the heater head for transferring the thermal energy provided by the combustor to the working fluid; and a first plurality of pins on the interior surface of the heater head, the first plurality of pins for transferring thermal energy across the heater head.
Brief Description of the Drawings
The invention will be more readily understood by reference to the following description, taken with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIGS, la-le depict the principle of operation of a prior art Stirling cycle machine;
FIG. 2 is a side view in cross section of a Stirling cycle engine in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram in cross-section of an epicyclic gear set for coupling the reciprocating linear motions of a compression piston and expression piston in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIGS. 4a-4h depict the principle of operation of a Stirling cycle machine with eccentric linkage-coupled drive rods in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 5a is a perspective view of a novel L-linkage drive employed for coupling the orthogonal linear motion of two pistons of a Stirling cycle machine in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 5b is a side view in cross section of the L-linkage drive of FIG. 5a showing torsional counterweights in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 6a is a top view in cross-section of a Stirling cycle machine employing a novel linkage for coupling the orthogonal linear motion of two pistons in accordance with an -
embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 6b is a side view in cross-section of the Stirling cycle machine of FIG. 6a employing the novel linkage for coupling the orthogonal linear motion of two pistons in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 7a is a cross-section through line AA of Fig. 2 of a Stirling cycle engine showing a cantilevered crankshaft in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 7b is a cross-section through line AA of Fig. 2 of a Stirling cycle engine showing a cantilevered crankshaft in accordance with an alternate embodiment of the present invention wherein the flywheel is disposed at the end of the eccentric crankshaft distal to the engine cylinders;
FIG. 8 is a cross-section of a beta-configured Stirling engine employing a rhombic drive in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIGS. 9a-9d depict side views in cross-section, at successive cycle phases, of a beta-configured Stirling cycle machine employing a power piston and a displacer piston having different diameters in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a prior art rhombic drive mechanism showing a trapezoidal link arrangement and split axles to accommodate eccentric link couplings;
FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a rhombic drive mechanism with a trapezoidal link arrangement and through-axles in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a rhombic drive mechanism showing a triangular link arrangement, through-axles, and herringbone timing gears, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 13 is a side view of a spring-steel band for preloading the rotary bearings of a Stirling cycle machine in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 14 is a partial view in cross-section of the cylinder and displacer piston of a Stirling cycle engine showing a regenerator ring in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 15 is a schematic diagram showing the temperature of the combustion gas used in providing heat to the healing head of a prior art Stirling cycle engine including a heat exchanger
to preheat combustion air;
FIG. 16 is a schematic diagram showing the temperature of the combustion gas used in providing heat to the heating head of a Stirling cycle engine at successive stages of its flow which includes a thermoelectric generator, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 17 is a schematic diagram showing the temperature of the combustion gas used in providing heat to the heating head of a Stirling cycle engine including a compressor driven by a turbo-expander to force combustion air into a burner, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 18a is a cross-sectional view of an air amplifier in which high pressure fuel is used
to entrain air and recirculated exhaust gas rapidly along the length of the mixing chamber prior to
combustion heating of a Stirling engine heater head, in accordance with an embodiment of the
FIG. 18b is a cross-sectional view of an air amplifier depicting the principle of operation of the air amplifier;
FIG. 19a is a schematic depiction of the principle of radiative heating of a Stirling engine heater head in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. .
FIG. 19b is a cross-sectional view of a radiative heating assembly of a Stirling engine heater head in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, wherein the radiant energy is absorbed by an absorber within a thermally transparent head.
FIG. 19c is a cross-sectional view of a Stirling cycle engine employing a pin heat exchanger in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 19d is a magnified perspective detail view of the pin heaters of the pin heat exchanger of FIG. 19c;
FIG. 20a is a side view in cross-section of a bellows sealed piston in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and
FIG. 20b is a side view in cross-section of a single segment of the bellows sealed piston of FIG. 20a.
Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments - -
Referring now to FIG. 2, a Stirling cycle engine, shown in cross-section, is designated generally by numeral 28. While the invention will be described generally with reference to the Stirling engine shown in FIG. 2, it is to be understood that many engines as well as refrigerators may similarly benefit from various embodiments and improvements which are subjects of the present invention. The configuration of Stirling engine 28 shown in FIG. 2 is referred to as an alpha configuration, characterized in that compression piston 30 and expansion piston 32 undergo linear motion within respective and distinct cylinders: compression piston 30 in compression cylinder 34 and expansion piston 32 in expansion cylinder 36.
