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International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013

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International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer

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A study on the effects of geometric parameters in a low-temperature-

differential c-type Stirling engine using CFD
Wen-Lih Chen
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, National Cheng Kung University, No. 1, University Road, Tainan City 701, Taiwan, ROC

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This study conducts a parametric investigation on a c-type low temperature differential Stirling engine
Received 21 March 2016 (LTDSE) using CFD. The effects on engine performance posed by four geometrical parameters namely
Received in revised form 3 October 2016 phase angle between power piston and displacer, gap width between displacer and displacer cylinder,
Accepted 2 November 2016
length of displacer, and length of power piston linkage bar, are systematically examined. One crucial
Available online 9 November 2016
advantage of using CFD is that temperature and velocity vector fields in engine space can be obtained,
allowing important physical processes to be studied in great detail. Then the physical mechanisms
through which a parameter affects engine performance can be identified. It is found that all four param-
eters are quite influential on engine performance despite that they are of little effect on the magnitude of
Parametric study engines compression ratio. Within the ranges of parameters examined here, they affect engine perfor-
mance by margins up to 32% on indicated power and 13% on efficiency. The results highlight the impor-
tance of every geometrical parameter on overall engine performance, and the information concluded in
this study is very useful for the design of a new LTDSE.
2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction temperature heat sources of a LTDSE is exactly its Achilles heel.

The power and efficiency of a LTDSE is usually very low due to
Low temperature differential Stirling engines (LTDSEs) are a the low exergy of its heat source. Nevertheless, a few reports have
class of Stirling engines that utilize low temperature heat sources demonstrated some LTDSEs capability to generate Watt-level
to operate. Although the criterion for the heat source temperature power. Kongtragool and Wongwises [1] constructed a four-power
of a LTDSE is not clearly defined, it is generally accepted that an piston solar c-type LTDSE which can generate 6.1 W of shaft
engine using a heat source below 100 C can be qualified as low power. Hoshino and Yoshihara [2] reported a b-type LTDSE using
temperature. The criterion of 100 C is set for a good reason. charged helium (0.5 MPa) as working gas, expansion space temper-
Water boils at 100 C under 1 atm. If the temperature of heat ature at 100 C, coolant temperature at 20 C, and engine speed of
source is limited below 100 C, energy within waste hot water 35 Hz, being able to produce 11.8 W of indicated power. Unfortu-
from many industrial processes that is now discharged into the nately, these LTDSEs are either very large or requiring elaborated
environment can be used as the heat source of a LTDSE. Using design to contain pressurized gas. Today, LTDSEs are generally
low-temperature heat sources is one of LTDSEs greatest advan- used only for their model value and have not yet been put into
tages because there are abundant cheap (or even free), readily practical use in a large scale. If the low-efficiency problem can be
available low temperature heat sources, including solar, geother- improved, the value of LTDSEs can be much more appreciated than
mal, biomass, industrial waste heat, etc. In addition, low- it is today. They will serve beyond the roles of toy or educational
temperature operation allows LTDSEs to acquire cheap construc- tools as they mostly do today. Therefore, much study is still
tion materials such as plastic. This together with their simple needed to improve LTDSEs performance before their full potential
design and construction largely reduce the manufacturing costs can be materialized.
and help the proliferation of LTDSEs. Therefore, when used in large Stirling engines can be broadly classified into a, b, and c types
quantity, LTDSEs have the potential to offset the greenhouse gas according to their configurations. Among them, the c type is the
emission from burning fossil fuel and ease some pressure on the most adopted type for LTDSEs. Kongtragool [3] concluded from
environment. Ironically, the great advantage of using low- his review study that the most appropriate type for LTDSEs should
be c-configuration, double-acting, and vertical positioning. Such
configuration would yield highest mechanical efficiency (least fric-
E-mail address:
0017-9310/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013 1003


cp constant pressure specific heat (kJ kg1 K1) ~ bi

u local frame moving velocity components respectively in
k thermal conductivity (W m1 K1) xi-directions (m s1)
Lp length of power piston (m) V volume (m3)
l1 length of the power piston linkage bar (m) Vr compression ratio
l2 length of the power piston connection rod (m) W engine indicated power (W)
l3 length of the displacer linkage bar (m) xi components of Cartesian coordinate system (m)
l4 length of the displacer connection rod (m)
ld height of displacer (m)
b crank angle of the displacer (rad or )
m mass (kg)
d gap width between displacer and displacer wall,
p pressure (Pa)
d R2  Rd (m)
q heat transfer rate per unit area (W m2)
q density (kg m3)
Q heat transfer rate (W)
R gas constant (J kg1 K1)
g engine efficiency (%)
h crank angle of power piston (rad or )
R universal gas constant, 8.314 J K1 mol1
/ phase angle, / h  b (rad or )
R1 outer radius of the power piston (m)
R2 inner radius of the displacer cylinder (m)
l viscosity (Pas)
x engine speed (rpm or rads1)
Rd outer radius of the displacer (m)
Rk thermal conductivity ratio between solid and gas mate- Superscripts
rials b cell boundary
r1 crank radius of the power piston (m) d displacer
r2 crank radius of the displacer (m) p power piston
t time (s)
tp time period of a cycle (s) Subscripts
T temperature (K) H hot end
ui velocity components respectively in xi-directions L cold end
(m s1)

