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Another way to generate power from the sun
by Katy Purviance on 07/01/08 @ 10:16:23 am
Categories: Observations | 287 words | 1895 views

There’s this homeless man I know. He has a very peaceful spirit about him, and he’s incredibly well-read, so every time I see him, we end up talking for a while.

One of the last times we ran in to each other was at a Starbucks. I was waiting for someone, so he took a seat and started telling me what he would do if he were king of Los Angeles.

He told me about Stirling Engines. I hadn’t heard of them before. If he were king, he said, he would require every flat roof in LA to be covered with them to generate power.

He drew a picture of how it would work. It was so simple. And it is an example of what I want to do as architect: I want to use the properties of physics to heat, cool, ventilate, and power homes.

For you, I found an animated gif that explains the concept.

Stirling Engine

Can’t see the whole thing? Click here.

Air in the engine is cyclically heated (by an alcohol burner) and expands to push the power piston (shown in blue) to the right. As the power piston moves to the right, the yellow linkage forces the loose-fitting, red “piston” (on the left half of the machine) to displace air to the cooler side of the engine. The air on the cool side loses heat to the outside world and contracts, pulling the blue piston to the left. The air is again displaced, sending it back to the hotter region of the engine, and the cycle repeats.

The Stirling engine cycle can also be used “in reverse", to convert rotating motion into a temperature differential (and thus provide refrigeration).

How cool is that?

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Know of some others I can add here? Let me know. Have you already visited some of these places...or planning on it? Let me know and I will feature your story and your photos here!

I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.

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