Dean Kamen Invents a Stirling Home GeneratorAugust 27, 2014
By Lance Powers
Dean Kamen has invented some pretty cool items, not the least of which is the Segway transporter. Although less well-known, he's also invented a number of ground-breaking medical devices through his company DEKA Research and Development. His latest invention is a Stirling engine power plant that can power a house for under $10k.
As we mentioned in another Stirling Engine article, the Stirling engine was invented by a Scottish minister by the name of Robert Stirling. A Stirling engine usually has one or two cylinders in a closed/sealed system. It works by applying heat externally to one side of the engine while the other side remains cool. This temperature differential causes the internal air to heat up on the hot side. As the air expands, it causes a piston to move. As the air is pushed to the cool side, it contracts and the piston moves back.
Kamen's Stirling engine, which is called the Beacon 10, is about the size of a washing machine. It uses natural gas as the heat source fuel (but it can be powered by other fuels as well) and can produce about 10kW of power.
Kamen originally designed his Stirling engine for developing countries around the world where power can be difficult to obtain, but demand has risen in the U.S. because of the perceived notion that the power grid can fail due to mother nature or terrorist acts. The falling prices for natural gas have helped as well.
While 10kW is a bit of an overkill for residential use, it would work great for businesses and commercial enterprises. Kamen does have a smaller 2.5kW version he has been testing in his own home. This output would be right inline with the use for many houses.
Unfortunately, it seems that these Stirling engines may not be available for direct purchase. It appears that they may be available only through NRG, which would lease them to businesses and homeowners using the same formula they currently use for solar panel installations.
Image Credit: DEKA Research