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Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

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A novel solar-powered active low temperature differential Stirling

H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh*
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Shiraz University of Technology, Shiraz, Iran

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

Article history: This paper presents a novel solar-powered active Stirling converter with liquid power piston and solid
Received 24 September 2014 controllable displacer. First, the working principle of the proposed converter is described. Then, finite
Accepted 15 March 2015 time thermodynamic approach incorporating heat transfer equations are employed to determine gas
Available online 2 April 2015
temperatures in hot and cold spaces based on the assumption of imperfect regeneration. Accordingly,
pressure variation of the gas due to reciprocating motion of the displacer piston is investigated using the
obtained gas temperatures and Schmidt theory. Next, total work done by the converter and thermal
Active Stirling converter
efficiency are evaluated. Kinematic and dynamic equations governing the pump system are presented
Liquid piston
and the water flow characteristics in suction and discharge states are investigated. A simulation study is
carried out through coupling and simultaneously solving the obtained equations. An optimization
scheme is thus conducted to find an optimum frequency of the active converter so that a maximum
power is generated. The influences of regenerator efficiency, dead volumes, and water head on the
optimum operating frequency and the generated power are investigated. Finally, the proposed converter
is constructed and primarily tested. The experimental outcomes clearly reveal the feasibility of pumping
water at low temperature difference through the proposed active Stirling pump.
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction In a Stirling engine, work is expended to compress a cold gas,

and the gas is then heated to further increase the pressure. The hot,
Many counties in the world have relied heavily on fossil fuel high-pressure gas is then expanded and work can be acquired. High
resources. However, the fossil fuels are known as non-renewable efficiency, long life time, low maintenance, low sound pollution,
and finite resources that will eventually dwindle or become too non-explosive nature and capability to use various fuels, can meet
expensive. Therefore, in recent decades, some efforts have been the demands of effective use of energy. The main drawback of
devoted to develop power plants, which operate based on renew- Stirling machines may be attributed to high initial cost and low heat
able energies such as bio-fuel, solar and other green resources. transfer in the heat exchangers [2]. In the 1970s and 1980s, a large
Attempts to achieve the most efficient converter that operates amount of research was carried out on Stirling engines for auto-
based on different low-temperature heat sources (e.g. solar energy, mobiles. However, the Stirling engines were suitable for generating
waste heat and other renewable energies) led researchers to the constant power and thus, were not a proper choice for automobiles.
Stirling engine concept. The Stirling engine is an external com- In contrast, this characteristic was perfect for some applications
bustion engine. It is an old concept firstly proposed by Robert such as pumping water and solar power generation.
Stirling in 1816 (UK, patent no. 4081) [1]. The Stirling cycle ma- Stirling converters can be divided into low-temperature and
chines operate based on a closed regenerative thermodynamic high-temperature categories based on the range of operating
cycle, with cyclic compression and expansion of a working fluid temperature. The efficiency of the high-temperature Stirling en-
(e.g. air, hydrogen or helium) at different temperature levels. gines is 30e40% corresponding to the temperature range of
923e1073 K [3]. On the other hand, low temperature differential
(LTD) Stirling engines can operate based on the low-temperature
heat sources. Although the LTD Stirling engines are not as suc-
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ989173147706; fax: þ987137264102. cessful as their high-temperature counterparts, the former have
E-mail addresses:, gained popularity in the last few decades due to the possibility of
(A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh).
0960-1481/© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
320 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

Nomenclature c cold gas

H hot plate (solar absorber)
h convective heat transfer coefficient (W/(m2 K)) h hot gas
P instantaneous pressure (Pa) d displacer
m gas mass (kg) ds dead space
V volume (m3) loss heat loss
T temperature (K) p power piston (liquid piston)
Q heat (J) reg regenerator
r gas constant (J/(kg K)) i input
S cross sectional area (m2) t output
W work (J) 0 reference parameter
x liquid piston position (m) 1 reference parameter
y displacer piston position (m) 2 reference parameter
H height of water column (m) 3 reference parameter
D diameter (m) max maximum
Re Reynolds number min minimum
g gravitational acceleration (m/s2) out output
c length of horizontal pipe (m) in input
q volumetric flow rate (m3/s) 0 isothermal process
Power generated power (W)
t time (s) Greek letters
u velocity flow profile (m/s) D difference
K minor pressure loss r density (kg/m3)
f Moody friction factor y frequency (Hz)
L length (m) t cycle period (s)
v average velocity (m/s) q angle (Hz)
h efficiency
Subscripts and superscripts g heat capacity ratio
C cold plate (sink)

power generation from many low-temperature sources of waste temperature difference. However, the proposed analytical tech-
heat in which the temperature is less than 646 K. nique was not usable for high temperature Stirling converters. They
Many researchers and scientists strived to improve the perfor- thus proposed an optimal volume ratio of 12.5 according to the
mance of the low-temperature Stirling cycle machines. Kolin [4] collector temperature of 373 K and sink temperature of 293 K
developed the first conventional LTD Stirling engine. The engine through the proposed mathematical scheme. Noureddine et al. [9]
operated at temperature difference as low as 15 K. Senft [5] was one developed an LTD solar Stirling engine coupled with a water pump
of the pioneers of LTD Stirling engines. Senft designed and devel- for developing countries. Experimental investigation was imple-
oped an amazing small prototype of the LTD Stirling engine based mented to improve the output power of the gamma-type Stirling
on a temperature difference of 0.5 K. Indeed, it was the lowest engine for sinusoidal and discontinuous motions of the displacer
temperature difference reported amongst the previous works. piston considering flat-plate heat exchangers. Chen et al. [10]
Iwomoto et al. [6] presented a comparison between the perfor- studied the heat transfer characteristics of a twin-power piston
mance of the LTD and high-temperature Stirling engines. It was Gamma-type Stirling engine using CFD analysis. They presented
shown that the efficiency of the LTD Stirling engines could temperature contours, velocity vectors, and distributions of local
approximately achieve 50% of the ideal Carnot cycle. It could be heat flux along solid boundaries at several important time steps.
attributed to the fact that at lower temperatures the frictional and They then investigated the variation of the average temperatures,
mechanical losses were less significant than high-temperature rate of heat transfer and engine power.
conditions. Kongtragool and Wongwises [7] presented eminent As mentioned earlier, it is well known that the conventional LTD
works on the LTD Stirling converters. They designed a single-acting Stirling engines suffer from low heat transfer in the heat ex-
twin-power piston LTD Stirling engine with gamma configuration. changers and the challenge of sealing the high-pressure gaseous
Non-pressurized air was used as the working fluid. The heater working fluid (such as helium and hydrogen) [11]. Van De Ven et al.
temperature was about 589e779 K. The simulation and experi- [11] presented a primary study on changing the internal geometry
mental results revealed the effectiveness of the proposed LTD of a liquid piston Stirling engine to increase the surface area to
Stirling engine. Mertaj et al. [8] carried out a thermodynamic volume ratio. As a result, some improvements in heat transfer co-
analysis for an LTD Stirling engine at steady state operating con- efficient were found. As a solution to the sealing problems, the
ditions. In this analysis, energy, entropy and exergy balances were Fluidyne Stirling engines were proposed [11]. The Fluidyne engines
applied to each element of the engine. Tavakolpour et al. [3] pre- (Stirling pump) were a type of free piston Stirling engines in which
sented a two-cylinder LTD Stirling engine powered by a 0.5 m2 flat the water columns played the role of pistons. It was first invented at
plate solar collector and without the application of regenerator. the Harwell Laboratory of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy
They proposed the procedure of finite dimension thermodynamic Institute in 1969, and the first machines operated there in 1970 [11].
together with the Schmidt theory for optimizing the parameters of In these converters, the heat energy was first converted to hy-
the proposed Gamma-type engine based on the assumption of low draulic energy of oscillating water columns and then, it could be
H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 321