In addition to compression piston 30 and expansion piston 32, the main components of Stirling engine 28 include heater 64, regenerator 66, and cooler 68. Compression piston 30 and expansion piston 32, referred to collectively as pistons, are constrained to move in reciprocating linear motion within respective volumes 38 and .40 defined laterally by a cylinder liner 42. The volumes of the cylinder interior proximate to the heater 64 and cooler 68 will be referred to, herein, as hot and cold sections, respectively, of engine 28. The relative phase (the "phase angle") of the reciprocating linear motion of compression piston 30 and expansion piston 32 is governed by their respective coupling to drive mechanism 44 housed in crankcase 46. Drive mechanism 44, discussed in greater detail below, is one example of various mechanisms known in the art of engine design which may be employed to govern the relative timing of pistons and to interconvert linear and rotary motion. Compression piston 30 and expansion piston 32 are coupled, respectively, to drive mechanism 44 via a first connecting rod 48 and a second connecting rod 50. The volume of compression cylinder 38 is coupled to cooler 68 via duct 45 to allow cooling of compressed working fluid during the compression phase. Duct 45, more particularly, couples compression volume 38 to the annular heat exchangers comprising cooler 68, regenerator 66, and heater 64.
In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, rods 48 and 50 may be fabricated in such a manner as to be flexible with respect to bending so as to accommodate drive misalignments (such as may arise due to pressurization and heating of the engine structure) while providing sufficient tensile and contractile stiffness to carry the requisite compressive loads
without buckling. Rods 48 and 50 are preferredly fashioned from a high-strength metal, such as S-7 tool steel, for example, and are advantageously of ellipsoidal cross-section, although rods of any cross-section are within the scope of the present invention.
The operation of drive mechanism 44 is now discussed with reference to Fig. 3. In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, a novel linkage (which may be referred to as an "L-drive" linkage) is provided for coupling two members undergoing sinusoidal linear motion with a relative phase lag. An epicyclic gear set is designated generally by numeral 70. Epicyclic gear set 70 may be employed in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention for coupling the reciprocating linear motions of pistons 12 and 14 (shown in FIG. 1), referred to alternatively as compression piston 12 and expansion piston 14. Epicyclic gear set 70 consists of an internal gear 72 and a pinion gear 74, with the pitch diameter of internal gear 72 equal to twice the pitch diameter of pinion gear 74. When internal gear 72 remains fixed and pinion gear 74 allowed to turn inside internal gear 72, each point on perimeter 76 of pinion geaj 74 travels along a straight line with pure sinusoidal motion with respect to a fiducial point on the line.
FIGS. 4a-4h show the respective linear travel of pistons 12 and 14 coupled via connecting rods 48 and 50 to opposite sides of pinion gear 74 turning with respect to fixed internal gear 72 as described in reference to FIG. 3. Pistons 12 and 14 move at an angle to each other, preferentially an angle within approximately 10° of perpendicular. Pistons 12 and 14 sweep out pure sinusoidal linear motion in a phase-angle relation substantially equal to the angular orientation of the axes of piston motion with respect to each other. Thus, for example, for piston travel oriented precisely orthogonally, pistons 12 and 14 move substantially in quadrature (90o out-of-phase) with respect to one another. Successive phases of the motion of pistons 12 and 14 with rotation of pinion gear 74 are shown in FIGS. 4a-4h.
Referring now to FIG. 5a, the use of counterweights 78 (only one counterweight 78 is shown for clarity) rotating 180° out of phase with pinion gear 74 allows the engine to be dynamically balanced. Referring to the cross-sectional view of the drive shown in FIG. 5b, it is not necessary to load the drive symmetrically about its center line provided that a set of "torsional counterweights" 80 are added about the axis of eccentric crankshaft 86. The set of two
opposing counterweights ,811, provided in addition to pnmary counterweights 78, may balance tne moments created by the offset pistons while primary counterweights 78 balance the engine in translation. In the embodiment of the invention depicted in perspective in FIG. 5a and in cross-sectional top and side views in FIGS. 5b, 6a and 6b, counterweights 78 are provided to rotate in counterphase to compression piston bearings 82 and expansion piston bearing 84 respectively. The linkage drive embodiments of the present invention require far fewer parts than a rhombic drive mechanism, described in further detail below. Additionally, the volume displaced by the novel linkage drive is smaller than the volume of the displacement of a rhombic drive with the same piston stroke. Additionally, the sinusoidal motion of the two perpendicular pistons may be perfectly balanced with a simple counterweight, and does not put side loads on the piston seals, thereby reducing friction, increasing engine lifetime, and allowing dry operation.
