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Palm Power: Using Combustion at Small Scales and a Free Piston Stirling Engine to Replace Batteries

[+] Author Affiliations
Alessandro Gomez

Yale University

Jonathan Berry, Subir Roychoudhury

Precision Combustion, Inc.

James Huth

Sunpower, Inc.

Paper No. IMECE2005-82801, pp. 343-349; 7 pages
  • ASME 2005 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Energy Conversion and Resources
  • Orlando, Florida, USA, November 5 – 11, 2005
  • Conference Sponsors: Power Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4218-5 | eISBN: 0-7918-3769-6
  • Copyright © 2005 by ASME


A critical parameter to compact and portable power generation is gravimetric energy density (energy per unit weight), in terms of which fuels fare much better than conventional batteries. As a result, there has recently been a flurry of, sometimes questionable, activities on micro/meso-scale fuel-based power generation. This article discusses an approach to mesoscale electric power production relying on a clean and efficient combustor coupled with a free-piston Stirling engine. First, the design and development of a catalytic burner will be reviewed. Its main components are: a multiplexed electrospray to disperse jet propulsion fuel (JP-8), a stack of catalytically coated grids through which fuel conversion and heat release is achieved cleanly and efficiently, and a recuperator to improve the system thermodynamic efficiency. The combustor has a volume of tens of cm3 and operates at JP-8 flow rates on the order of tens of g/hr, and equivalence ratios varying in the 0.35-0.70 range. The combustor was interfaced with the 35 We Sunpower (Athens, OH) free-piston Stirling engine to achieve power generation with a gross fuel-electric efficiency of 21%. With design optimization, 21% efficiency net of parasitic losses should be achievable, with an energy density on the order of 1,000–2,000 W-hr/kg, depending on fuel autonomy.

Copyright © 2005 by ASME



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