converted to mechanical or electrical powers. West [12] developed displacer mechanism is investigated and the optimum operating
a liquid-piston Stirling engine for pumping applications using the frequencies of the proposed converter corresponding to different
Fluidyne technology. West studied the dynamic behavior of the regenerator efficiencies, dead volumes and water heads are inves-
liquid piston Stirling engine and obtained the oscillation frequency tigated. Finally, the experimental converter is developed and pri-
of liquid column in the output tube using vector approaches [13]. marily evaluated.
Stammers [14] investigated the performance of the Fluidyne pump
at low temperature difference and finally, an approximate analyt- 2. Working principle of the proposed active Stirling converter
ical expression was presented to estimate the temperature differ-
ence required for small oscillation. Fangsuwannarak [15] studied Fig. 1 demonstrates the proposed solar-powered active LTD
the effects of regenerator application in a Fluidyne engine pos- Stirling pump. It basically consisted of the main chamber, solid
sessing a tuning column. The results revealed that the Fluidyne displacer, liquid power piston (which provides effective sealing
engine equipped with regenerator could operate at a lower tem- between the power piston and the corresponding cylinder), flat
perature difference. Tantiwongpaisan [16] developed a simple plate solar collector (as a heat source), water cooling system (as a
liquid-piston Stirling engine. The developed engine could provide a heat sink), four-bar linkage mechanism coupled with a controllable
maximum flow rate of 300 ml/min corresponding to water head of direct current (DC) geared motor and pumping chamber.
0.5 m. In another work, Fangsuwannarak [17] studied a prototype In this work, air at ambient temperature and atmospheric
Fluidyne engine with a supplementary tuning line that was an pressure was considered as the working fluid in the main chamber.
important component of the U-tube displacer in order to achieve a However, pressurized helium is strongly recommended for a better
good performance. One end of the tuning line was at atmospheric performance. It is obvious that work is generated by reciprocating
pressure while the other end was attached to the bottom side of the motion of the displacer piston in the main chamber as it is done in
U-tube displacer. The oscillation frequency of the liquid piston was all Stirling engines. In this design, the motion of the displacer piston
thus adjusted by changing the dimensions of the tuning line so that was independent of the motion of the liquid power piston from
the resonance phenomenon occurred. It resulted in a higher kinematic viewpoint. Only, the pressure dynamics could couple the
pumping capacity. Other researches on the application of reso- motion equations of the pistons. Besides, the motion of the dis-
nance phenomenon in liquid piston Stirling engines in order to placer piston was controlled by a small DC geared motor as shown
obtain the maximum pumping capacity can be addressed in Refs. in Fig. 1. In other words, the working frequency of the proposed
[18e20]. converter could be adjusted by controlling the rotational speed of
Solar energy is one of the cleanest and most abundant renew- the DC motor that resulted in the controllable pressure variation of
able energy that can be used as a source of power all around the the gaseous working fluid. A small photovoltaic solar panel incor-
world. Some researchers strived to develop thermal pumps using porating an appropriate charge controller and manual speed tuner
solar energy and Stirling cycle machines. Reader and Hooper [21] were considered to run the DC motor. The proposed active solar
proposed a solar-powered Stirling engine as a water pumping converter possessed several advantages compared to the fully
system in 1908. Walker and Senft [22] presented a general passive technologies. First, the proposed design enabled the users
description of the solar Fluidyne pumps. They presented the fun- to excite the liquid column in the pumping chamber with its
damentals of Fluidyne engines and the importance of resonance resonance frequency irrespective of the u-tube dimensions, which
frequency in Fluidyne pump. It was proposed to choose the oper- resulted in the highest possible pumping capacity. Secondly,
ating frequency of the Fluidyne pump close to its resonance con- discontinuous motion of the displacer piston was possible so that a
ditions. Wong et al. [23]reviewed the latest developments on the better heat transfer as well as an abrupt pressure change in the
solar water pumping systems up to 1998. Delgado-Torres [24] cylinder was acquired. It is important to note that the consumed
presented another similar work in 2009. Bumataria and Patel [25] energy by the DC motor will be less than the generated power by
presented a review work on development of the solar powered the Stirling machine if an efficient Stirling converter is designed. In
Stirling engines that can be employed as a water pump at rural this research, the area of the solar panel was assumed much smaller
regions. Orda and Mahkamov [26] developed a passive LTD solar than the area of the flat plate solar collector. It can be further dis-
thermal water pumps for use in developing countries using Stirling cussed from economical perspective. The photovoltaic solar panels
engines and flat plate solar collectors. The experimental works (that should be replaced every 4 years due to ageing problem) are
revealed the feasibility of pumping water at low temperature dif- usually more expensive than the thermal collectors with the same
ference. However, the proposed system was a fully passive con- dimensions. On the other hand, the flat thermal collectors possess
verter. As it was clearly reviewed, all the mentioned reports were long lifetime and can be simply updated by renewing the covering
previously conducted on the passive-type Fluidyne Stirling con- glasses, which is a cheap process. As a result, combining a small
verters. Hence, there remains some room for the application of photovoltaic solar panel with a thermal collector can combine all
active technologies in the Fluidyne converters. the mentioned benefits together.
Based on the outlined literature there was no published paper in Fig. 2aed illustrates the working principles of the proposed
which a solar-powered active Stirling pump with liquid power solar converter in four states as follows:
piston and solid controllable displacer is presented. Hence, in this
paper, a novel solar-powered active Stirling pump with solid State (a): The solid displace piston is at top dead center (TDC)
controllable displacer and liquid power piston is proposed. First, and the gaseous working fluid is in the compression space at the
the working principle of the converter is described. Then, a vicinity of the cold exchanger plate (see Fig. 2a). Consequently,
comprehensive mathematical model of the converter is presented pressure drop occurs in the main chamber and the liquid power
to simulate the system performance. The variation of fluid pressure piston starts to move upwards in an isothermal compression
in the proposed Stirling converter is simulated using Schmidt process (process d-a) which results in the suction state.
theory and based on the estimated gas temperatures. Next, the State (b): The displacer piston is abruptly moved to bottom dead
dynamic equations governing the fluid flow in the pumping center (BDC) while the liquid power piston is fixed. The gas
chamber (for suction and discharge states) are numerically solved volume is constant at its minimum value and the gaseous
considering the simulated pressure variation. The output power of working fluid is transferred to the expansion space at the vi-
the active Stirling pump as a function of operating frequency of the cinity of the hot plate (solar absorber) in a constant volume
322 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

Fig. 1. Schematic representation of the proposed active Stirling converter.

