A single-reciprocating-piston two-phase thermofluidic prime-mover

Aly Taleb, Michael Andreas Gerardus Timmer, Mohammed El-Shazly, Aleksandr Samoilov, Valeriy Kirillov, Christos Markides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)


We explore theoretically a thermodynamic heat-engine concept that has the potential of attaining a high efficiency and power density relative to competing solutions, while having a simple construction with few moving parts and dynamic seals, allowing low capital and operating costs, and long lifetimes. Specifically, an unsteady heat-engine device within which a working fluid undergoes a power cycle featuring phase-change, termed the ‘Evaporative Reciprocating-Piston Engine’ (EPRE) is considered as a potential prime mover for use in combined heat and power (CHP) applications. Based on thermal/fluid-electrical analogies, a theoretical ERPE device is conceptualized initially in the electrical-analogy domain as a linearized, closed-loop active electronic circuit model. The circuit-model representation is designed to potentially exhibit high efficiencies compared to similar, existing two-phase unsteady heat engines. From the simplified circuit model in the electrical domain, and using the thermal/fluid-electrical analogies, one possible configuration of a corresponding physical ERPE device is derived, based on an early prototype of a device currently under development that exhibits some similarities with the ERPE, and used as a physical manifestation of the proposed concept. The corresponding physical ERPE device relies on the alternating phase change of a suitable working-fluid (here, water) to drive a reciprocating displacement of a single vertical piston and to produce sustained oscillations of thermodynamic properties within an enclosed space. Four performance indicators are considered: the operational frequency, the power output, the exergy efficiency, and the heat input/temperature difference imposed externally on the device's heat exchangers that is necessary to sustain oscillations. The effects of liquid inertia, viscous drag, hydrostatic pressure, vapour compressibility and two-phase heat transfer in the various engine components/compartments are examined, via changes to thermodynamic/thermophysical/transport properties and also geometrical features of the ERPE. It is found that for high efficiency and power output: (1) the vapour dead-spaces must be minimized; (2) the length of the tube that connects the displacer and working cylinders must be of significant length; and, (3) the heat-exchanger blocks must have a low thermal resistance and high heat capacity. The methodological approach implemented in this study can be used to guide the proposal, early-stage design and verification of these complex unsteady thermodynamic systems, while offering important suggestions for improved performance and system optimization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-265
Number of pages16
JournalEnergy Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Heat engine
  • Heat converter
  • Thermofluidic oscillator
  • Unsteady
  • Two-phase
  • Electrical analogy


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