tion loss) which is very important for low-power engines like Mahkamov [4]. Based on their chronological hierarchy, these are
LTDSEs because large mechanical friction would easily cancel a generally categorized into first-, second-, and third-order models.
LTDSEs output work and render it useless. Therefore, the current The greatest advantage of these models is that they only require
study focuses on a c-type LTDSE. very little CPU time to return a solution, making them very suitable
In classical thermodynamics analysis, a Stirling engine cycle is a for design optimization. However, they are generally zero- or one-
close cycle that operates between two temperature reservoirs, one dimension models and often adopt some empirical or ad hoc con-
at higher temperature and the other at lower temperature. It stants or formulas to estimate heat transfer rates or energy losses.
includes an isothermal expansion process (heat input from high- For example, the model proposed in Cheng et al. [5] assumes con-
temperature reservoir to engine), an isometric cooling process, an stant regenerator effectiveness and constant heat transfer coeffi-
isothermal compression process (waste heat discharged to low- cients in expansion and compression chambers. Consequently,
temperature reservoir), and an isometric heating process. In each their abilities to resolve the complicated physical processes in a
process, equilibrium state is assumed to hold all the time. This real Stirling engine are quite limited. The disadvantages of these
gives rise to formulas governing the output work and efficiency methods are their unsatisfactory predictive accuracy and lack of
of an ideal Stirling cycle as: generality. The latter means that a well-tuned model to match
the experimental data of one particular engine may not yield good
W nRT H  T L lnV r ; 1 results when applied to different engines. Mahkamov [4] reported
an overestimation of the power of a solar Stirling engine by 250%
TH by a second-order model. Therefore, these classes of models are
g1 ; 2 often used in the early design stage of an engine to obtain some
preliminary results.
where n and R are respectively mole number of the working gas and A real Stirling engine configuration is multi-dimensional, con-
universal gas constant, TH and TL are respectively the temperatures taining multiple geometrical parameters that cannot be studied
at the hot and cold ends of the engine, and Vr is engines compres- thoroughly by the above zero- or one-dimensional models. Com-
sion ratio which is the maximum engine volume divided by the putational fluid dynamics (CFD) has been used successfully in
minimum engine volume. Note that the only geometrical parameter many industries to obtain accurate predictions. One of important
in Eq. (1) is Vr, and Eq. (2) even suggests that no geometrical param- advantages of CFD is its capability to model multi-dimensional
eter will affect efficiency. That is, the only geometrical parameter geometries, allowing designers to investigate the effects of differ-
that matters is Vr. Apparently classic thermodynamics analysis ent geometrical parameters. Another important advantage is its
has oversimplified the physics and configuration of a real Stirling general applicability to different engines because its governing
engine, but it, at least, points out the importance of Vr. In reality, equations do not include any empirical constant or formula.
however, there are at least a dozen geometrical parameters even When used for Stirling engine analysis, it is able to return more
in a very simple Stirling engine, and each of them might play a role accurate predictions on Stirling engines performance than the
on engines performance. To study a Stirling engine more accu- aforementioned models. For example, CFD only overestimates
rately, more sophisticated models are needed. the power of the same solar Stirling engine in Mahkamov [4]
Many numerical models for studying Stirling engines have been by 40% instead of 250% by a second-order model. This might be
developed. A detailed overview on these models can be found in an extreme example of a second-order model which does not
1004 W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013

