Rides the Segway with Dean Kamen
On November 13, 2002 the CBS Television show “60 Minutes” featured Dean Kamen, his Segway scooter, and the Stirling engine, that may power it. The photo above shows American Stirling Company president Brent Van Arsdell riding the Segway with Dean Kamen. Yes it is as much fun as it looks! Dean Kamen shares my enthusiasm for Stirling engines. He told me that he has one our Heat Of Your Hand Stirling engines running on the heat from his computer monitor.
I thought that the readers of this page might be interested in what he told me about the Stirling engine that is planned for the Segway. First, the Segway needs an engine like this because he would like to give it more range than it is currently capable of with batteries alone. In fact, while he was in a meeting he found a place to plug it in to re-charge it. Since re-charging isn’t always convenient he would like to be able to power the Segway with a propane fired clean burning Stirling engine. The Stirling engine provides average power used while the batteries supply the peak loads. He also expects the engine to provide auxillary power for vehicles such as his stair climbing I-bot wheel chair.
In May of 2002 I got a call from a physics professor at a major university in Washington DC. He wanted someone to build him a Stirling engine that would run on biomass and hopefully solar. Now it just so happened that my father went to medical school at this university and after medical school he went on to make a lot of money as a doctor much of which he spent lavishly on his children. I certainly feel very positive towards this university, for what they did for my father, and what they equipped him to do for me.
Now it also happened that the engine this professor wanted was very similar to an engine that I had been wanting to build. And so after lots of phone calls and a trip to my father’s alma mater. I am now working madly on developing this engine.
It is my fondest hope that this will be a low manufacturing cost engine although low is a relative term and the first hand built engines certainly won’t be priced competitively with a Honda generator. I’m putting this project up on our web site because there may be another university or research organization that is interested in an engine like this and they may be able to talk us into building one for them. The cost would be about $35,000.00 USD with half of that being due when the order was placed. If this is something that your university or research organization is interested in please call me at the phone number on our Contact-Us page.
— Brent H. Van Arsdell September 5, 2002
In January of 2001 our phone started to ring with questions about Dean Kamen, “It” and the project code named “Ginger.” Much to our great delight is seems that someone with real money is developing a small Stirling engine. Will it change the world? It just might.
I’m not sure if this Stirling engine is “It” but I am sure that if this engine performs in reality the way the patent says it can that it really could change the world. This invention by the outstanding innovator Dean Kamen is a machine for fixed or mobile use that will keep you warm in the winter, cool in the summer and keep your lights lit all year long. Read my analysis of the patent now and then look at our beautiful and interesting demonstration Stirling engines which are available today without waiting for Dean’s excellent new engine to become available commercially.
Why do I think that this invention could change the world? Because the current method of delivering electricity is extremely innefficient. A new power plant will typically burn natural gas, but there are a lot of losses between the power station and your house. It would be much more efficient to generate the power by burning the natural gas at your house. That way the waste heat can be used to heat your water or keep your house warm in the winter. To keep you cool in the summer the Stirling engine could drive an optional Stirling cooler (which is basically a Stirling engine running in reverse). Besides the “refrigerant” used in the Stirling engine is environmentally friendly helium, not freon.
By the way if any one knows Dean Kamen, tell him to call me and I’ll give him the complimentary MM-1 Stirling engine I have reserved for him!
In case you missed some of the press reports you can read a story from Wired magazine on It and one on his Ibot wheel chair (slow loading archived links).
People often call us and e-mail us asking for an engine that puts out X amount of power and burns Y fuel. Unfortunately they usually want the first engine that they buy to be priced competitively per kilowatt with a Honda generator. Honda makes generators by the millions and any new Stirling engine would initially be built in very small quantities. The first engine simply won’t be priced competitively with Honda.
American Stirling Company is very interested in developing new full power Stirling engines for the right market niches. We encourage those business and individuals who understand the expense, difficulty and cost of bringing a new engine to market to contact us.
To the best of our knowledge, there is no one in the world currently delivering a small Stirling engine at a price that would be acceptable on a non-military budget. If any reader knows of such an engine please e-mail American Stirling and we will link to it: info74 at stirlingengine dot com.
Stirling engines can produce enough power to power a Submarine. If you have a military type budget, and particularly if you are interested in powering a submarine, you should contact Kockums and they will help you.
If you are a commercial vendor of any type of Stirling engine that puts out a real amount of power and is reasonably priced please contact us and we will link to you: info74 at stirlingengine dot com.
Any fans of the movie, “Hunt for Red October” starring Sean Connery? Stirling engines are now the power source for what is said to be the most advanced conventional submarine in the world. Stirling engines can be exceedingly quiet. This submarine is a Gotland class sub manufactured by the Swedish defense contractor Kockums.