(Note: This article was originally published on October 2004.)
NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN PUTT PUTT ENGINES
It was a great honor to have Dr. Bindon as a guest teacher to the middle school in Pennsylvania where I teach. He is seen here showing some of my students a turbine steam car he has developed as a kit. Picture courtesy of reporter Becky Lock and the Williamsport Sun Gazette Newspaper.
I have always enjoyed reading about the great scientists and inventors. Through combinations of observation, intelligence, hard work and serendipity their stories are as exciting as any fiction. Better still, I've gotten to know a man who is making giant strides in putt putt engine innovation and understanding. His is a great story in the making--right now.
He is Dr. Jeff Bindon, a "retired" South African engineer and educator who is still working with his university to develop ingenious science/technology kits for young people. They range from simple folk toys to a steam turbine-powered car from a soda can that can be modified to pump water--with just scissors and pliers needed for construction!
Dr. Bindon turned his attention to putt putt boats and created a see-into engine with the use of clear overhead projector film, which withstands high temperature. The design uses contact cement and a sheet metal clamp arrangement to make the seal. Contrary to what I expected, the film does not fog up. Through the clear parts at the pipes and at the hottest part of the boiler you can see exactly what is going on inside the engine!
That was just the start of it. He set out to find out why some engines--even those without leaks--go dry and stop working. This is known as "burn out." It is very frustrating and mysterious.
Dr. Bindon observed a bubble of air emerging every few minutes from good engines. That led him to hypothesize that air dissolved in water circulating into the engine was coming out of solution when heated. That released air goes to the highest part of the engine, replacing the water and eventually causing the "burn out." Then, through a series of common sense experiments and observations, he has made a compelling case that a successful engine--one that keeps going without burning out--burps out the extra air!
You can read about this and more in his excellent article in MODEL ENGINEER, February 6, 2004.
Here is a short video of the see-into engine.
Here is another one.