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01 april 2010

Prof Ivo Kolin: one of the more important world Expert on Stirling Engine.

How did the interest of Prof Kolin for the Stirling engine start and what has motivated his long studies?
Prof. Kolin’s interest in Stirling engine started during the preparation of a book ‘Evolution of the heat engines’, which was in the period from 1967 till 1972. Together with this research he made a unique collection of 55 models gathering almost all thermal prime movers. One of the models is the first hot-air motor patented by Robert Stirling which was motivation for his further studies. As it is shown in the exhibition of this collection at Technical museum in Zagreb, the fuel efficiency from the first engines (Newcomen, Watt) was raised from 1% to current average of ‘only’ 40% (Otto, Diesel) and the time of this evolution was lasting about 300 years. In other words, the heat losses in modern engines are still about 60%. The concluding judgment of the exhibition is: ‘So far, the problem has not been solved and an ideal engine has not been invented, yet.’ That’s why Ivo mostly oriented himself in improvement of Stirling engine and after rigorous scientific work, he realized a new Stirling type motor in 1981, so called low ΔT, obtaining the fuel efficiency about 60%.
In addition to the Stirling engine, what other mechanical and thermodynamical interests he had?
The exact answer would be: ‘Which thermodynamical interests he didn’t have?’ As a professor of thermodynamics, almost each chapter and lecture was a challenge for him to be prepared and presented with the same goal: to divulge basic knowledge and promote a fruitful curiosity in young people toward fascinating world of thermodynamics. The one that I liked the most was upon the heat diagrams. It was finishing with the story how bear dies in the chart, which he was telling by following a curve of 1 atmosphere. The story begins from the cold temperatures, as bear lives in cold region, coming to the hot temperatures because he was shot by a hunter’s gun and coming back again to the cold temperatures where bear dies, but not from the bullet – from the pneumonia. Among other interests, there were certainly thermodynamics laws, equation of state, Maxwell cinematic theory, power cycles, entropy...

During his long career, he developed several models and prototypes of Stirling engines. Was he fond of any prototype in particular, or did he preferred any of them?
Yes, Prof Kolin was constantly improving his low temperature difference Stirling engine until he reached a final shape in 1991, which is described in a book ‘Stirling motor history-theory-practice’. There are about 25 models of low delta T engines that he was developing but I think that he was equally found of each of them as there were always something new. For those who are interesting in his prototypes I can say that he believed and he was writing about the regenerator efficiency as a one step of further possible improvement. That is something that he didn’t have a time to do, but he was having an idea.

Has Prof Kolin imagined a future for Stirling engine? which future?
Prof Kolin absolutely imagined a future for Stirling engine in a few ways. I can not say that he would not be happy with this future that we already have today concerning the progress of the Stirling engines at the market, but he always dreamed about better performances. Even at the time of the last ISEC he was participating in, which was in Rome in 2001, it was obvious who among the Stirlings will be the first to break the ice at the market. But, breaking the ice for Ivo would mean to reach higher compression ratio and in such a way to be competitive with other kind of heat engines. That is the second thing that he also wanted to improve, but he didn’t find a way. Maybe there is somebody who will find it! Other ways for Stirling in the future he imagined were usage of renewable sources, such as a sun, biomass or geothermal energy for fueling low or high temperature Stirling engines.
What remains of his studies? To what extent these studies can be a useful resource for the new generation of researchers?
Prof Kolin sad a few times that everything he studied - he published. So, what remains are his 6 books, about 100 papers, collection of models, patents (www.ivokolin.com). The new generation of researchers can certainly found there not only a basis knowledge to start their own way in building of invention but also a possible idea to improve the research they are already working on.

What prospective did Prof Kolin foresee for industrial applications of Stirling engine?
I believe that all who knew Ivo could tell that he was like ‘walking anecdote’ but I will peak a one from the international energy congress in Opatia, during the war in Croatia. We had only one foreign participant there. It was Prof Norbert Pucker from Austria, who was his very good friend. When Ivo began a speech he sad: If there is somebody who will like that I present a paper in English, please raise a hand! As Prof Pucker was lonely in a room full of Croatians he knew that the joke was prepared for him and didn’t raise a hand and Ivo freely continued to speak Croatian.

For more information

Prof Sonja Kolin
Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering
Pierottijeva 6,
10000 Zagreb, Croatia


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