represent its average accuracy. It, at least, shows that CFD is

quantitatively more accurate than a second-order model. How-
ever, CFD do have some disadvantages. First, it requires very long
CPU time to return a solution. This is especially so for Stirling
engine simulations because a periodic solution can only be
obtained after running several engine cycles in which each cycle
alone contains hundreds of time steps. Second, it needs a more
elaborated set-up procedure than the above models; and third,
there might be more solution convergence problems during pro-
gram execution. Overall, CFD can be a very useful tool to study
Stirling engines.
The reports on using CFD to study Stirling engines are much
fewer than those using other numerical models, supposedly due
to the challenges in CFD simulations. Mahkamov [4] used CFD to
study the cycle of a solar Stirling engine. A second-order model
was employed alongside for comparison purpose. He found that
the results in terms of temperature distribution and engine perfor-
mance obtained by the two methods are quite different. Compared
with the experimental data, the engine power returned by CFD is
much more accurate than that by the second-order model. Later,
Mahkamov [6] conducted another CFD study to improve the perfor-
mance of a biomass Stirling engine. The results demonstrated a
great advantage mentioned earlier of using CFD to study a real
engine. Some minor geometrical features that impede engine per-
formance have been identified, and engine performance has been
improved significantly by modifying those features. Chen and
Chang [7] performed a CFD study on the heat transfer characteris-
tics of a twin-power-piston c-type LTDSE (Chen et al. [8]). The pur-
pose was to understand the complicated heat transfer Fig. 1. Definition of the geometrical parameters of the c-type LTDSE.
characteristics in a real Stirling engine cycle. It was concluded that
impingement is the major heat transfer mechanism, and the results
showed that temperature contours are three-dimensional and  q 
highly non-uniform across the entire engine space at any given xd3 b lc1  r 2 sin b l3  r 22 cos2 b l4 ld ; 4
moment. This implies that the practice of adopting uniform
momentary temperature for a certain engine space (expansion or where b h  /; and the velocities of piston and displacer are:
compression chamber) by some zero-dimensional models could
produce large errors. Chen et al. [9] further conducted a parametric r 2 x cos h sin h
up3 h r 1 x cos h  q1 ; 5
study on their c-type LTDSE. The effects of three geometrical and 2
l1  r 21 cos2 h
two operational parameters on engine performance are examined.
Since Eq. (1) suggests that compression ratio is a very important
geometrical parameter, all of the chosen geometrical parameters, r 2 x cos b sin b
ud3 b r 2 x cos b  q2 : 6
namely power-piston stroke and radius and displacer stroke, in 2
l3  r22 cos2 b
the study are strongly influential on the magnitude of the compres-
sion ratio. It was found that these parameters indeed pose profound The computational domain, shown in Fig. 2 through a mesh, only
effects on engine performance; and the larger the compression ratio covers a quarter of the entire engine space because the engine
they result in, the better the engines indicated work. adopts a twin power-piston configuration, making its geometry
As mentioned earlier, a real Stirling engine has at least a symmetrical with respect to x1 and x2 axes. The engine in Chen
dozen geometrical parameters; and each one of them might pose et al. [8] is large, and the flow inside the engine becomes turbulent
some impacts on engine performance. Chen et al. [9] has inves- even at relatively low engine speed. Hence in current study, the
tigated the effects of some geometrical parameters that are influ- engine size is reduced by a factor of 2. Table 1 lists the reduced
ential on the magnitude of the compression ratio of a c-type dimensions. This reduction makes the flow inside the engine
LTDSE. In the current study, the focus will be on some other geo- remains laminar under normal operational conditions of a LTDSE;
metrical parameters which have less effect on the value of com- therefore a turbulence model wont be needed. Since all turbulence
pression ratio but are of no less importance to engine models introduce some degree of modeling error; without using
performance. any turbulence modeling, current results will be turbulence-
modeling-error free. The displacer cylinder wall can be made of
acrylic (in many small LTDSEs) or metal (the LTDSE in [1]). Here,
2. Mathematical model the wall of displacer cylinder is assumed to be made of metal with
some thickness. In this case, Cheng and Yang [5] suggested that the
Fig. 1 shows the configuration and geometrical parameters of metal displacer cylinder wall can produce the effect of a regenerator
the current Stirling engine (originally reported in Chen et al. [8]). in small Stirling engines. This is due to the passive effect of thermal
This is a twin-power-piston c-type LTDSE. According to Fig. 1, loss from hot end to cold end. Additionally, the results in Salazar
the displacements of the piston and displacer are: and Chen [10] indicate that the displacer cylinder wall temperature
 q  can be reasonable assumed to take a fixed profile. The present
2 engine is not equipped with a regenerator. Although not very effec-
xp3 h lc1  r 1 sin h l1  r 21 cos2 h l2 ; 3
tive, the solid wall material of displacer cylinder provides functions
W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013 1005

Continuity equation:
@q @
~i 0:
qu 7
@t @xi
Momentum equation:

@qui @   @p @2u
qu~ j ui  l 2i : 8
@t @xi @xi @xi
Energy equation:

@qT @ k @ 2 T 1 dp
~ i T
qu : 9
@t @xi cp @x2i cp dt

Equation of state:
pV mRT: 10
~ i ui 
In the above, u ubi ,
i = 1, 2, 3, are relative velocity components
between fluid and local moving frame which moves with ubi in xi
directions. The initial conditions are:
t 0s; ui 0; i 1; 2; 3; p 101:0 kPa; T T L : 11
Boundary conditions are:At hot end, x3 = 0:
ui 0; i 1; 2; 3; T T H : 12
At cold end, x3=lc1  lc2 and on the wall of power cylinder:
ui 0; i 1; 2; 3; T T L : 13
The surface of displacer is assumed adiabatic, thus the conditions on
displacer surfaces are:
ui 0; i 1; 2; ui ud3 ; i 3; ! 0; 14
Fig. 2. Computational mesh of the baseline engine.
where n is the direction normal to the wall of displacer. The surface
of power piston is also assumed adiabatic, giving:
Table 1 @T
The values of the geometrical parameters of the baseline Stirling ui 0; i 1; 2; ui up3 ; i 3; ! 0: 15
engine. @n
R1 (m) 0.0125 The temperature on the lateral wall of the displacer cylinder is
R2 (m) 0.0400 assumed to maintain at a fixed linear profile as:
Rd (m) 0.0390 x3
r1 (m) 0.0200 ui 0; i 1; 2; 3; T T L T H  T L : 16
r2 (m) 0.0125 lc1  lc2
l1 (m) 0.0850
l2 (m) 0.0050
l3 (m) 0.0510 3. Numerical procedure
l4 (m) 0.0775
ld (m) 0.0730
The present computer code is an in-house unstructured-mesh,
lc1 (m) 0.2250
lc2 (m) 0.1150 fully collocated, finite-volume code USTREAM developed by the
Lp (m) 0.0150 author. This code is the descendant of a structure-mesh multi-
block code STREAM by Lien et al. [11]. In this numerical proce-
dure, the total number of cells in the computational domain
remains unchanged throughout an engine cycle. However, to sim-
similar to regenerator. Due to the fact that heat capacity of a solid is ulate the motions of displacer and power piston, the positions of
much larger than that of gas, it is reasonable to assume that solid- cell boundaries in the expansion and compression chambers and
wall temperatures maintain either at a constant value (on the hot- power cylinder are changed according to Eqs. (3) to (6) in the x3-
or cold-end wall) or a fixed profile along the x3-direction (on the direction to increase or decrease the volumes of the cells, and col-
displacer cylinder wall). This allows the modeling of solid domain lectively, these cells simulate the expansion or compression of the
to be replaced by specifying temperature boundary conditions on engine volume just like the action of an accordion. The pressure-
gas domain. All material properties of working gas are assumed velocity coupling scheme proposed by Lebon et al. [12] is
constants because only small temperature difference exists in a employed to handle density variation in compressible gas.
LTDSE. The working gas is air and assumed to be ideal. Finally,
the effects of mechanical friction, thermal radiation, and viscous 4. Results and discussion
dissipation are neglected. Therefore, the engine cycle can be gov-
erned by three-dimensional transient laminar and compressible Kato [13] reported an experimental study on a c-type LTDSE
Navier-Stokes equations together with energy equation and ideal which is not equipped with a regenerator and uses flat plates as
gas equation as follows: heat exchangers. The engine configuration is therefore very similar
1006 W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013

to current LTDSE, and the results include some measured indicated where 50% more cells have been inserted to the displacer section
diagrams (p-V diagrams) which are ideal for code validation pur- and power cylinder section, respectively. The finer meshes return
pose. A case titled 90C in Kato [13] has been selected for code almost identical values of engines indicated work and efficiency
validation. A validation test case has been setup using the engine with those obtained by the current mesh, proving the current mesh
dimensions and operation conditions of Katos engine. Details is adequate for the present parametric study. Therefore, the mesh
regarding engine dimensions and operational conditions of this and number of time steps per cycle are adopted for all cases. Since
test case will not be given here, and readers are advised to refer the methodologies and governing equations of CFD and those of
to Kato [13] for more information. The comparison between mea- the first-, second-, or third models are very different, it is not very
surements and current CFD results is given in Fig. 3. As seen, the meaningful to compare the results by CFD and other models quan-
CFD results are in good agreement with the data. The values of titatively. In the following, results obtained by the current study
indicated work determined by experiment and CFD are 4.64 mJ only compared with other studies that use first-, second-, or third
and 5.41 mJ, respectively, that is, CFD only overestimates indicated models qualitatively.
work by 16.59%. The present code has also been validated via a the-
oretical adiabatic compression process where the p-V relation fol- 4.1. The effects of phase angle /
lows pV 1:4 C (C is a constant). Details of the second validation
have been reported in Chen et al. [7] and will not be repeated here. Phase angle / is the difference between the rotational angles of
Those geometrical parameters investigated in this study are power piston and displacer. A value of 90 is commonly adopted by
phase angle between power piston and displacer /, gap width LTDSEs, that is, displacer moves ahead of power piston by 90.
between displacer and displacer cylinder d = R2-Rd, length of dis- Although the effects of this parameter have been studied by some
placer ld, and length of power piston linkage bar l1. The last one zero- or one-dimensional methods (for example in [14]), they have
is meant to investigate the effects of dead volume. In terms of oper- not been analyzed in detail by CFD in open literature. A change in /
ation parameters, temperature difference between hot and cold produces a time shift on the variations of physical quantities over
ends is fixed at 100 K while the cold-end temperature is fixed at an engine cycle, but this parameter has little effect on the magni-
293 K, and engine rotational speed is fixed at 12.566 rads1 tude of compression ratio Vr. The reason is because in the current
except that a different value of 6.283 rads1 is also specified for engine, the radius of displacer rod (1.5 mm) is very small compared
the group of cases to examine effects of /. A negative rotation with the radius of displacer cylinder (40 mm). The cross-section
speed signifies that the crank of this engine is running clockwise. area ratio between displacer rod and displacer cylinder is only
In the following subsections, as the dimension of a particular geo- 0.0014, hence the motion of displace rod only changes very slightly
metrical parameter is changed, dimensions of the rest of geometri- the value of compression ratio. This group of cases serves as a good
cal parameters take the values of a baseline case. Table 2 lists the example to demonstrate that a parameter hardly affecting com-
values of the above parameters in all cases examined in this study. pression ratio could still produce significant impacts on engine
Among them, case 7 is the baseline case (in bold numbers). performance.
The procedure to find proper mesh size and time-step interval Cases 110 form this group of test cases. Among them, the
to obtain grid and time-step independent solutions for the baseline phase angle ranges from 70 to 120 in two different rotational
engine has been performed and reported in Chen et al. [7], and speeds, x = 6.283 and 12.566 rads1. Rotational speed is an
again will not be repeated here. Nevertheless, the conclusion was operational parameter but a geometrical parameter. The purpose
that a grid and time-step independent solution can be achieved of running this group in two rotational speeds is to demonstrate
by using a mesh (shown in Fig. 2) with 84,579 cells and 200 time that the tendency of the variations produced by changing a geo-
steps in a cycle. However, the present study involves parameters metrical parameter remains more or less the same under different
of displacer length and power cylinder length. Hence, two compu- operation conditions.
tations have been conducted using cases 18 and 20 in Table 2, Fig. 4 shows the p-V diagram of x = 12.566 and / = 80, 100,
and 120, respectively. It is noticeable that the values of maximum
and minimum engine volume are the same for all cases (because Vr
remains the same) but an increase in / results in an increase in the
difference between maximum and minimum pressures. However,
even the difference in pressure has increased, the p-V loop seems
to become slenderer, suggesting that indicated work does not nec-
essarily increase with /. The reasons for these phenomena are
intriguing, and can be explained through motions of displacer
and power piston and variations of overall heat transfer rates in
expansion and compression chambers. Fig. 5(a) shows the varia-
tions of overall heat transfer rates in expansion and compression
chambers for / = 80, 100, and 120, while Fig. 5(b) depicts the
temperature contours at h = 86.4 for / = 80 and 120. Note that
in Fig. 5(a) the horizontal-axis is h, which marks the direction to
the right corresponding to the increase in time. It can be seen from
Fig. 5(a) that as / increases, profiles of overall heat transfer rate
shift to the left. This, in fact, means that all heat transfer events,
heating in the expansion chamber and cooling in the compression
chamber, happen earlier. The phenomenon is readily understood
because heat transfer events are basically driven by the motion
of displacer. As displacer moves ahead in time, so do these events.
Fig. 5(b) shows a moment during engine compression process
when engine volume almost reaches its minimum, that is, near
Fig. 3. Comparison of p-V diagrams between the measurements by Kato [12] and the end of engine compression process or the beginning of engines
the current CFD approach. expansion process. The relative positions between power piston
W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013 1007

