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Fuel for thought: engines without moving parts

Young graduate shares his ground breaking research which led him to win the L'Oreal-Ri Science Graduate of the Year Award and help people in developing countries

An engine without moving parts sounds like a contradiction in terms but, in fact, ‘thermofluidic ’ engines may soon be all around us. From microelectronic components to power stations, machines consisting of little more than tubes of oscillating fluids may soon appear as pumps, compressors, coolers and mini power plants, and without moving parts there ’s not much to go wrong. Until recently, thermofluidic engines have been limited to very few applications. Without heavy pistons, flywheels and springs, it appeared that the inertia of the working fluid itself provided the only means of controlling these machines, and most fluids don’t have a lot of it! Thomas has discovered that the key may lie in understanding how heat and fluid flows can interact to eliminate the dependence on inertia. He has designed and built engines that can pump water to the top of a two-story building, ate balloons and irrigate the crops of the worlds poorest people. They can start and stop themselves using the temperature difference between your hot water tank and your garden pond and, what’s more, the harder they work, the more efficient they become.

Thomas Smith studied physics at Imperial College before taking on his PhD in the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge. In June he received the 2004 Science Graduate of the Year Award for his research in thermofluidics. The award, established by L´Oréal and the Royal Institution, was set up in 2000 to give recognition to innovative and ground-breaking research by young scientists.

This event is in partnership with L´Oréal.


Thomas Smith | talks | www


Date and Time:

6 October 2004 at 7:00 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



The Royal Institution of Great Britain
21 Albemarle Street
+44 20 74 09 29 92

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£5, free to Members of the Royal Institution

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020 7409 2992

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