Fig. 2. Working principles of the converter.

H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 323

process (process a-b). Consequently, the gas pressure is transfer between the working gas and the exchanger plates. Some
increased to its maximum value. of the assumptions regarding the fluid flow are as follows:
State (c): according to the pressure increase of the gas, the liquid
power piston starts to move downwards and consequently, the 1. The flow in the outlet pipe is time-unsteady
gas volume is increased in an isothermal process (process bec). 2. Fully developed laminar flow
In this process work is generated and water is discharged to the 3. Incompressible fluid (e.g. water as the fluid in the pump)
reservoir. 4. Newtonian flow with constant viscosity (m)
State (d): The displacer piston is abruptly moved to the TDC 5. The fluid velocity profile is symmetrical with respect to the
while the liquid power piston is fixed. The gas volume is con- center line of the pipes
stant at its maximum value and it is transferred to the
compression space in a constant volume process (process ced).
As a result, the gas pressure is abruptly reduced to minimum
3.1. Thermal analysis

First, the Schmidt theory assumptions were used to determine

The pumping process includes suction and discharge actions.
the pressure variation of the working gas due to the reciprocating
When the pressure of the gaseous working fluid is more than the
motion of the displacer piston that caused the displacement of
static pressure of the water column at the outlet (which is due to
gaseous working fluid between hot and cold sources. The total mass
heat transfer to the working fluid), the input check valve is closed
of gaseous working fluid included the gas mass within the expan-
while the output check valve is open. Accordingly, water is dis-
sion, compression, and regenerator spaces. However, since the
charged to the reservoir. In this process, it is assumed that the gas is
regenerator dead volume was considered small compared to the
isothermally expanded. Whereas, the suction state may occur once
expansion and compression spaces, the mass of gas in the regen-
the pressure of the working fluid in the displacer cylinder is less
erator space was ignored. According to the proposed configuration
than the static pressure at the inlet. It may result in opening the
represented schematically in Fig. 1 and based on the assumption of
input check-valve and closing the output check-valve. In this pro-
ideal gas, the gas mass in the expansion and compression spaces
cess, the working gas is isothermally compressed. However, the
can be expressed as [3]:
pressure condition cannot be a sufficient criterion to determine the
status of the valves because the water columns possess dynamic PðSd y þ Vhds Þ
characteristics. It is possible to have the gaseous working fluid at mh ðx; yÞ ¼ (1)
high pressure while the liquid power piston tends to return due to
its dynamic characteristics. Consequently, another important cri-  
P Sd ðy0  yÞ þ xSp þ Vcds
terion regarding the velocity direction of water flow must be mc ðx; yÞ ¼ (2)
considered to determine the status of each check valve.
Consequently, the total mass (m) inside the main chamber can be
One should keep in mind that for some time intervals both
computed (mreg was small):
check valves are closed which results in the constant volume pro-
cesses in the thermodynamic cycle. Hence, it is expected to have a
m ¼ mh þ mc þ mreg
thermodynamic cycle close to the ideal Stirling cycle with the  
highest possible efficiency as one of the main contribution of the PðSd y þ Vhds Þ P Sd ðy0  yÞ þ xSp þ Vcds
¼ þ (3)
proposed design. The next section presents a comprehensive rTh rTc
mathematical model of the proposed Stirling converter.
Eq. (3) can be rearranged in terms of pressure as:

3. Mathematical modeling mrTc Th

Pðx; yÞ ¼   (4)
Th Sd ðy0  yÞ þ xSp þ Vcds þ Tc ðSd y þ Vhds Þ
Fig. 3 demonstrates the ideal thermodynamic cycle of the gen-
eral irreversible LTD Stirling engines. The ideal Stirling cycle include Eq. (4) describes the internal pressure as a function of positions
two isothermal and two constant-volume processes as shown in of the displacer and power pistons (see Fig. 1). Finite time ther-
this figure. Throughout the modeling procedure, the classical modynamics states that there must be a finite temperature differ-
Schmidt assumptions [27] will be used except for finite heat ence between the working fluid and the heat source so that a finite
amount of heat is transferred in a finite time [28]. Accordingly, it is
obvious that the actual temperatures of gaseous working fluid in
the compression and expansion spaces are not the same as the solar
absorber and sink temperatures taking into account a finite time.
Clearly, the gas temperature in the compression space is more than
the sink temperature while the gas temperature in the expansion
space is less than the collector absorber. Thus, the following
mathematical procedure was presented to acquire the real gas
temperatures in the heat exchangers.
The total work produced by the pump over one cycle can be
expressed as:
W¼ PdVp ¼ PSp dx (5)

Vp ¼ Sp x (6)
Fig. 3. General irreversible Stirling cycle.
324 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

Substituting Eq. (4) into Eq. (5) and integrating over one cycle, the
total work done per cycle can be expressed as follows: Dm ¼ mh;max  mh;min ¼ mc;max  mc;min
¼ mh ð0; y0 Þ  mh ðx0 ; y0 Þ
I Z0 Zx0
mTc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ
W¼ PSp dx ¼ Pðx; 0ÞSp dx þ Pðx; y0 ÞSp dx ¼
Th Vcds þ Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ
x0 0
  mV T
Tc Vhds þ Th ðVcds þ Sd y0 Þ   hds c  (15)
¼ mrTc ln Tc Vhds þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 þ Sd y0
Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Tc Vhds
 !! Indeed, the regeneration process is not perfect in practice and a
Tc ðVhds þ Sd Tc y0 Þ þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 heat loss due to imperfect regeneration appears in the cycle that
þ ln   (7)
Tc Vhds þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 þ Sd y0 must be taken into account. The heat loss (QLoss) due to imperfect
regeneration can be stated as:
The required heat for isothermal expansion of the working gas
(if perfect regeneration is considered) over one cycle can be found  
QLoss ¼ Qreg 1  hreg (16)
I I Taking into account the heat losses due to imperfect regenera-
Qh0 ¼ PdVh ¼ PSd dy (8) tion, the total heat absorbed from the high temperature source (Qh)
and the total heat released to the heat sink (Qc) can be found as

Vh ¼ Sd y þ Vhds (9) Qh ¼ Qh0 þ QLoss

Substituting Eq. (4) into Eq. (8) and integrating over a cycle, mrTc Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds
¼ ln
the required heat for isothermal expansion can be acquired as Tc  Th Tc Vhds þ Th ðVcds þ Sd y0 Þ
follows:   !!
Tc Vhds þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 þ Sd y0
þ ln  
Zy0 Z0 Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0
Qh0 ¼ Pð0; yÞSd dy þ Pðx0 ; yÞSd dy  
r 1  hreg
y0 þ Dm ðTh  Tc Þ (17)
0 g1
mrTc Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds
¼ ln
Tc  Th Tc Vhds þ Th ðVcds þ Sd y0 Þ Qc ¼ Qc0  QLoss
Tc Vhds þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 þ Sd y0 mrTc2 Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds
þ ln   (10) ¼ ln
Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 ðTc  Th Þ Tc Vhds þ Th ðVcds þ Sd y0 Þ
The heat released to the cold source in an isothermal Tc Vhds þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 þ Sd y0
compression process (if perfect regeneration is considered) is: þ ln  
Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0
I I I  
r 1  hreg
Qc0 ¼ PdVc ¼  PSd dy þ PSp dx (11)  Dm ðTh  Tc Þ (18)

