Project Makes Strides Toward Efficient Power Supply for Human Scale Robotics

controlled stirling power unit

The fluid power research projects coming out of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) have continued to progress, and all ten of the newly funded projects were presented at the CCEFP Industry-University Summit in April 2017. The Controlled Stirling Power Unit project was presented by Seth Thomas, a student at Vanderbilt University. Project progress has included the development and testing of different design prototypes with the end goal of developing a portable, untethered, high-energy-density power supply for human-scale robotic applications.

Project Premise: The project has been addressing limitations in the current options for power supplied to mobile robots and exoskeletons through the development of a quieter, more energy-dense, compact, and portable fluid power supply using a stirling device. Such advancements would enable the use of fluid power technology in a variety of military, medical, manufacturing, and construction applications. The stirling device can use a number of highly energy-dense, flexible fuel or available heat sources to create hydraulic or pneumatic fluid power in an easily scalable design.

Recent Progress and Next Steps: The testing and development of the original and second generation prototypes are underway. Simulations measured heater head temperature, average engine pressure and displacer frequency, and compared the use of helium and air. Despite helium’s better heat transfer capabilities, air has shown potential in the multi-stage design. Next steps include:

  • Continuing the design of the second generation prototype using air as the working fluid.
  • Performing fabrication and testing on the second generation prototype.
  • Designing and fabricating the hydrocarbon heater.
  • Completing the final high-energy-density stirling device design.

 See the presentation slides from the summit below:

Watch for project updates as the project progresses.

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