Referring now to FIG. 7a, a crossrsectional view is shown of Stirling engine 28 taken along cut AA of FIG. 2. Eccentric compression piston bearings 82 and expansion piston bearing 84 are disposed about eccentric crankshaft 86 as cantilevered from main bearing set 88 which supports primary (or "outer") crankshaft 90 with respect to the housing 92 of engine 28. Eccentric crankshaft 86 rotates about an axis eccentric to primary crankshaft 90, driving primary crankshaft 90 in an opposite sense of rotation, at the same speed of rotation, by virtue of pinion gear 94 and internal gear 96, together comprising epicyclic gear set 98, as described with reference to FIG. 3. The position of primary crankshaft 86 with respect to an arbitrary point fixed with respect to the engine defines a "crank angle." Crankshafts configured in this manner may be referred to as "harmonic crankshafts."
The cantilevered crankshaft configuration advantageously allows lubrication of gear set 98 without contamination of the Stirling engine working fluid which must be kept clean so as not to contaminate the regenerator and compromise the efficient operation of the engine. Primary crankshaft 90, in turn, may impart torque to a mechanical load. An example of a mechanical load is generator rotor 100, rotationally driven with respect to generator stator 102 for generating electrical energy. Eccentric flywheel 104 and linear counterweight 106 are coupled to eccentric crankshaft 86 and thus cantilevered about main bearing set 88. Eccentric flywheel 104 is provided in order that the net inertia, including the rotational momentum of the forward rotatine
components and that of the backward-rotating components, is zero. Thus; vibration of the engine due to variations in engine speed are advantageously avoided. Eccentric flywheel 104 may, within the scope of the invention, be otherwise disposed than as shown in FIG. 7a. For example, referring to FIG. 7b, an alternate embodiment of the Stirling engine of Fig. 2 is shown in cross-section, wherein eccentric flywheel 104 is disposed at the end 105 of eccentric crankshaft 86 distal to the location of piston bearings 82 and 84. Referring again to FIG. 7a, eccentric crankshaft 86 is supported with respect to primary crankshaft 90 by bearings 108 and 110. A primary counterweight 112 and torsional counterweight 114 are provided for dynamic balance of primary crankshaft 90 with respect to the whole eccentric crankshaft assembly, including the pistons.
The load on primary crankshaft 90 preferentially does not change direction over the course of a cycle of the engine. In this way, by virtue of tiie balance of forward and backward inertia, torque reversal on epicyclic gear set 98 is advantageously prevented, thereby preventing noise and wear associated with gear backlash. If the load on the primary axle 90 is constant, the torque on epicyclic gear set 98 is unidirectional and is also minimized for a given net power output. If the applied load is an electric generator, constant torque operation also results in the highest generator efficiency. Additionally, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention, the current load on the generator may be regulated, such as by load regulator 103 which may be a processor, as known in the electrical arts, for providing a constant torque on epicyclic gear set 98 for realizing the described advantageous operation. Additionally, generator rotor 100 may provide all or part of the mass of a flywheel, and the generator may also function as a starter for Starting the engine.
An alternate embodiment of the invention is now described with reference to FIG. 8. In the side view shown in cross-section in FIG. 8, Stirling cycle engine 28 is configured in a beta configuration, characterized by in-line linear motion of power piston 30 and displacer piston 32. In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, connecting rod 48 is configured as a hollow shaft, with connecting rod 50 configured so as to undergo reciprocating linear motion coaxially with, and interior to, connecting rod 48. Other configurations are also within the scope of the invention, including refrigerators and further embodiments discussed particularly, in the other
sections of the description.
