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A Novel Hydraulic Heat Engine Based on Ferrofluid Displacer With Applications in Solar Power Generation

[+] Author Affiliations
Mohsen Saadat, Mehdi Mirzakhanloo, Mohammad-Reza Alam

University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

Pieter Gagnon

National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO

Paper No. DSCC2017-5286, pp. V003T43A004; 9 pages
  • ASME 2017 Dynamic Systems and Control Conference
  • Volume 3: Vibration in Mechanical Systems; Modeling and Validation; Dynamic Systems and Control Education; Vibrations and Control of Systems; Modeling and Estimation for Vehicle Safety and Integrity; Modeling and Control of IC Engines and Aftertreatment Systems; Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Their Applications; Dynamics and Control of Renewable Energy Systems; Energy Harvesting; Control of Smart Buildings and Microgrids; Energy Systems
  • Tysons, Virginia, USA, October 11–13, 2017
  • Conference Sponsors: Dynamic Systems and Control Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5829-5
  • Copyright © 2017 by ASME


Conventional closed cycle heat engines — such as Stirling engines — have many advantages, such as high theoretical efficiency and the ability to produce useful work out of any heat source. However, they suffer from low power density due to poor heat transfer capability between the working gas and its surrounding walls. In this work, we proposed a new architecture where the solid displacer of a Stirling engine is replaced with a ferrofluid liquid displacer. In this approach, the relative displacer location with respects to the engine chamber is controlled (and stabilized) through a strong magnetic field generated by a permanent magnet. The liquid nature of the displacer allows the hot and cold chambers of the engine to be filled with porous material, improving the heat transfer by an order of magnitude. Additionally, this engine architecture mitigates sealing issues, can operate at higher pressures, and has naturally lubricating surfaces. A relatively simple configuration of this idea is modeled in this work. Exploratory dynamic simulations of this unoptimized architecture show a thermal efficiency of 21% and a power density of approximately 700W/lit.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME



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