Table 2
The values of parameters investigated in the current study.

Case No. / () ld (m) d (mm) l1 (m) x (rads1) Vr

1 70 0.073 1.000 0.085 6.283 1.247
2 80 0.073 1.000 0.085 6.283 1.247
3 90 0.073 1.000 0.085 6.283 1.247
4 100 0.073 1.000 0.085 6.283 1.247
5 110 0.073 1.000 0.085 6.283 1.247
6 80 0.073 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.247
7 90 0.073 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.247
8 100 0.073 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.247
9 110 0.073 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.247
10 120 0.073 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.247
11 90 0.073 0.875 0.085 12.566 1.250
12 90 0.073 1.125 0.085 12.566 1.243
13 90 0.073 1.250 0.085 12.566 1.240
14 90 0.073 1.375 0.085 12.566 1.237
15 90 0.073 1.500 0.085 12.566 1.234
16 90 0.068 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.249
17 90 0.078 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.245
18 90 0.083 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.243
19 90 0.088 1.000 0.085 12.566 1.241
20 90 0.073 1.000 0.065 12.566 1.219
21 90 0.073 1.000 0.070 12.566 1.226
22 90 0.073 1.000 0.075 12.566 1.233
23 90 0.073 1.000 0.080 12.566 1.240

expansion process is just about to start. Since positive work on

the p-V diagram only created during engines expansion process,
the heat energy to sustain higher pressure to deliver more work
begins to decline right at the starting point of the expansion pro-
cess. This results in a rapid decline in pressure and the ability to
produce more positive work on the p-V diagram. To this end, it
has been demonstrated that an increase in / gives rise to both pos-
itive and negative effects on indicated work. The real impact of this
parameter on engine performance can only be realized through its
effect on engine indicated power and efficiency.
The rates of heat input and output during an engine cycle are
calculated by integrating local heat transfer rate along all solid
Z tt o t p Z
Q in qdAdt ; if q > 0; 17
2p tt 0 wall