In the embodiment of FIG. 8, drive mechanism 36 is a rhombic drive mechanism consisting of a rotary motion assembly 120, an upper link mechanism 122, and a lower link mechanism 124. Rotary motion assembly 120 is that portion of rhombic drive mechanism 36 which entails rotation about a fixed axis, and, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 8, consists of a first timing gear 126 which rotates with a first engine axle 128, and a second timing gear 130 which rotates with a second engine axle 132. Upper link mechanism 122 is so-designated with respect to the orientation of engine 28 as depicted in FIG. 2 and constitutes the mechanical coupling between rotary motion assembly 120 and first connecting rod 48. In the embodiment shown, upper link mechanism 122 couples the rotary motion of rotary motion assembly 120 to the linear motion of power piston 30, however, in other embodiments, upper link mechanism 122 may couple, instead, to the linear motion of displacer 32. Upper link mechanism 122 is coupled to rotary motion assembly 120 eccentrically with respect to engine axles 128 and 132, such as via links 134. In an embodiment depicted in FIG. 2, links 134 are coupled at pivots 136 to crosslink 138, which is directly coupled to connecting rod 48. Other means of coupling rotary motion assembly 120 to connecting rod 48 are readily apparent to persons skilled in the art of mechanics and are similarly within the scope of the appended claims. Lower link mechanism 124 similarly couples the rotary motion of rotary motion assembly 120 to connecting rod 50 via links and pivots not apparent in FIG. 8.
During the expansion phase of the Stirling cycle described above, the working fluid at hot end 140 of displacer 32 expands, acquiring heat from outside engine 28 via heater 64. Different configurations of heater 64 encompassed within the scope of embodiments of the current invention are discussed below. Heated working fluid is then subsequently transferred to the compression volume 142 between displacer 32 and power piston 30 by passage through regenerator 66 where heat is taken out of the working fluid and taken up by regenerator 66. During the compression phase described above, heat is removed from the working fluid to the ambient space by cooler 68.
In an embodiment of the invention, crankcase 46 is hermetically sealed and contains the same fluid which serves as the working fluid of the Stirling cycle engine. This working fluid is
typically helim, though the use of other fluids is within the scope of the claims of this invention.
Additional cooling may be achieved by circulation of the working fluid from the working volume into the crankcase. One method of providing additional cooling, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention, is to provide a cooler for transferring heat from the crankcase fluid to the ambient environment, and a pump for circulating fluid from the crankcase to the cooler and back to the crankcase.
In an alternate embodiment of the invention, the working fluid in the Stirling engine may be ionized. One ionization mechanism, for example, is the use of a glow discharge or similar method, though ionization by ultraviolet light or resonant radiation are also within the scope of the appended claims. Once the working fluid is ionized, it may be moved over small distances electro-magnetically. This allows the pistons to be sealed using a magnetic field. The function of the displacer in moving theiluid between the hot section and the cold section of the engine may also be accomplished electro-magnetically. Thus, displacer 32 need not be a mechanical component.
Close tolerance seals to minimize the flow of working fluid past piston 30 and displacer 32 require the centering of the respective pistons to within the order of 0.001" (1 mil) in the bore of cylinder liner 42. Providing this centering can be accomplished by high tolerance machining of all the components that align the drive, or, alternatively, by fine adjustment during assembly. Either option entails complicated procedures and expense. In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, flexible joints are added within connecting rods 48 and 50 to allow either shaft to be offset or inclined at a small angle and for the pistons 30 and 32 to run true in the bore. Small misalignments are, thus, no longer critical, and misalignments of less than 10 mils will not cause appreciable side loading on the seals. This embodiment is particularly suited to the triangle link arrangement discussed below in reference to FIG. 11.
Referring now to FIGS. 9a-9d, mechanical losses may be reduced and the lifetime of the drive mechanism may be extended by minimizing the pressure loading on power piston 30. Two mechanisms give rise to pressure loads on power piston 30, one increasing engine power output, the other having no effect on power output. The cyclical movement of displacer piston 32 heats and cools the working fluid causing changes in the pressure of the fluid in compression volume
142. Since these pressure changes are roughly 90° out of phase with the motion of power piston 30, they result in net work output by the engine. On the other hand, motion by power piston 30 causes pressure swings directly in phase with piston motion, thereby not contributing to the work output of the engine.
To maximize the engine power for a given drive loading, the fraction of the total pressure swing caused by the movement of displacer piston 32 should be maximized. To this end, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention, a displacer piston 32 is provided having a larger diameter than the diameter of power piston 30, as shown in FIGS. 9a-9d in successive phases of the Stirling cycle. Pistons of differing diameters are known in engines having separate bores, such as the Stirling engine 10 shown in nCS, la-Id. By providing pistons of differing diameters in the P-type engine of FIGS. 8 and 9a-9d, in which the pistons are coaxial and share the same swept volume over some portion of their stroke, the benefit of lower pressure swings from a larger diameter displacer is achieved while, at the same time, providing the P-type engine advantages of low dead volume and high compression ratio. Alpha-, beta- and gamma-configurations are well-known to persons skilled in the art of Stirling cycle machines.
Referring now to FIG. 10, a prior art rhombic drive is shown, as designated generally by numeral 150. Here, rotary motion assembly 120 is comprised of counterweights 122 and 124 and timing gears 126 and 128. In the prior art design, counterweight 122 and timing gear 126 co-rotate, however axle 130 cannot pass through both counterweight 122 and timing gear 126 because of clearance requirements of eccentrically mounted link arm 132 and the corresponding link arm (not shown) of the lower linkage mechanism. Accordingly, axle 130 must be "split," with attendant mechanical disadvantages.
In FIG. 11, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention, axle 130 is shown to pass through both counterweight 122 and timing gear 126. This is accomplished by providing the eccentric coupling of link arm 132 to the rotary motion assembly via a large rotary bearing 134 which allows axle 130 to pass through large rotary bearing 134 as a through-axle. The use of a through-axle may improve drive stiffness, contribute to ease of accurate assembly, and reduce engine cost. The linkage mechanism shown in FIG. 11 is a so-called "trapezoidal link arrangement," in that link arm 132 and link arm 136, mounted eccentrically to respective wheels
or counterweights of the rotary motion assembly, are each coupled to a crosslink (or "platform") 138 at pivots 140. Crosslink 138, in turn, drives connecting rod 48. A disadvantage of this arrangement is that the crosslink 138 can rock back and forth as connecting rod 48 translates linearly. The drive is therefore dependent on the seals of piston 30 (shown in FIG, 8) and connecting rod 50 to eliminate the rocking degree of freedom. As a result, any imbalance in the drive will result in a side force on the seals, increasing the friction and seal wear.
Referring now to FIG. 12, in an embodiment of the invention, link arm 132 and link arm 136 are coupled to each other at a pivot 142 rather than via a separate cross link as in the trapezoidal link arrangement of FIG. 11. The link arrangement in which link arms 132 and 136 are coupled at a single common pivot 142 is referred to as a "triangle link" or "delta-link" arrangement. By reducing a degree of freedom of lateral motion, the triangle link arrangement may reduce vibration and wear, allow the use of flexures in line with connecting rods 48 and 50 (shown in FIG. 2), and may increase engine lifetime. ....
Since rotation of link arms 132 and 136 is not complete, the coupling at pivot 142 need not allow full 360-degree rotation and may be a flexure. Similarly, flexures may constitute the coupling of link arms to the rotary motion assembly, the coupling between link arms, or the coupling between a crosslink and link arms. Flexures, employing incomplete rotation capability, may be used to provide increased engine reliability.
In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, one or more of the pivots between pairs of link arms, or, additionally, one or more of the rotary bearings, employs ferrofluidic bearings, thereby allowing longer maintenance intervals between replacement of pivots or bearings. Ferrofluidic seals use magnetic fields to contain oil that has been seeded with small particles of a ferromagnetic material. Such seals are commonly used to permanently seal lubrication inside ball bearings or bushings. By using ferrofluidic bearings, the friction from rubbing bearing seals may be eliminated.
Referring further to FIG. 12, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention, two liming gears, 144 and 146 are mounted on engine axle 130 of the rotary motion assembly, with corresponding counterroiaiing liming gears 150 and 152, mounted on engine axle 158. Gears 144 and 146, along with their corresponding gears 150 and 152 on engine axle 158 are helical gears.
The pitches of the helices of gears 144 and 146 may be countervailing, thereby effectively creating a timing gear with a herringbone pattern. This type of gear is commonly used to reduce noise while eliminating side forces associated with helical gears. An additional advantage of this design is that the spacing between gears 144 and 146 may be adjusted by means of a shim, or otherwise, thereby providing for fme adjustment in the relative phase of the two axles. This provides a simple way to fme tune the phase angle during assembly.