where As mentioned earlier, the temperatures of the working gas in-

side the heat exchangers (Th, Tc) are different from the solar
Vc ¼ Sd ðy0  yÞ þ Sp x þ Vcds (12) absorber and sink temperatures (TH, TC). It is so important to
consider the real gas temperatures to estimate the work and power
Substituting Eq. (4) into Eq. (11) and integrating over one cycle, generated by the Stirling converter. Thus, in order to calculate the
the heat released to the cold source in an isothermal compression gas temperature in expansion and compression spaces the heat
process can be obtained: transfer equations were employed. Convection was considered as
0 1
Zy0 Z0 the dominant mode of heat transfer between the gas and the
B C exchanger plates. The convective heat transfer (Qh) from the col-
Qc0 ¼ @ Pð0; yÞSd dy þ Pðx0 ; yÞSd dyA þ W
lector absorber (at temperature TH) to the working gas (at tem-
0 y0
perature Th) can be expressed as:
mrTc2 Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds
¼ ln
ðTc  Th Þ Tc Vhds þ Th ðVcds þ Sd y0 Þ h
Qh ¼ S ðT  Th Þ (19)
  !! n d H
Tc Vhds þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 þ Sd y0
þ ln   (13)
Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 Besides, the amount of heat released to the heat sink from the
working gas is:
The heat stored in the regenerator can be expressed as:
r Qc ¼ S ðT  Tc Þ (20)
Qreg ¼ DmCv ðTh  Tc Þ ¼ Dm ðT  Tc Þ (14) n d C
g1 h
Consequently, the temperature of the gaseous working fluid in
where Dm is the amount of mass transfer between the hot and cold the expansion and compression spaces can be obtained through
spaces. It can be expressed as follows: equating Eqs. (17) and (18) to Eqs. (19) and (20) respectively,
H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 325

3.2. Kinematic analysis of the displacer piston

mrTc Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds
Fh ¼ ln Fig. 4 depicts schematic diagram of a four-bar linkage mecha-
Tc  Th Tc Vhds þ Th ðVcds þ Sd y0 Þ
  !! nism used in the proposed design. It is clear that total mass of the
Tc Vhds þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 þ Sd y0 (21) working gas will be in the hot space when y ¼ y0 . Whereas, all
þ ln  
Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 amounts of gas are transferred to the cold space when y ¼ 0.
  Displacement of the displacer piston versus time can be formulated
r 1  hreg h
þ Dm ðTh  Tc Þ  Sd ðTH  Th Þ ¼ 0 using kinematic analysis of a four-bar linkage mechanism that
g1 n
converts the rotational motion of the DC geared motor to recipro-
cating motion of the displacer piston.
  According to Fig. 3, vertical displacement (z) of the displacer
mrTc2 Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds
Fc ¼  ln piston as a function of angles q1 and q2 can be obtained using
ðTc  Th Þ Tc Vhds þ Th ðVcds þ Sd y0 Þ
geometrical relationships:
Tc Vhds þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0 þ Sd y0 (22)
þ ln   z ¼ l1 cosðq1 Þ þ l2 cosðq2 Þ (28)
Tc ðVhds þ Sd y0 Þ þ Th Vcds þ Sp x0
r 1  hreg h Besides, the relationship between the angles q2 and q1 can be
 Dm ðTh  Tc Þ  Sd ðTC  Tc Þ ¼ 0 stated based on the mechanism geometry as:
g1 n
Finding an explicit solution to the set of obtained nonlinear l1
equations (Eqs. (21) and (22)) is a difficult task. Therefore, New- sinðq2 Þ ¼ sinðq1 Þ (29)
toneRaphson method [29] was proposed to iteratively find an
approximate solution: Substituting Eq. (29) into Eq. (28) yields:
2 31 sffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
6 vT  vFh
Th ðk þ 1Þ T ðkÞ 6 h vTc 7 Fh ðTh ðkÞ; Tc ðkÞÞ z ¼ l1 cosðutÞ þ l2 1  l1=l sinðutÞ ; u ¼ 2pn (30)
¼ h 6 7 (23) 2
Tc ðk þ 1Þ Tc ðkÞ 4 vFc vFc 5 Fc ðTh ðkÞ; Tc ðkÞÞ
vTh vTc
where u is angular velocity of the DC motor. Consequently, the
Eq. (23) can be solved recursively to find the temperatures of position of displacer piston can be declared as follows:
gaseous working fluid in expansion and compression spaces (Th
and Tc). The presented method for estimating the gas temperature y ¼ l1 þ l2  z
can be applied to low-temperature and high-temperature Stirling  2
engines as well. It is the main advantage of the proposed mathe- ¼ l1 ð1  cosðutÞÞ þ l2 @1  1  l1=l sinðutÞ A (31)
matical scheme compared to the equations presented in Ref. [3]
where the assumption of low temperature difference (Th/Tc z 1)
was used to simplify the dimensionless equations and to obtain the Eq. (31) is the final kinematic model that determines the posi-
gaseous working fluid temperatures. Then, using the obtained gas tion of the displacer piston at each time instant according to the
temperatures, the thermal efficiency of proposed solar-powered angular velocity. Eq. (31) together with Eq. (4) is used to describe
Stirling converter can be found:

ht ¼ (24)

Substituting Eqs. (19) and (20) into Eq. (24) yields:

d ðTc  TC Þ
ht ¼ 1  hn (25)
n Sd ðTH  Th Þ

It is important to consider Eq. (25) as the efficiency of ideal

Stirling cycle (see Fig. 2) based on the knowledge of gas tempera-
tures in the hot and cold spaces. However, it is a theoretical effi-
ciency and the real Stirling converter cannot practically reach the
theoretical efficiency. Hence, a more realistic efficiency is calculated
in section 4.1 with more details. The ideal output power generated
by the Stirling converter can be written as:

Power ¼ Wn (26)
Substituting Eqs. (19) and (20) into Eq. (26), the power gener-
ated in an ideal Stirling cycle can be calculated as follow:
h h
Power ¼ Sd ðTH  Th Þ  Sd ðTc  TC Þ n
n n
¼ hSd ðTH  Th Þ  hSd ðTc  TC Þ (27) Fig. 4. Schematic diagram of four-bar linkage mechanism.
326 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

Fig. 5. Schematic diagram of discharge state.

the internal pressure as a function of displacer piston position. One 3.3. Dynamic analysis of the water columns
should keep in mind that the ratio l1 =l2 should be as small as
possible. It causes a smaller value of the reaction force at the sup- It should be noted that the characteristics of water flow in
port of the displacer rod. Furthermore, it can reduce the frictional suction and discharge states are entirely different as shown in
losses in the mechanism. Figs. 5 and 6. Therefore, dynamic analysis of the water columns

Fig. 6. Schematic diagram of suction state.

H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 327

Table 1
Simulation data.

