The design for a totally new class of heat engine, a micro heat engine, which takes advantage of thermophysical phenomena unique to small scales, is introduced. The proposed engine is an external combustion engine, in which thermal power is converted to mechanical power through the use of a novel thermodynamic cycle which approaches the ideal vapor Carnot cycle. Mechanical power is converted into electrical power through the use of a piezoelectric generator. The generator, which takes the form of a flexible membrane, can be readily manufactured using MEMS fabrication techniques but still delivers high conversion efficiency. This approach eliminates the requirement to manufacture complex micromachines such as rotary compressors and turbines, resulting in a very simple but highly efficient device.

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