Referring now to FIG. 13, vibration and wear may be reduced by maintaining a constant lateral load on bearings, a spring band, designated generally by numeral 160. By fabricating spring bands out of spring steel or a similar material, the bearings may be pre-loaded, typically, with 10 to 20 pounds of tension. Band 160 provides lateral loading of rotary bearing 134 and the bearing of upper link pivot bearing 142.
FIG. 14 depicts a side view in cross section of displacer piston 32 and the corresponding portion of cylinder liner 42. A large fraction of the losses in small Stirling machines accrue in the annular gap 160, referred to as the "appendix gap," surrounding displacer piston 32. Two mechanisms give rise to these losses: The first, the so-called "shuttle loss," is heat conduction down wall 42 of the cylinder enhanced by the cyclic motion of displacer 32. This is a direct result of the large temperature gradient along the wall 162 of displacer 32 and wall 42 of the cylinder. At the displacer midstroke, both displacer wall 162 and cylinder liner 42 have the same axial temperature gradient, roughly 1200°F at the top and 80°F at the bottom, in the case of an engine. The temperature at every point on the cylinder liner will be the same as the corresponding point on the displacer wall directly across the appendix gap. When the displacer moves to the top of its stroke, however, the temperatures are no longer matched. The cylinder will be at a higher temperature than the corresponding point on the displacer so heat will flow from the liner, through the helium in the appendix gap, to the displacer wall. The reverse happens when the displacer is at the bottom of its stroke. Heat is transferred from the displacer back to the cylinder but at a location further down the wall and closer to the cooler. This is also referred to as "bucket brigade" loss; the displacer picks up heat from the hot side and cyclically shuttles it toward the cold side. This effect is inversely proportional to the size of the gap between the displacer piston and the cylinder wall.
The second effect is typically called "pumping loss." Due to pressure variations inside the engine, fluid from the expansion space flows in and out of the appendix gap during each cycle. The helium flows into the gap, gives off some of its heat to the cylinder walls, then flows back out of the gap at a slightly cooler temperature. This represents another thermodynamic loss in the cycle; heat is transferred from the hot to the cold side without contributing any work. The heat lost to this effect is directly proportional to the size of the gap. The size of the appendix gap is therefore based on minimizing the sum of the shuttle loss and the pumping loss. However, even when properly optimized, the sum of these losses is typically 10% of the input power for small engines.
In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, this loss is reduced by adding a short section of regenerative material 164 at the inlet to the appendix gap 160. This material could be metal felt, layered screens, or any one of a number of porous materials with large wetted surface areas typically used for regeneration. Such regenerators, when properly sized, can be made upwards of 99% effective. Any narrow annular gap provided in the wall of displacer piston 32 for minimizing the irreversible component of heat flow between the hot end of the cylinder liner and the body of the displacer piston also falls within the scope .of the structure referred to herein as a "regenerator ring." As a result of the presence of the regenerator ring, the gas entering and leaving the appendix gap is at very close to the same temperature, independent of gap size. This serves to reduce the pumping loss allowing a larger appendix gap to be used to reduce the shuttle loss. The net result may be a large increase in engine efficiency, upwards of 3 or 4 % for small engines.
In the case of Stirling cycle refrigerators, the seal is at the warm end, so the regenerative material is placed at the cold entrance to the annular gap.
FIGS. 15-17 depict schematics of the flow of heat from a burner 170 used to combust a fuel in order to provide heat to heater head 64 (shown in FIG. 2) of the Stirling engine. Typically, air, at ambient temperature, provides the oxidant in which fuel combusts in burner 170. There is still a considerable amount of energy left in the combustion gases after heater head 64 has been heated, and, as known to persons skilled in the art, heat exchanger 172 may be used to transfer heat from the exhaust gases to the combustion air prior to introduction into burner 170. Typical
numbers applicable to prior art pre-combustion heating are shown in FIG. 15. Post-combustion gases at -2000 K (temperatures are given in degrees Kelvin) are used to heat the Stirling engine working fluid to a temperature of -950 K, leaving exhaust gas at 1200 K, far too hot to vent to the environment. Heat exchanger 172 removes heat from the exhaust gas and transfers it to the pre-combustion air, heating the pre-combustion air to -900 K, and leaving the exhaust at -600 K, still too hot to be exhausted safely without further dilution with ambient air.
