Gregory W. Swift
Condensed Matter and Thermal Physics Group, Mail Stop K764, Los Alamos Natl. Lab., Los Alamos, NM 87545
Thermoacoustic engines are energy-conversion devices that achieve simplicity and reliability by use of acoustics. Their efficiency can be a substantial fraction of the Carnot efficiency. In thermoacoustic prime movers, heat flow from a high-temperature source to a low-temperature sink generates acoustic power. In thermoacoustic refrigerators, acoustic power is used to pump heat from a low-temperature source to a high-temperature sink. Applications of thermoacoustics under development at several institutions will be shown, possibility including refrigeration, sonar, cryogen liquefaction, and electric-power generation. Fundamental principles of thermoacoustics will be reviewed, and assumptions underlying our present (linear) understanding will be discussed. Limitations of our present understanding will be outlined, and their implications for design of practical devices will be discussed.