dean kamen and the stirling engine

Having suffered greatly at the hands of critics who found his most notable invention to date, the Segway Personal Transporter, to be both over-hyped and… well… ridiculous, you would think that Kamen would know better than to, once again, build an invention up beyond any hope of delivery, but here he is in today’s Telegraph claiming to have cracked the puzzle of the Stirling engine. Here’s a clip:

…Beneath the false floor in the boot he and the Deka engineers have mounted a Stirling engine. Conceived in Scotland almost 200 years ago, the Stirling is a marvel of thermo-dynamics that could help to replace the internal combustion engine – in theory it can turn any source of heat into electricity, in silence and with 100 percent efficiency. But corporations including Phillips, Ford and Nasa have devoted decades of research, and millions of dollars, to developing the engine, and all retired defeated, having failed to find a way of turning the theoretical principles of the engine into a workable everyday application. Kamen, nevertheless, has spent the past 10 years and, he estimates, up to $40 million working on the problem.

Now he and his engineers have built and tested a range of Stirling engines suitable for mass production that can be run on anything from jet fuel to cow dung. The one in the boot of the small blue car is designed to extend its range and constantly recharge its batteries to make a new kind of hybrid vehicle: one fit for the roads of the 21st century. A Stirling-electric hybrid, Kamen tells me, can travel farther and more efficiently than conventional electric cars; it generates enough power to run energy-hungry devices such as heaters and defrosters that are essential for drivers who, unlike those he calls the ‘tofu heads’ of California, must cope with a cold climate; and even using petrol, the engine runs far cleaner than petrol-electric hybrids such as Toyota’s Prius…

The author of the piece doesn’t actually see one working, and we know that Kamen wasn’t right when he predicted that the Segway would revolutionize transportation, but what if he is right here? Can you imagine how a development like this might spark a new automotive era? Maybe it’s desperation, but, when I read a story like this, I can’t help but think that there might be hope for Michigan yet… At the risk of sounding like the boy who traded his family’s cow for a handful of magic beans, I really do think that it might be a good use of our Governor’s time to fly out and pay Kamen a visit. I realize that Kamen has been talking about the Sterling engine for years, and that he’s yet to produce one that he can demonstrate, but really what else have we got to be optimistic about?

[This post is brought to you by Granholm’s newly announced Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG).]

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2 Comments

  1. mark
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    And, yes, Kamen’s been making these claims for a long time.

  2. mark
    Posted October 29, 2008 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    What, no Kamen bashing?

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