Referring to FIG. 15, a fan or blower is typically used to force air through burner 170 in order to provide heat to heater 64 of the Stirling engine. Both fans and blowers, however, have low efficiencies. As a result, a fraction of the power output of an engine is typically consumed in moving the air required for combustion.
FIG. 16 depicts a schematic diagram of a further embodiment of the present invention according to which some of the energy left in the exhaust gas after passage through heat exchanger 172 may be converted to electrical power by thermo-electric generator 174 which powers an electric blower 176. FIG. 17 depicts the use of hot exhaust gases, in accordance with a yet further alternate embodiment of the invention, to power a turbo-expander 180 which drives a turbo-compressor 182 for propelling combustion gases into burner 170.
Referring now to FIG. 18a, in one embodiment of the present invention, high pressure gaseous fuel, such as propane, is used to entrain the needed airflow through an air amplifier designated generally by numeral 184. As known in the art of gas dynamics, air amplifier 184 uses a small flow of high pressure gas to entrain a much larger flow of ambient air. The principle of operation of a gas amplifier is described with reference to FIG. 18b. High pressure fuel, such as propane, for example, is directed from volume 192 along a curved wall 194 creating a wall jet 196 of fuel which entrains ambient gases 198 and provides a large flow 200 of well-mixed propane and air moving at a velocity slower than the wall jet 196. High speed wall jet 196 of propane mixes with or entrains the slowly moving gas 198 above it, transferring momentum and accelerating the entrained gas. Thus, a boundary layer 202 grows in volume and slows in net transport velocity as more and more ambient gas is entrained. The entrained ambient gas 198 that exits with propane jet 196 generates a low pressure that pulls fresh air in the air amplifier 184. Thus, high pressure propane jet 196 effectively pumps air through air amplifier 184. The
resultant flow of near ambient pressure gas can be, typically, 10-40 times larger than the high pressure gas flow. Referring again to FIG. 18a, propane may be used, at pressures in the range, typically, of 20-100 psig, as the high pressure gas, and air amplifier 184 will both pump air through the burner and mix the fuel and air before they enter burner 170. This eliminates the need for a blower (or reduces the size of any blower required), using, instead, the stored energy in the high pressure gaseous fuel that would otherwise have been wasted. Equally important, the air amplifier may be employed to maintain the correct fuel to air ratio without air controls and may further allow the simplified incorporation of exhaust gas recirculation in order to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides, since low pressure plenum 188 inducts some amount of exhaust gas.
FIG. 19a depicts the principle of increasing the efficiency with which heater head 64 is heated by the hot gases designated by dashed arrows bearing the numeral 300. The gases are heated in the combustion process whereby fuel is burned in air, as described above with reference to FIGS. 15-18 , to temperatures typically on the order of 2000 K. Hot burned gases 300 flow past fins 302, thereby transferring thermal energy to the fins by convection, thereby cooling the gas and heating the fins. Thermal energy absorbed by fins 302 is then radiated to heater head 64 of the Stirling engine which operates at a lower temperature, typically on the order of 950 K. The gas 304 exiting fins 302 is at a temperature slightly higher than that of the fins. Typically, the temperature of the fins and of the emergent gas is on the order of 1400 K. Gas 304 is directed past heater head 64 and transfers further thermal energy to the heater head by convection.
Referring now to FIG. 19b, an alternate embodiment of the invention allows thermal energy radiated by fins 302 not only to heat heater head 64 but to transfer thermal energy directly to the interior space 306 of the Stirling engine. This is achieved by fabricating heater head 64 out of a material substantially transparent to thermal radiation at the temperature (on the order of 1400 K) of the radiating fins 302, which is to say, in the infrared. Such materials include, for example, infrared-transparent ceramics such as magnesium aluminate spinel, aluminum oxy-nitride, and crystalline materials such as lanthanum-doped yttrium. Thermal energy radiated by fins 302 is subsequently absorbed by corrugated foil 308 disposed within interior space 306 of the Stirling engine. Corrugated foil 308 is treated to act as a blackbody absorber, using techniques well-known to persons of ordinary skill in infrared optics, and subsequentiy transfers
heat by convection to the working fluid of the engine.