Z tt o t p Z
Q out qdAdt; if q < 0; 18
2p tt0 wall

where q is local heat transfer rate. Since in a c-type Stirling engine

the movement of displacer poses no effect on engine volume, the
Fig. 4. p-V diagram of three cases with different phase angles, / = 80, 100, and engine can be considered as a cylinder-piston system in which
120, and x = 12.566 rads1.
the indicated work is the area circled by the p-V loop on a p-V dia-
gram. Alternatively, indicated work can be evaluated by integrating
the work done by the power piston, and then the indicated power is
and displacer can be clearly seen in this plot. By referring to the
calculated by:
heat-transfer-rate profile in the expansion chamber shown in
I Z 
Fig. 5(a), the overall heat transfer rate of / = 120 almost reaches _  x
W pdA dx3 ; 19
its maximum at this moment. This is mainly due to the impinging 2p piston
jets in the expansion chamber shown in Fig. 5(b). In this case, the
heating process coincides very well with engines compression where the negative sign on the right hand side of the equation is to
process (when pressure increases). Since both heating and engine compensate negative x, and the circular integration is from mini-
compression can increase working gas pressure, their effects are mum xp3 to maximum xp3 and back to minimum xp3 . The maximum
mutually intensified, resulting in highest maximum pressure difference in the average pressures of the expansion and compres-
shown in Fig. 4. On contrary, the coincidence of these two pro- sion chambers is less than 30 Pa for all cases (listed in Table 2)
cesses is not so well in the case of / = 80, hence its maximum examined in this study. Such a magnitude so insignificant compared
pressure is smaller. Similarly, the reason for the case with with the variation in absolute pressure which is in the order of 104.
/ = 120 producing the lowest minimum pressure is due to well Therefore, effect of this pressure difference is neglected in the eval-
coincidence of the cooling process and engines expansion process. uation of indicated power. The ratio between indicated power and
However, if the heating process is synchronized well with engines rate of heat input is cycle efficiency g. In the following, g will be just
compression process, heating has begun to diminish as engines termed efficiency. Fig. 6 illustrates the variations of engine
1008 W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013

Fig. 6. Variations of engine power and efficiency versus /.

10.67%. Overall, / = 90 is the best choice considering engines indi-

cated work and efficiency. This result supports the commonly
adopted practice of using / = 90 in LTDSEs.

4.2. The effects of gap width d

Case 7 and cases 1115 are in this group of test cases; and
among them, gap width d varies from 0.875 mm to 1.5 mm. Two
major effects can be produced by widening d. First, the engine vol-
ume inside displacer cylinder is slightly increase, resulting in a
decrease in compression ratio (see Table 2). Second, as the gap
becomes wider, it reduces the velocity of working gas flowing
through the gap channel. Fig. 7 illustrates the p-V diagram of cases
with d = 1.0 mm, 1.25 mm, and 1.5 mm. The increase in engine vol-
ume due to the widened gap width can be clearly seen from the
right shift of p-V loop as d increases. Meanwhile, the difference
between maximum and minimum pressures has decreased. As a
result, the p-V loop of the case with d = 1.5 mm circles the smallest
area thus yields the least indicated work among the three cases. On

Fig. 5. Variations of overall heat transfer rates and temperature contours; (a)
variations of overall heat transfer rates in three cases with different phase angles,
/ = 80, 100, and 120, and x = 12.566 rads1, (b) temperature contours with
/ = 80, 100 at h = 86.4.

indicated power and efficiency versus /. It is noticeable that ten-

dencies in curves of indicated power and efficiency resulted by dif-
ferent engine speeds are indeed very similar. Therefore, discussion
will be focused on the curves produced by the higher engine speed.
The variations in indicated power show that indicated power is not
very sensitive to changes in /. The maximum and minimum values
within the range from / = 80 to 100 are 0.647 W and 0.602 W,
respectively; that is, the variation in indicated power is within 7%.
This implies that the positive and negative effects on indicated work
discussed earlier have more or less cancelled each other. Neverthe-
less, it still can be seen that the maximum indicated power occurs
around / = 100. Efficiency, on the other hand, is a bit more sensi-
tive to changes in /. The maximum efficiency of 4.87% occurs at
/ = 90, whereas the minimum efficiency of 4.35% occurs at / Fig. 7. p-V diagram of three cases with different gap widths, d = 1.0 mm, 1.25 mm,
= 120; that is, the variation in efficiency in this range is within and 1.5 mm.
W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013 1009

the other hand, the case with d = 1.0 mm produces the largest indi- where the jet impingement region is seen to produce the largest
cated work. The beneficial effect on indicated work in the latter local heat transfer rate, and the magnitude in case with
case can be attributed to the combination of the increase in Vr d = 1.0 mm is much larger than that in the other case. However,
and some changes in heat transfer behaviors due to smaller d. the magnitude of the local heat transfer rate is not much larger
The positive effect of increasing Vr needs no further elaboration, elsewhere on the bottom plate. The reason is due to another heat
whereas the changes in heat transfer behaviors and their effects transfer mechanism in the gap where a narrower gap also intro-
will be discussed in the following. Fig. 8 shows the velocity vectors duces another beneficial effect which can be seen from the temper-
and temperature contours in the expansion chamber at h = 100.8 ature contours in Fig. 8(b). The narrower the gap, the closer the
for cases with d = 1.0 mm and 1.5 mm. Fig. 9(a) shows the corre- working gas is to the displacer cylinder wall; and the better the
sponding local heat transfer rate distributions on the bottom plate heat transfer between gas and displacer cylinder wall. Hence, the
(hot end), and Fig. 9(b) gives the variations of overall heat transfer jet is seen to exit the gap channel and enter the expansion chamber
rate in the expansion and compression chambers over an engine at higher temperature in the case with d = 1.0 mm. Then the higher
cycle. The moment h = 100.8 is in the so called injection phase jet temperature slightly offsets the impingement heat transfer
when cold working gas has been injected into the expansion cham- because the temperature difference between working gas and bot-
ber through the gap channel, creating the maximum rate of heat tom plate becomes smaller. Fig. 9(b) confirms that in the expansion
transfer in the expansion chamber. From the velocity vectors in chamber, the case with d = 1.0 mm has the highest overall heat
Fig. 8(a), it can be seen that in the case of d = 1.0 mm, jet enters transfer rate in a short period around at h = 100.8, however,
the expansion chamber at higher velocity and creates a stronger the magnitude of this quantity drops faster than other cases after-
impinging jet to impinge on the bottom plate. Under this circum- wards. This is because that more effective heat-transfer mecha-
stance, impingement heat transfer, which is the dominant heat nism heats up the temperature of working gas to a higher level,
transfer mechanism, should be largely promoted. This can be ver- thus reducing the temperature difference between working gas
ified from the distributions of local heat transfer rate in Fig. 9(a) and bottom plate and resulting in faster reduction in overall heat

