The global cooling demand is one of the fastest growing energy demands and is putting a strain on the electricity infrastructure. Solar‐powered cooling could provide most of the cooling demand due to the coincidence of the cooling demand and the solar irradiance. In particular, the solar‐powered Stirling‐cycle cooler has low maintenance requirement, high theoretical efficiency, and use of environmentally friendly gases. However, Stirling‐cycle coolers are expensive due to high driving temperatures, complex heat exchangers, and expensive solar tracking so that they have so far only been successful at high‐temperature difference applications. This study introduces a novel directly coupled solar Stirling cooler for which the hot engine cylinders are deployed inside evacuated tube collectors. The machine uses air as working fluid, and its driving mechanism is based on the free‐piston, balanced compound technology that was patented by Finkelstein. A second‐order mathematical model is used to investigate the performance of the machine for different cylinder arrangements, gas leakage rates, chilling temperatures, and solar irradiance. In addition, the regenerators are optimised to maximise the cold production. It is shown that mechanical frictions can be reduced to 20% by selecting an appropriate cylinder arrangement. The solar cooler achieves a maximum cold production rate of 367.5 W/m2 without using external heat exchangers at load temperature of 7°C, which is comparable with photovoltaic powered coolers. In addition, the machine is relatively simple, has safe and quiet operation, uses ambient air as working gas, and is able to produce a wide range of chilling including sub‐zero temperatures without changing the working gas. The direct thermal coupling of the Stirling cooler to evacuated tube collectors significantly reduces the complexity of the machine and removes intermediate heat transfer steps which reduce the performance. Thus, the suggested cooling technology has great potential for solar refrigeration, especially for low power and near ambient cooling.
- Solar cooling
- Stirling cycle
- Franchot engine
- Evacuated tubes
- Free-piston, balanced compounding