Referring now to FIGS. 19c and 19d, a novel structure is depicted, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, for transferring large amounts of heat from the combustion source to the interior of Stirling cycle engine 28, shown in cross section. In order to increase the efficiency of heat transfer from hot gases 300, generated by burner 150, to the working fluid contained in the interior volume 306 of the engine, a large wetted surface area, on either side of heater head 64 is required. To achieve the high surface area, a large number of metal pins 310 are fabricated on both the interior surface 312 and exterior surface 314 of heater head 64. Fabrication may be accomplished at low cost, such as by investment casting. Metal pins 310 not only increase the wetted surface area on either side of heater head 64 but also create turbulent wakes that increase fluid mixing and thereby further increase the flow of heat. This structure may also be employed for heat transfer at-the cooler 68 (shown in FIG. 2) or in any application where efficient heat transfer is required between volumes of gases.
In FIGS. 20a-20b, a side view is shown of a bellows sealed piston, designated generally by numeral 400. Referring now to FIG. 20a, in accordance with an alternate embodiment of the present invention, bellows 400 may be used to provide a seal between working volume 402 and crankcase volume 404. While flexible metal bellows might be used for this application, they are expensive and difficult to fabricate. Instead, the pressure differential (with pressure pi in working volume 402 always exceeding pressure p2 in crankcase volume 404) is used to hold bellows segments together, The pressure difference causes convex joint 406 between convolutions 408 and 410 to separate, while concave joint 412 between convolutions 410 and 414 is pressed together. Convex joints 406 are joined mechanically, such as by welding or brazing, so as to wrthstand the separation forces. Concave joints 412, as shown in FIG. 20b, have surfaces which are glued to provide a good gas seal. Advantages of this arrangement include providing a hermetic seal between the working volume and the crankcase with the possible exception of a port for connecting a pump to pressurize the working volume. Since only one joint of each segment 414 is structural on each pair of bellows convolutions, fabrication is simplified.
The devices and methods described herein may be applied in other applications besides the. Stirling engine in terms of which the invention has been described. The described
embodiments of the invention are intended to be merely exemplary and numerous variations and modifications will be apparent to those skilled in the art. All such variations and modifications are intended to be within the scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims.
1. A Stirling cycle machine comprising a heated section and a cooled section
wherein a working fluid undergoes heating and cooling cycles, the improvement
comprising a combustor for providing thermal energy; a heater head having an interior
surface and an exterior surface, the heater head for transferring the thermal energy
provided by the combustor to the working fluid; and a first plurality of pins on the
interior surface of the heater head, the first plurality of pins for transferring thermal
energy across the heater head.
2. A Stirling cycle machine comprising a heated section and a cooled section
wherein a working fluid undergoes heating and cooling cycles, the improvement
comprising a combustor for providing thermal energy; a heater head having an interior
surface and an exterior surface, the heater head for transferring the thermal energy
provided by the combustor to the working fluid; and a first plurality of pins on the
exterior surface of the heater head, the first plurality of pins for transferring thermal
energy across the heater head.
3. The Stirling cycle machine according to claim 2, the improvement further comprising a second plurality of pins on the interior surface of the heater head, the second plurality of pins for transferring thermal energy across the heater head.
4. A Stirling cycle machine comprising a heated section and a cooled section wherein a working fluid undergoes heating and cooling cycles, the improvement comprising a cooler having an interior surface and an exterior surface, the cooler for transferring thermal energy from the working fluid to a second fluid; and a first
plurality of pins on the interior surface of the cooler, the first plurality of pins for transferring thermal energy across the cooler.
5. A Stirling cycle machine comprising a heated section and a cooled section wherein a working fluid undergoes heating and cooling cycles, the improvement comprising a cooler having an interior surface and an exterior surface, the cooler for transferring thermal energy from the working fluid to a second fluid; and a first plurality of pins on the exterior surface of the cooler, the first plurality of pins for transferring thermal energy across the cooler.
6. The Stirling cycle machine according to claim 5, the improvement further comprising a second plurality of pins on the interior surface of the cooler, the second plurality of pins for transferring thermal energy across the cooler.
7. A Stirling machine substantially as herein described in accordance with
figures 2 to 20B.
DATED THIS 15 DAY OF JULY 1998
|Indian Patent Application Number||1580/MAS/1998|
|PG Journal Number||26/2007|
|Date of Filing||15-Jul-1998|
|Name of Patentee||NEW POWER CONCEPTS LLC|
|Applicant Address||340 COMMERCIAL STREET, MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE 03101.|
|PCT International Classification Number||F02G1/043|
|PCT International Application Number||N/A|
|PCT International Filing date|