Steam Engine Electric Generator

We just got back from the 2010 Steam Automobile Club of America (SACA) meeting. I presented a brief talk on Open Source Ecology’s proposal for the scalable, steam-powered, electrical generator that we discussed in a former post. This talk puts the power generator in context with other OSE product ecologies. It also discusses further development of mobile power units, such as replacing the gasoline engine in the Power Cube of LifeTrac with a steam-power version.

By the way, that was Harry Shoell in the audience (commenting that we can burn clippings right from our lawn) – the lead developer from Cyclone Technologies. Cyclone Technologies has already developed a supercritical, water-lubricated steam engine that has beat the gasoline engine in efficiency. It’s a clean engine that can run on any fuel, and it uses water instead of engine oil for lubrication. Yes, steam power is for real, and according to the Cyclone group, it may be the next 100 years of propulsion, just as the internal combustion engine has taken over the last 100 years. For those unfamiliar with steam power, this is indeed a resounding wakeup call. We will report on his and other SACA highlights in the next posts, including an interview with Harry Schoell.

Back to our electrical generator proposition – consensus within the audience – of those who actually know what they are talking about – was that our design for the steam-powered generator requires some modifications. SACA is a goldmine of expert experience – the key to our open source project.

We are teaming up with Karl Petersen in particular, SACA Bulletin editor, and the guy who I read about a few years ago in the Educator Buggy steam project. He has about 5 decades of experience with light steam power. We discussed an open source project to take the scalable steam electric generator to full product release by next year, with a first prototype forthcoming early next year. Karl will lead the design work, and he will produce the CAD and fabrication drawings. Our goal is on the order of $500 in materials cost for a 1 kW generator, with favorable cost scaling for higher power. Listen to our introduction:

1 kW Steam Engine Electric Generator Prototype from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

We are going to crowd-fund this effort, and tap the entire gold mine of expertise from SACA. This approach has been well-received within SACA leadership. To this end, I will be going on the road for about 3 months in December – January, when the weather is cold at Factor e Farm – on a mission. The mission is to search and document the technical due-diligence to make this project happen – everything from pelletization, gasifier burners, heat exchangers, steam expanders, fabrication development, and enterprise model. Part of this will be documenting the steam knowledge of the older members of SACA, which would otherwise be lost. We look forward to initial Power Cube prototypes running on steam by end of next year.

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18 Comments »

  1. Edward Miller said,

    September 21, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

    This guy is brilliant. We just need to uncork this bottled up potential of steam, and use the self-replicating power of nature to fuel our machines. Exciting times ahead.

  2. Nathan Shepperd said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 6:29 am

    What Cyclone Technologies have done is interesting, but I noted they are going to patent the valve system, and I wonder if that will be a problem for open source designs in the future.

  3. Marcin said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

    Their engine has at least 6 patents. This is not OSE Specifications-friendly. Our point is that steam power hold great potential. At the very worst, the info is released in 17 years when the patent expires.

  4. lasergoggles said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 11:32 pm

    A Scottish vicar made a better design about 190 years ago, but steam engines required less precision during manufacture.

    (Wikipedia article on the Stirling Engine.](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling_engine)

    Coal was cheap, so using twice as much fuel for the same power output was not an issue at the time.

  5. mimarob said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 4:56 am

    Anyway, great that the steam engine is given such high priority, it really is the new tech toy most of the world doesn’t know it needs :-)

    It is hard right now to see exactly how it will be used, installation in peoples stoves and heaters as a cheap co-generator is one immediate application.

    Also I think it might be a cheaper option than solar cells if complemented with a set of solar mirrors.

  6. Nathan Shepperd said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 5:40 am

    Yes, I realised there were other patents on the engine after commenting, but on the other hand, other designs might be better suited to easier replication – I don’t know what equipment they need to manufacture their steam engines but it may not be possible with the tools you can already build on the farm.

  7. Tweets that mention Steam Engine Electric Generator | Open Source Ecology -- Topsy.com said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

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  8. mimarob said,

    September 24, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    I still wonder about the late reverend and the actual (not theoretical) efficiency of his machine, was it really that good back then? The kits they sell for model stirlings have 0% efficiency i.e. they can only move themselves and nothing else. Kinda like the moving, rotating, tingling angels you run with four candles at christmas.

    At least a model steam engine will do something, light a lamp or even run a small generator.

  9. ivan steel said,

    November 16, 2010 @ 4:26 am

    I have 350 kW of steam at 10 bar, and I am looking for some thing to do with it, its bening vented at present. I would like to generate power, any idears.

  10. Land Steam Record | Factor E Farm Blog said,

    December 14, 2010 @ 3:28 am

    [...] people at the Steam Automobile Club of America meeting are working on the Land Steam Record – a race for the top speed in a steam car. The [...]

  11. Distributed Generation | Factor E Farm Blog said,

    December 14, 2010 @ 3:29 am

    [...] recent developments in steam power are exciting. We are committing to the first prototype of a stationary, distributed power generator. This is our high-appropriate technology route to biomass-based power systems, while higher tech, [...]

  12. Open Source Power Cube – Prototype II | Factor E Farm Blog said,

    December 14, 2010 @ 3:32 am

    [...] of the realities that we believe are forthcoming in the near future – after MicroTrac and our steam engine are deployed. Share [...]

  13. scott mathieson said,

    December 26, 2010 @ 11:05 am

    Have you all checked out the greensteamengine.com site? I wonder how the efficiency compares to the cyclone. It certainly is aimed towards opensource. I am considering buying the plans to build one. Ivan – This could be one possibility for your steam to electricity need. What is the source of your steam? How do you come to a 350kw value?

  14. Marcin said,

    December 27, 2010 @ 2:11 am

    See our review of the Green Steam Engine here – http://openfarmtech.org/weblog/2009/09/steam-meet-report/

  15. links for 2010-12-27 | SoftScoop © said,

    December 27, 2010 @ 8:35 am

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  16. links for 2010-12-27 | SoftScoop © said,

    December 27, 2010 @ 11:51 am

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  17. chris said,

    March 29, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

    So its almost spring. Looking forward to an update.

  18. Roberto said,

    May 26, 2011 @ 6:30 am

    Just an idea, from your design: http://openfarmtech.org/w/images/7/73/Design-5-A.png,

    How about the possibility of a steam engine similar but with a different configuration of the single “cylinder” based on the design patented by Eduardo Taurozzi:
    “Balanced modular pendulum mechanism” – US Patent number: 6382143 2001 Document available from: patents.google.com

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