Article

China develops Stirling AIP technology for submarines

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Abstract

China is supposed to have fitted an air independent propulsion (AIP) system using Stirling engine technology to the People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLA(N)) latest Project 039A Yuan-class submarine. AIP enables non-nuclear submarines to necessarily extend their submerged duration, thus reducing the time spent snorting just below the sea surface to run diesels and recharge batteries. A Stirling engine is a closed-cycle piston heat engine that operates through the use of an external heat source and an external heat sink, each maintained within a limited temperature range and having a sufficiently large temperature difference between them. The PLA(N) is understood to have concluded in its research that a small-scale nuclear reactor is too expensive, the fuel cell has safety issues and requires further technological breakthroughs and that COD suffers from higher radiated noise. A full-scale technology demonstrator engine has started operating in 2002, completing 20,000 hours of testing.

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