Fig. 8. Velocity vector and temperature fields in the expansion chamber of cases with d = 1.0 mm and 1.5 mm at h = 100.8.
1010 W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013

Fig. 9. Distributions of local heat transfer rate on the bottom plate and variations of overall heat transfer rates; (a) local heat transfer rate distributions of cases with
d = 1.0 mm and 1.5 mm at h = 100.8, (b) variations of overall heat transfer rates in three cases with d = 1.0 mm and 1.5 mm.

transfer rate. Now the reason for the higher maximum pressure in gap d can simultaneously increase heat input and work output, effi-
the case with d = 1.0 mm shown in Fig. 7 can be readily understood. ciency is only slightly improved as d decreases. Overall, engines
It is the result of the combined effects of higher expansion chamber indicated power and efficiency have been improved as d decreases.
temperature and higher compression ratio. A narrower gap also The results in Cheng and Yu [5], where a second-order method has
introduces similar heat transfer behaviors in the compression been used to study a b-type Stirling engine, also showed decreases
chamber. However, the effects are to reduce the compression in output work and efficiency as d increases from 0.0003 m to
chamber temperature and yield lower minimum pressure. 0.0009 m. In reality, however, d cannot be very small because the
Fig. 10 depicts the variations of engine indicated power and effi- displacer can easily scratch the wall of displacer cylinder and cre-
ciency versus d. Both indicated power and efficiency decrease as d ate wear and friction if d becomes too small.
increases. However, engine indicated power appears to be more
sensitive to the change in d. By reducing d from 1.5 mm to 4.3. The effects of displacer length ld
0.875 mm, engines indicated power increases by 32.03%, whereas,
efficiency only increases by 5.87%. The reason is due to a stronger Case 7 and cases 1619 are in this group of test cases. Displacer
dependence of p-V loop on d shown in Fig. 7. Since narrowing the length ld varies from 0.068 m to 0.088 m among these cases. Here,
W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013 1011

Fig. 10. Variations of engine power and efficiency versus d.

as ld increases, so does the length of displacer cylinder (lc1-lc2)

because the displacer is housed inside the displacer cylinder. The
longer the ld, the longer the distance between the hot and cold ends
of the engine, and the longer the length of gap. Hence, a longer ld
introduces two beneficial effects. First, engines hot and cold ends
become more separated, thus heat loss due to conduction in dis-
placer cylinder wall is less. Second, an elongated gap promotes
heat transfer between gas and displacer cylinder wall. However,
a longer displacer also means a heavier displacer to move (more
mechanical friction) and larger pressure drop as working gas is
shuttled between expansion and compression chambers through
a longer gap channel. Since conduction heat loss and mechanical
friction are not modeled in the governing equations, the effects
on them due to the change in ld will not be examined in this study.
Fig. 11 shows the p-V diagram of cases with ld = 0.068 m,
0.078 m, and 0.088 m, while Fig. 12 shows the variations of average
temperature and overall rate of heat transfer in the expansion and
compression chambers. As ld increases, the volume in displacer

Fig. 12. Variations of averaged temperature and overall heat transfer rate in
expansion and compression chambers of three cases with different displace lengths,
ld = 0.068 m, 0.078 m, and 0.088 m; (a) temperature variations, (b) overall heat
transfer rate variations.

