Analysis of a microscale 'Saturation Phase-change Internal Carnot Engine'

Eli Lurie, Abraham Kribus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A micro heat engine, based on a cavity filled with a stationary working fluid under liquid-vapor saturation conditions and encapsulated by two membranes, is described and analyzed. This engine design is easy to produce using MEMS technologies and is operated with external heating and cooling. The motion of the membranes is controlled such that the internal pressure and temperature are constant during the heat addition and removal processes, and thus the fluid executes a true internal Carnot cycle. A model of this Saturation Phase-change Internal Carnot Engine (SPICE) was developed including thermodynamic, mechanical and heat transfer aspects. The efficiency and maximum power of the engine are derived. The maximum power point is fixed in a three-parameter space, and operation at this point leads to maximum power density that scales with the inverse square of the engine dimension. Inclusion of the finite heat capacity of the engine wall leads to a strong dependence of performance on engine frequency, and the existence of an optimal frequency. Effects of transient reverse heat flow, and 'parasitic heat' that does not participate in the thermodynamic cycle are observed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1202-1209
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy Conversion and Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Carnot cycle
  • External irreversibility
  • MEMS heat engine
  • Power optimization
  • Thermal capacitance


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