As far as electric propulsion is concerned, the vast majority of applications make use of some kind of rotational motor. Be it induction, universal, brushed or brushless, these are the most efficient ways we have to do mechanical work with electricity. There are other, arcane methods, though – ones which [Maker B] explores with this 4-cylinder solenoid engine.
The principle of the solenoid engine is simple. Cylinders are wound with coils to act as solenoids, with the piston acting as the armature. When the solenoid is energised, it pulls the piston into the cylinder. The solenoid is then de-energised, and the piston can return to its initial position. The piston is coupled to a crankshaft via a connecting rod, and a flywheel is used to help the motor run continually. These are also known as reciprocating electric motors.
[Maker B]’s build is a 4-cylinder design in a boxer configuration. Produced with basic hand-operated machine tools, the build process is one to watch. Aluminium and brass are carefully crafted into the various components of the motor, and parts are delicately assembled with small fasteners and plenty of retaining compound. Solenoid timing is via a series of microswitches, installed neatly in the base of the motor and actuated by the crankshaft.
While solenoid motors are inefficient, they’re quite something to watch in action. This one is no exception, with the motor spinning up to 1100 rpm when running at 7.2 volts. We’d love to see some data on the power output and efficiency too. It’s possible to build solenoid motors in different configurations, too – this radial build is particularly fun. Video after the break.