cylinder slightly increases, for example from 2:0285  104 m3 to

2:0782  104 m3 as ld increases from 0.068 m to 0.088 m. Such a
volume increase causes a slight decrease in compression ratio;
from 1.249 to 1.241 in the same range of ld. This reflects on the
right shift of p-V loop in Fig. 11. Although compression ratio
decreases, the maximum pressure seems to drop very little. The
reason can be seen from the average temperature variations in
Fig. 12(a) where temperature level in the expansion chamber is
shown to increase as ld increases. Thus higher gas temperature
compensates the enlargement in volume and keeps the maximum
pressure from dropping. As a result, the p-V loop of ld = 0.088 m cir-
cles the largest area. Such a positive effect is rooted in better heat
Fig. 11. p-V diagram of three cases with different displace lengths, ld = 0.068 m, transfer effect due to a longer gap channel. Therefore it acts like a
0.078 m, and 0.088 m. thermal barrier between the expansion and compression chamber
1012 W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013

to keep temperature in the expansion chamber high and tempera-

ture in the compression chamber low. Hence less heat input is
needed at the hot end, and engine efficiency can be improved.
The overall heat transfer rate shown in Fig. 12(b) confirms that
there is less heat transfer in the case of ld = 0.088 m. Fig. 13 shows
the variations of indicated power and efficiency versus ld. Both
quantities increase almost linearly as ld increases. Between the
cases with largest and smallest ld, the magnitude of improvement
on indicated power and efficiency are 10.08% and 13.83%,

4.4. The effects of dead volume

The effects of dead volume have been studied by many zero- or

one-dimensional models, for example in Abdullah et al. [15]. It is
generally recognized that an increase in dead volume reduces
engine indicated power. In a real Stirling engine, the magnitude
of dead volume is determined by many geometrical parameters.
Here, the parameter of l1, which is the length of power piston link-
age bar, is selected to examine the effects of dead volume. This is
inspired by the observation shown in Fig. 14 that some commercial
LTDSEs are designed to leave a significant gap between the power
piston and the bottom of power-piston cylinder when the power
piston is at its bottom dead center (BDC). This gap creates a dead
volume which could hamper engine performance. Case 7 and cases
2023 are in this group of test cases, and among them, l1 ranges
from 0.065 m to 0.085 m. As l1 increases, dead volume decreases, Fig. 14. A commercial LTDSE showing the existence of a significant gap between
and compression ratio increases. The p-V loops of cases with power piston and bottom of power cylinder when power piston is at its BDC.
l1 = 0.065 m, 0.075 m, and 0.085 m are shown in Fig. 15. Among
them, the compression ratio increases from 1.219 for l1 = 0.065 m
to 1.247 for l1 = 0.085 m. A significant shift of p-V loop to the left
can be observed as l1 increases. The maximum volume decreases
from 2.17398  104 m3 to 1.9780  104 m3. Meanwhile, the
maximum pressure also increases from 133574 Pa to 136986 Pa,
implying that more indicated work can be produced. Since the
dimensions associated with displacer and displacer cylinder
remains the same, there is very little change in heat transfer
behaviors. Consequently, the variations in temperature and overall
heat transfer rate in expansion and compression chambers are very
similar among those cases in this group. Therefore, the increase in
maximum pressure can be attributed to the increase in compres-
sion ratio. In Chen et al. [9], engines indicated work and efficiency
increase almost linearly with an increase in compression ratio.
Therefore, an increase in compression ratio caused by increasing

Fig. 15. p-V diagram of three cases with different l1 lengths, l1 = 0.065 m, 0.075 m,
and 0.085 m.

l1 is expected to have similar effects on engines indicated work

and efficiency. The effect of l1 on engines indicated power and effi-
ciency can be seen in Fig. 16. Both engines indicated power and
efficiency increase as l1 increases (dead volume decrease). The
magnitudes of improvement are 11.03% and 10.18% for indicated
power and efficiency, respectively from the case with
l1 = 0.065 m to the case with l1 = 0.085 m. The results clearly show
that reducing dead volume is beneficial to engine performance.
Similar conclusion also can be found in Cheng and Yang [14],
where a second-order model is used to optimize the geometrical
parameters of b- and c-type engines.
To help readers understand the effects of each parameter on
Fig. 13. Variations of engine power and efficiency versus ld. current LTDSE, four videos comparing temperature contours
W.-L. Chen / International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 107 (2017) 10021013 1013

4. The length of displacer ld poses a direct impact on heat transfer

effect in the gap. The longer the length of displacer, the better
the heat transfer between gas and displacer cylinder wall.
Hence, both engines indicated power and efficiency are found
to increase almost linearly with an increase in ld. In practice,
however, a displacer cannot be too long because it would
become heavy and result in an increase in mechanical friction.
5. Engines heat transfer behaviors are not sensitive to an increase
in the dead volume caused by decreasing l1, but engines com-
pression ratio will be reduced, resulting in a reduction in indi-
cated power. Overall, an increase in dead volume only
introduces negative effect on engine performance. The conclu-
sion agrees with that reported in Cheng and Yang [14]. Engi-
neers should reduce dead volume as much as possible when
designing a new LTDSE.


This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and Tech-

Fig. 16. Variations of engine power and efficiency versus l1. nology, Taiwan, Republic of China, under the grant number MOST
103-2622-E-168-006-CC3. The authors are very grateful for the
financial support.
produced by different parameter values within two engine cycles
are provided.
Appendix A. Supplementary data

5. Conclusions Supplementary data associated with this article can be found, in

the online version, at
The effects of some geometrical parameters, phase angle fer.2016.11.007.
between power piston and displacer, gap width between displacer
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