Parameter Value Parameter Value Parameter Value

L 1.5 (m) y0 0.131 (m) P0 105 (Pa)

TH 393 (K) m 0.312387 (kg) c 0.5 (m)
TC 293 (K) Vhds 0.03Vd (m) g 1.4
Dp 0.3 (m) Vcds 0.03Vd (m) y 0.44 (rad/s)
Dt 0.07 (m) g 9.81 (m/s2) Di 0.07 (m)
Sd 1.88*0.88 (m2) r 1000 (kg/m3) h [3] 10 (W/(m2K)))
l1 0.065 (m) H 1.5 (m)
l2 0.36 (m) r 287 (J/(kg K))

Fig. 7. Flowchart of the simulation program.

328 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

Table 2
Convergence of parameter x0. dm
¼ m_ i  m_ out (33)
i x0 ðmÞ Tc ðKÞ Th ðKÞ PowerðWÞ ht ð%Þ

0 e 293 393 e e
Since, water was assumed incompressible fluid, then r ¼ cte.
1 0.240236260465480 316.8171 368.5139 16.0322 3.9335 Hence, Eq. (33) was simplified to:
2 0.136487805916813 315.3629 370.3492 9.7275 2.5788
3 0.120461018249084 315.1873 370.5747 8.9011 2.3832 dV
4 0.115328539929931 315.1193 370.6623 8.5766 2.3053 ¼ qi  qout (34)
5 0.113737440828426 315.0982 370.6895 8.4755 2.2809
6 0.113235268960358 315.0915 370.6981 8.4434 2.2731
where qi is the input volumetric flow rate which is equal to zero for
7 0.113072421058652 315.0893 370.7009 8.4330 2.2706
8 0.113007063675617 315.0884 370.7021 8.4287 2.2696 the mentioned conditions and qout is the output volumetric flow
9 0.112980749082845 315.0881 370.7025 8.4270 2.2692 rate. Since, total volume of water was expressed as
10 0.112973776279858 315.0880 370.7027 8.4266 2.2691 V ¼ Sp ððL=2Þ  xÞ þ St ððL=2Þ þ HÞ, thus:
11 0.112971887945176 315.0880 370.7027 8.4264 2.2690
12 0.112971378116764 e e e e dV dx
¼ qout /qout ¼ Sp (35)
dt dt

Table 3
The behavior of fluid flow versus time was investigated using
Convergence of gaseous working fluid temperatures for x0 ¼ 0.1129713781 m using unsteady Bernoulli's equation along points 1 to 3 [30].
NewtoneRaphson algorithm.
k P1 v21 P v2 1 vv
þ þ z1 ¼ 3 þ 3 þ z2 þ ds þ hLo (36)
Temp. 1 2 3 4 5 rg 2g rg 2g g vt
Tc ðkÞ 293 315.1142 315.088 315.088
Th ðkÞ 393 370.6746 370.7027 370.7027

Z3 Z2 Z3
must be carried out in two distinct sections. The continuity law vv vv vv
ds ¼ ds þ ds
incorporating unsteady Bernoulli's equation was thus used to vt vt vt
1 1 2
describe the water flow dynamics in the pump for both suction and    
discharge actions. L L
x x
Z2 2Z 2Z   2
vv vv vv L d x
ds ¼ ds ¼ ds ¼ x
3.3.1. Discharge state vt vt vt 2 dt 2
1 0 0
The first consideration was devoted to the discharge state as
shown in Fig. 5. According to this figure, the mass of water in the L L
þH þH
output section was stated as: 2Z 2Z
    vv vv vv L S p d2 x
L L ds ¼ ds ¼ ds ¼ þH
m¼r  x Sp þ r þ H St (32) vt vt vt 2 St dt 2
2 2 2 0 0
The variation of water volume in the output section of the pump
at discharge state was investigated using continuity law:

Fig. 8. Reciprocating motion of the displacer piston (DC motor speed ¼ 0.44 rad/s).
H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 329

Consequently, Finally, substituting Eqs. (35), (38), (41) and (42) together with
P1 ¼ P0 , P3 ¼ P0 , v1 ¼ dx=dt, v3 ¼ ðSp =St Þv1 , z1 ¼ ðL=2  xÞ and z3 ¼
Z3      2 ðL=2 þ HÞ into Eq. (36), yields the following nonlinear differential
vv L L Sp d x
ds ¼ x þ þH (38) equation governing the motion of liquid power piston in the pro-
vt 2 2 St dt 2
1 posed converter for discharge state.
 2 ! 2
hLo is the overall pressure loss of the output pipe. It consisted of the P  P0 1 Sp dx
þ 1  ð1 þ Kc Þ  ðH þ xÞ
pressure loss due to viscosity effect in the straight pipes, termed the rg 2g St dt
major loss (denoted by hLmajor ) and the pressure losses of other !
components (e.g. valve and elbow), termed the minor loss (denoted 8pm ðL=2  xÞ Sp ðL=2 þ HÞ dx
by hLminor ); That is, hLo ¼ hLmajor þ hLminor . rg Sp S2t dt
Assuming fully developed laminar flow, the major pressure loss      2
along the tube was written as [31]: 1 L L Sp d x
¼ x þ þH (43)
g 2 2 St dt 2
L v2 64
hLmajor ¼ f where; f ¼ (39)
D 2g Re
3.3.2. Suction state
Eq. (39) was applied to the problem so as to find the major pressure
Fig. 6 demonstrates the pump system in suction status. Ac-
loss in the output tube as follows:
cording to this figure, the mass of water in the pumping chamber
(in suction stage) was calculated as follows:
64 ðL=2  xÞ v21 64 ðL=2 þ HÞ v22
hLmajor ¼ þ (40)
Re1 D1 2g Re2 D2 2g m ¼ rSp ðL=2  xÞ þ rSi c (44)
Substituting Re1 ¼ ðrV1 D1 Þ=m, Re2 ¼ rV2 D2 =m, D21 ¼ 4Sp =p, The continuity law was thus used to study the variation of water
D22 ¼ 4St =p, v1 ¼ dx=dt and v2 ¼ ðSp =St Þv1 into Eq. (40) yields: volume in suction state. Since, the fluid was assumed incom-
pressible, the continuity equation was written as follows:
8pm ðL=2  xÞ dx 8pmSp ðL=2 þ HÞ dx
hLmajor ¼ þ
rSp g dt rS2t g dt dV dx dx
! ¼ qi  qout /  Sp ¼ qi  0/qi ¼ Sp (45)
dt dt dt
8pm ðL=2  xÞ Sp ðL=2 þ HÞ dx
¼ þ (41)
rg Sp S2t dt
Dynamic behavior of the fluid was studied using unsteady Ber-
The pressure loss due to the abrupt reduction of cross sectional noulli's equation along points 1 to 3 [30]:
area was considered as the minor loss. It was calculated as follows
[30]: P1 v21 P v2 1 vv
þ þ z1 ¼ 3 þ 3 þ z3 þ ds þ hLt (46)
    rg 2g rg 2g g vt
v2 Kc Sp 2 dx 2 1
hLminor ¼ Kc 2 ¼ where; Kc ¼ 0:5 (42)
2g 2g St dt

Fig. 9. Variations of internal pressure.

