How it works

How Stirling Engines Operate / Work
I used to have my own article here, but due to some inconsistancies I decided to rewrite it. At about the same time I came across this article by Mike Palmer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on the Stirling section of his Station Road Steam site. Mike kindly agreed to allow me to republish the article here - thanks mate. Mike's company Station Road Steam produces a Stirling engine kit called the Super Vee which is the engine used in these pictures. You can check out the Super Vee and Mikes other products at Mike's site.
The article and pictures are all © Copyright to Mike Palmer and may not be reused without his explicit permission.


A fixed volume of air is heated. As it gets warmer, its pressure increases. By allowing the air to act on the underside of a piston, the engine can do work. Having pushed the piston to the top of its stroke, the air is then cooled, reducing its pressure and allowing atmospheric pressure to push the piston back down. Repeat rapidly and you have a hot air engine!…

Read more: How Stirling Engines Operate / Work

The Stirling Cycle engine is also known as external combustion, Carnot Cycle, and several other names. This article should help your understanding of why this is so. Essentially all of these devices utilise the same basic principles.

It is thought that the first true hot air engines were devised by Sir George Caley around 1807, but the first successful engine which could perform useful work was the Stirling Cycle engine devised by the Reverend Robert Stirling in 1816.…

Read more: Stirling Cycle History, Past, Present & Future