This project is developing a novel, highly efficient and economical energy system combining heating, cooling and electricity in a small unit for residences or individual businesses. The core acoustic Stirling engine has no moving parts, and is fueled by natural gas and augmented by solar thermal energy. System components are networked for control and power distribution. The target cost is expected to be competitive with domestic cooling and utility power. For a consumer, heat and cooling are additional benefits at little extra cost. Heat can be stored for use at night, allowing overnight charging of electrical vehicles, while harvesting solar power during the day.
The investigators are modeling and optimizing the engine using their novel design to overcome past problems with Stirling engines, while minimizing engine cost. They are using 3-D full Navier-Stokes flow solvers for modeling. Linear calculations of similar systems have been performed in the past, but these have not provided the detail to optimize fully the Stirling engine’s non-linear effects, such as energy dissipation and turbulence. These details are captured by the researchers’ code. Optimization requires a low cost mass manufacturability solution.
The project has implemented a full 3-D Navier-Stokes code and developed a preliminary acoustic Stirling design. This design shows the desired behavior of energy generation and operation, but does not yet have the optimized performance characteristics. This design will provide the basis for further study and optimization. Several major industrial and government organizations have expressed interest in this research effort for possible follow-on funding and commercialization.