330 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

where, The pressure drop due to abrupt changes of the cross sectional
area of the pipe was considered as the minor loss in this state and it
Z3 Z2 Z3 was expressed as follows [30]:
vv vv vv
ds ¼ ds þ ds
vt vt vt
1 1 2    
v21 Ke Sp 2 dx 2
Z2 Zc Zc hLi minor ¼ Ke ¼ where; Ke ¼ 1 (51)
vv vv vv S p d2 x 2g 2g Si dt
ds ¼ ds ¼ ds ¼ c
vt vt vt Si dt 2 (47)
1 0 0
Substituting Eqs. (45), (48), (50) and (51) together with P1 ¼ P0 ,
L L P3 ¼ P, v3 ¼ dx=dt, v1 ¼ ðSp =St Þv1 , z1 ¼ L=2 and z3 ¼ ðL=2  xÞ into
x x
Z3 2Z 2Z   2 Eq. (46), the nonlinear differential equation governing the water
vv vv vv L d x
ds ¼ ds ¼ ds ¼  x flow in suction state was obtained as:
vt vt vt 2 dt 2
2 0 0

 2 ! 2 !   
P  P0 1 Sp dx 8pm ðL=2  xÞ Sp c dx 1 L Sp d2 x
þ 1  ð1  Ke Þ xþ þ 2 ¼ x þc (52)
rg 2g Si dt rg Sp Si dt g 2 Si dt 2

Therefore 4. Simulation results and discussion

In this section, performance evaluation of the proposed active

vv L Sp d2 x Stirling converter and optimization of the operating frequency
ds ¼  x þc (48)
vt 2 Si dt 2 were investigated. Indeed, the optimum speed of the DC motor
1 coupled with the displacer mechanism was an important issue. It
The total pressure drop included the major and minor losses as could affect the overall performance of the converter. Furthermore,
previously discussed in discharge state. The major loss was it was an important parameter to control the DC motor in the
expressed as: proposed active Stirling system. Hence, in this work the perfor-
mance of the proposed converter was first simulated using the
presented mathematical model and then, an optimization scheme
64 ðL=2  xÞ v21 64 ðL=2 þ HÞ v22
hLi major ¼ þ (49) was conducted to find the optimum frequency of the active Stirling
Re1 D1 2g Re2 D2 2g
pump according to the considered operating conditions.
Substituting Re1 ¼ ðrV1 D1 Þ=m, Re2 ¼ rV3 D2 =m, D21 ¼ 4Si =p,
D22 ¼ 4Sp =p, v1 ¼ ðSp =Si Þv3 and v3 ¼ dx=dt into Eq. (49) resulted in
4.1. System performance
the following pressure drop:
8pm ðL=2  xÞ dx 8pmSp c dx An attempt was made to evaluate the performance of the pro-
hLi major ¼ þ posed solar-powered active Stirling pump using simulation. The
rSp g dt rS2i g dt
! practical temperature of the flat-plate solar absorber was reported
8pm ðL=2  xÞ Sp c dx about 373 K based on the previous practical experience published
¼ þ 2 (50)
rg Sp Si dt in Ref. [3]. Besides, it was reported that the absorber temperature

Fig. 10. Displacement of the liquid power piston.

H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 331

Fig. 11. Volumetric flow rates in suction and discharge actions of the pump.

was further achieved 393 K when a flat reflective surface was simultaneously and recursively solve the governing equations. It
employed together with the flat solar collector. Accordingly, in this must be noted that the real temperatures of gaseous working fluid
investigation the absorber temperature was initially assumed 393 K (Tc and Th) must be found using the NewtoneRaphson method as
for a flat collector equipped with a reflective surface. The sink previously described by Eq. (23). However, it was essential to have
temperature was considered as 293.15 K for a water cooling system. the unknown parameter x0 (stroke of liquid power piston) to solve
The mass of non-pressurized gaseous working fluid in the main Eq. (23) recursively. On the other hand, the parameter x0 depends
chamber was calculated considering the ideal gas assumption as on the real temperatures of the working fluid in hot and cold
well as the fact that the gas was initially at sink temperature (TC). It spaces. Thus, the unknown parameter x0 should be firstly deter-
was assumed that the regenerator efficiency and dead volumes mined using an iterative algorithm based on an initial guess of the
were 50% and 0.03Vd respectively. Table 1 represents the values of gas temperatures in expansion and compression spaces. As an
simulation parameters considered in this investigation. A simula- initial guess to start the NewtoneRaphson algorithm, it was
tion work was thus carried out to investigate the performance of reasonable to assume Tc and Th close to TC and TH respectively.
the proposed active Stirling pump based on water head of 1.5 m. Table 2 represents the convergence of parameter x0. The converged
Due to the complexity of the proposed equations the simulation value was found as x0 ¼ 0.1129713781 m after 12 iterations. In each
procedure was demonstrated as a flowchart (see Fig. 7). Using iteration, the converged values of Tc, Th, power (using Eq. (27)), and
simulation data presented in Table 1 and discretizing Eqs. (43) and efficiency (using Eq. (25)) were calculated. Finally, the converged
(52) through central difference method, dynamic behavior of the values of Tc and Th corresponding to x0 ¼ 0.1129713781 m were
liquid power piston was simulated based on the presented flow- shown in Table 3. Thus, the gas temperatures in compression and
chart. A computer program was thus written in MATLAB to expansion spaces were found to be 315.1 K and 370.7 K respectively.

Fig. 12. Mean volumetric flow rates in suction and discharge actions.
332 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

Using the obtained temperatures and the considered simulation was attributed to the fact that the term l1 =l2 was considered
data, the realistic efficiency of the proposed converter was calcu- small. The sinusoidal-like motion of the displacer piston caused
lated about 2.2690% using Eq. (25). One should keep in mind that pressure variation in the main chamber as shown in Fig. 9. The
the obtained efficiency was found based on hreg ¼ 0.5. However, the pressure variation of the gas caused the motion of the liquid
efficiency of the ideal Stirling cycle corresponding to the obtained power piston. Consequently, the motion of the liquid power
temperatures (Tc ¼ 315.1 K and Th ¼ 370.7 K) could theoretically piston resulted in the pumping action. Fig. 10 shows the corre-
achieve 15% considering a very small dead volume and a perfect sponding displacement of the liquid power piston. As it was ex-
regeneration (hreg ¼ 1) in Eq. (25). It means that at solar radiation pected, during a short period of time, the gas pressure applied to
intensity of 700 W/m2, the proposed converter can generate 105 W the liquid power piston wasn't enough to overcome the water
per one square meter of collector area considering ideal conditions. head in the output pipe which caused the first constant volume
However, it is clear that the working conditions cannot be fully process in the thermodynamic cycle (at x(t) ¼ 0). On the other
ideal and hence, the efficiency is considerably reduced (e.g. hand, when the gaseous working fluid was moved to the
2.2690%) as simulated in this section. compression space, a time was taken to increase the gas pressure
Assuming the rotational speed of 0.44 rad/s, the motion of the to further achieve the cracking pressure of the input check
displacer piston was simulated in Fig. 8. As can be seen, the valve. Thus, the second constant volume process (at x(t) ¼ x0)
motion of the displacer piston resembled a sinusoidal function. It occurred.

