Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Air Engines: The History, Science, and Reality of the Perfect Engine

By
Theodor Finkelstein
Theodor Finkelstein
Search for other works by this author on:
Allan J. Organ
Allan J. Organ
Search for other works by this author on:
ISBN-10:
0791801713
ISBN:
9780791801710
No. of Pages:
288
Publisher:
ASME Press
Publication date:
2009

Stirling's engine preceded that of Sadi Carnot by 8 years. It relied on the principle of reversible heat exchange, was patented, built and put into service. In a more genteel era (1884), Fleeming Jenkin put it this way:

‘You have, therefore, a theoretically perfect heat engine, every portion of the action of which is reversible, and reversibility, as you have no doubt been told in previous lectures, is the test of a perfect engine. Stirling's is a perfect engine and it is the first perfect engine ever described.’

(In fact, the inevitable element of thermal conduction is irreversible, but Jenkin's meaning is clear.)

Carnot's engine, by contrast, is an abstraction, was not patented, was not built and never will be. The Carnot cycle is celebrated and known to every student of engineering and physics. Where the Stirling cycle gets a mention it is misunderstood and misrepresented, even down to the fourth and latest edition of the UK's most widely used teaching text on engineering thermodynamics (Rogers and Mayhew 1992).

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this chapter.
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal