Air Engines: The History, Science, and Reality of the Perfect Engine
13 . . … and the Heyday to Come
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By comparison with the steam engine, two striking features of Stirling's engine were simplicity and safety. Statistics for the era are lacking, but it is recorded (Percival et al. 1960) that in the 17-year interval between 1862 and 1879 over 10 000 boiler explosions with resulting death and injury occurred in England alone, i.e. a rate of about 10/week! That the industrial air engine persisted was partly a response to this very problem. Late-twentieth-century Stirling engines now demonstrate specific power and efficiency which the inventor could scarcely have foreseen, but at a cost in terms of sophistication out of line with commercial reality. The emphasis, almost two centuries later, is again on simplicity, with the promising results recently demonstrated by the Viebach engine.