Fig. 13. PeV diagram of the proposed Stirling converter a) transient state b) steady state.
H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 333

Fig. 14. Actual gas temperature versus operating frequency (for TC ¼ 293 K and TH ¼ 393 K).

According to the simulation results presented in Fig. 10 it was together. As a result, the simulation work was validated to some
obvious that the discharge action occurred once the curve showed extent.
an increasing trend. On the other hand, the suction action took The PeV diagram is an important thermodynamic representa-
place when it showed a decreasing trend. In other words, tion of a thermal converter. The PeV diagram usually contains
isothermal expansion and compression of the gaseous working important information about the thermodynamic cycle. Thus,
fluid resulted in the discharge and suction actions in the pump based on the presented mathematical model the PeV diagrams
respectively. were simulated for transient state (see Fig. 13a) and steady state
The final variations of volumetric flow rate in both discharge (see Fig 13b) conditions. The actual temperatures of gaseous
and suction states of the pump were demonstrated in Fig. 11 over working fluid in compression and expansion spaces and the
100 s. It can be clearly seen that the flow rate showed slower var- sinusoidal-like motion of the displacer piston were taken into ac-
iations in discharge state while steeper changes were found in count to plot the PeV diagrams. As can be seen in Fig. 13b, two
suction state. Furthermore, the curves possessed a phase shift be- constant volume processes were found based on the proposed
tween suction and discharge stages, which could be attributed to Stirling converter and the obtained cycle considerably resembled
the phase difference between the motions of displacer and power the ideal Stirling cycle.
pistons. As discussed earlier, the efficiency and power presented by Eqs.
It is an important issue to investigate whether the mean volu- (25) and (27) were theoretical ones. In practice, it is obvious that
metric flow rates in suction and discharge actions converge the displacer cannot move abruptly from top to bottom dead cen-
together or not and it can further represent validity of the simu- ters and vice versa. In other words, the sinusoidal movement of the
lation procedure. To address this latest issue, the average volu- displacer piston caused a gradual displacement of the gas in the
metric flow rates for both suction and discharge actions were regenerator space, which resulted in gradual pressure variations
calculated and plotted in Fig. 12. It can be clearly seen that the mean instead of abrupt pressure changes that was the main requirement
values of the flow rates for both pumping states converged of the ideal Stirling cycle for a constant-volume pressure increase.

Fig. 15. Output power versus rotational speed of DC motor (dead volume ¼ 0.05Vd). Fig. 16. Output power versus rotational speed of DC motor (dead volume ¼ 0.03Vd).
334 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

Using Eq. (54), the real power of the proposed converter was
found to be 8.4264 (W) taking into account the imperfect regen-
erator (hreg ¼ 50%), the existence of dead volumes (0.06 Vd) and the
sinusoidal variation of the gas volume. Although, a more realistic
output power was found in this section, it was important to
consider the consumed power of the DC motor in calculating the
net power of the Stirling converter. Thus, the power required for the
DC motor could reasonably be subtracted from the power gener-
ated by the Stirling converter. However, from another viewpoint it
was obvious that the power required for the DC motor was pro-
vided by solar energy, which was a free source and hence, one could
ignore the required energy of the DC motor in calculating the
output power of the proposed solar converter. It is discussed with
experimental evidences in section 5.
It is important to note that the obtained power was found based
on a randomly chosen speed of the displacer piston. Thus, an
optimization study was conducted to find the optimum frequency
at which the generated power was maximized.
Fig. 17. Output power for H ¼ 1 m and dead volume of 0.03Vd.

4.2. Optimization scheme

Besides, when the internal pressure achieved the cracking pressure
of the check valve and the velocity direction of the water flow was The rotational speed of the DC motor was an important
proper, the gas volume varied while the pressure was still varying parameter that could entirely change the characteristics of the
and hence, it confined the constant volume processes. Conse- proposed active Stirling pump. Indeed, the angular velocity of the
quently, the practical output power and efficiency of the proposed DC motor could control the variations of internal pressure in the
Stirling converter were different from the ideal cycle (compare main chamber of the converter. In other words, decreasing the
Fig. 13b to Fig. 3). A more realistic output power can be calculated operating frequency increased the required time for heat transfer in
considering sinusoidal variations of gas volume as follows: the heat exchangers. The effect of operating frequency on the gas
H H temperature was even more significant when an imperfect regen-
rg qout ðtÞðH þ xðtÞÞdt rg qin ðtÞðxðtÞÞdt erator was considered (which was conventional in the Stirling cycle
Power ¼ 
t t machines). A simulation work was thus implemented to study the
Z t effect of rotational speed of the DC motor on the actual temperature
rg qout ðtÞðH þ xðtÞÞ  qin ðtÞðxðtÞÞdt of the gaseous working fluid. Fig. 14 demonstrates the variations of
¼ (53) gas temperature in expansion and compression spaces considering
different regenerator efficiencies. It can be seen that by increasing
Eq. (53) can be solved numerically using numerical integration
the rotational speed of the DC motor from 0 rad/s to 2.5 rad/s the
methods (e.g. trapezoid or Simpsons methods). Defining
temperature of the gaseous working fluid in expansion space was
zðtÞ ¼ qout ðtÞðH þ xðtÞÞ  qin ðtÞðxðtÞÞdt, the generated power can be
decreased while it was increased in the compression space.
determined using the trapezoid method:
Moreover, when speed converged to zero the gas temperatures in
hot and cold spaces were close to the temperatures of the hot and
rgtðzð1Þ þ 2zð2Þ þ / þ 2zðN  1Þ þ zðNÞÞ=2N
Power ¼ cold sources. Clearly, the variations of gas temperature owing to
t imperfect regeneration affected the internal pressure as well as the
rgðzð1Þ þ 2zð2Þ þ / þ 2zðN  1Þ þ zðNÞÞ generated work of the cycle. Another important question was about
¼ (54)
2N the optimum frequency at which the output power of the proposed

Fig. 18. Output power for H ¼ 1.5 m and dead volume of 0.03Vd. Fig. 19. Output power for H ¼ 2 m and dead volume of 0.03Vd.
H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 335

Stirling converter was maximized. Hence, a simulation was carried sections and experimental tests were primarily performed to study
out to investigate the effect of rotational speed of the DC motor on the feasibility of pumping water by the proposed active LTD Stirling
the generated power of the converter considering different regen- pump at low temperature difference. The experimental results
erator efficiencies and using the data presented in Table 1. The were then compared to a part of the simulation to further evaluate
obtained results were demonstrated in Figs. 15 and 16 for different the validity of the simulation outcomes.
dead volumes. It is clear there is an optimum value for operating
frequency corresponding to regenerator efficiency in which the 5.1. Converter construction
output power is at its maximum value. Furthermore, a higher op-
timum speed was found in higher regenerator efficiency. Conse- The proposed converter was thus constructed as shown in
quently, it was reasonable to tune the speed of the DC motor using Fig. 20 considering the design parameters given in Table 4. It was
its optimum value so that maximum pumping capacity was ach- attempted to choose the converter dimensions as close as possible
ieved. According to Fig. 16, the optimum speed corresponding to to the simulation study. The displacer cylinder was made of 40 mm
the regenerator efficiency of 50% was found to be 0.38 rad/s. A thick wooden frame because the working temperature of the
smaller value of the output power can be seen in Fig. 15 compared converter was lower than 393 K and the wooden frame could safely
to Fig. 16 through which the negative effect of the dead volumes withstand this temperature. Besides, the wooden cylinder
was clearly demonstrated. A more descriptive simulation of the possessed a small conductive heat transfer coefficient compared to
generated power corresponding to various operating frequencies metallic one that was a desired characteristic to prevent heat
and regenerator efficiencies were carried out considering three transfer from the hot absorber plate to the cold plate. The displacer
water heads including 1 m, 1.5 m and 2 m as shown respectively in cylinder was made of a light substance such as Unolit. Accordingly,
Figs. 17e19. In all cases, there were clearly optimum operating a thermal isolator was used on top of the displacer piston to pre-
frequencies corresponding to the converter parameters. Hence, it is vent damage due to the absorber heat. The clearance between the
important to note that the highest output power will be achieved if displacer piston and displacer cylinder was 10 mm. The cylinder of
the system is forced to run at the optimum speed through the liquid power piston (pumping chamber) was constructed from
proposed active control system. Consequently, the speed controller Teflon bar. It was further connected to the wooden displacer cyl-
was tuned based on the outcomes of the simulation study. It can be inder through a steel pipe with appropriate connectors. The
further observed that by increasing the water head (H) at the outlet, exchanger plates were made of aluminum plates with thickness of
less output power was generated. 5 mm to provide sufficient strength against maximum pressure
inside the displacer cylinder. Connecting rod and the rest of links
5. Experimental study were constructed from aluminum. Crankshaft and crank were
machined from a steel bar. The crank shaft was supported by two
In this section, the described thermal converter was manufac- ball bearings. It was coupled with DC geared motor from one side
tured based on the dimensions considered in the simulation and it was attached to the crank of the displacer piston on the other

Fig. 20. Experimental converter.

336 H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337

Table 4 conditions. As can be seen in the table, six tests were carried out on
Design parameters. the developed experimental converter. Three different values of
Parameter Value/type water head including 0.5 m, 1 m and 1.5 m were experimented. For
Displacer piston dimensions 1.86 m*0.86 m*0.1 m
each water head, three values of DC motor speed were tested. It can
Displacer cylinder dimensions 1.96 m*0.88 m*0.2 be clearly seen that the there is an optimum value for DC motor
Stroke of displacer piston 0.13 m speed (at the corresponding head) in which a more pumping ca-
Hot and cold plates 2 m*1 m pacity is obtained.
Reflector 2 m*1 m
The power consumed by the DC motor was also measured in
Crank length 0.065 m
Connecting rod length 0.36 m each tests and reported in Table 6. In all tests, the output powers of
Diameter of liquid piston cylinder 0.28 m the converter were more than the required power for the DC motor.
Dead volumes 0.03Vd One should keep in mind that in the experimental study there was
DC motor 12 V, 150 rpm
no regenerator which significantly reduced the output power of the
Output/Input pipe diameter 0.02 m
Regenerator efficiency 0%
converter. According to the simulation outcomes if an efficient
regenerator (e.g. hreg ¼ 90%) had been used it was possible to
significantly increase the power (e.g. six times more). Besides, non-
Table 5
pressurized air instead of pressurized helium or hydrogen was used
Employed transducers. in the converter, which decreased the output power. However, the
feasibility of pumping water by the proposed converter at low
Sensor Type
temperature difference was clearly demonstrated taking into ac-
Flow sensor Hall-effect YF-S201 count the mentioned limitations.
Temperature sensor NTC 100 K [32]
Pressure sensor BMP085
Speed sensor Encoder 5.3. Comparison of experimental and simulation results

In this section a comparison between experimental and simu-

lation results were carried out to investigate the validity of the
side. The crank mechanism was statically balanced by a 0.34 kg simulation study. Three last rows of Table 6 presented the experi-
counter weight to significantly reduce the power required for the mental results for water head of 1.5 m at collector and sink tem-
DC motor. The nominal operating voltage and speed of the DC peratures of 391 K and 294 K respectively and without the
motor was 12 V and 150 rpm respectively. Finally, the reflector was application of regenerator. It is obvious that the mentioned oper-
made of aluminum foil so as to increase solar radiation intensity ating conditions are close to what was considered in the simulation
over the collector area and it was added to the single glazed flat study presented in Fig. 16 for regenerator efficiency of zero. Ac-
collector. cording to test No. 8 presented in Table 6, at optimum speed of
0.2 rad/s a more output power was acquired in comparison with the
5.2. Experimental results powers obtained at 0.3 rad/s and 0.1 rad/s. Besides, the speed of
0.22 rad/s reported in test No. 8 was in a good agreement with the
In this section, the developed solar-powered active Stirling optimum speed of 0.18 rad/s simulated in Fig. 16 (when regenerator
pump was preliminarily tested to investigate the feasibility of efficiency was zero) through which the validity of the simulation
pumping water at low temperature difference. The measurement was affirmed to some extent. However, the obtained power in this
facilities employed in this investigation were listed in Table 5. All test was about 2.05 W that was smaller than the simulated power of
experiments were implemented at Shiraz University of technology 2.7 W (see Fig. 16). This difference could be attributed to the fact
from 21 to 27 December 2014. The mean intensity of solar radiation that more frictional and thermal losses existed in the experimental
was about 720 W/m2 based on the measurement done by a Casella converter. Besides, a part of the energy generated by the converter
Solar-meter. The maximum measured collector temperature was could be stored as potential energy in the flexible elements of the
391 K while the minimum measured temperature of heat sink was converter such as the exchanger plates and the displacer piston.
291 K (in the water cooling system). In fact, a portion of the pumped
water by the converter was used to cool the cold plate and hence, 6. Conclusion
the cold plate temperature was close to the ambient temperature.
To investigate the performance and feasibility of the developed This work presented a novel solar-powered active LTD Stirling
system, it was primarily tested. Table 6 represents the preliminary pump equipped with a solid controllable displacer and liquid po-
results obtained from the experiment for different operating wer piston. The proposed design combined the benefits of Fluidyne

Table 6
Experimental results.

Test Pumping Mean Power (W) DC motor DC motor Absorber Heat sink
number head (m) volumetric speed (rad/s) power (W) temp. (K) temp. (K)
flow rate (m3/s)

1 0.5 7.18*104 3.5230 0.90 1.4 388.35 294.25

2 0.5 8.77*1e4 4.3018 0.71 1.3 390.45 295.65
3 0.5 7.32*1e4 3.5950 0.50 1.1 389.65 294.75
4 1.0 2.9*1e4 2.8400 0.44 1.1 390.85 294.65
5 1.0 3.57*104 3.5030 0.35 1.0 389.65 293.95
6 1.0 3.12*1e4 3.0700 0.24 0.8 391.25 295.15
7 1.5 1.08*1e4 1.6000 0.31 0.9 390.45 293.75
8 1.5 1.39*1e4 2.0500 0.22 0.8 391.15 294.65
9 1.5 1.15*1e4 1.6940 0.13 0.7 390.75 294.55
H. Jokar, A.R. Tavakolpour-Saleh / Renewable Energy 81 (2015) 319e337 337

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