Nirvana Energy and NASA Glenn Announce TAPS ‘Mini Power Plant’

Here’s something I discovered via a post on the Journal of Nuclear Physics. Press releases from NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and Nirvana Energy Systems, a Silicon Valley startup are announcing the development of what they call the Thermo Acoustic Power Stick (TAPS).

According to the NASA Glenn press release, TAPS “is designed to convert a home’s natural gas supply into electricity, providing the home with its own mini power plant, or micro-grid”, and is based on a NASA “Stirling propulsion technology” which “uses acoustic waves instead of mechanical parts to convert and transfer energy for electrical power generation”. Technology from Xerox PARC in Palo Alto also contributed to the TAPS system.

The Nirvana Energy press release describes TAPS as a “micro-combined heat and power (µ-CHP) system for home use that converts gas into electricity and provides for domestic water and space heating” and states that the system “is silent, compact and provides the home energy needs at a fraction of the cost of grid supplied power and heating.”

Nirvana Energy co-founder Jim Gibbons says “the Power Stick, which can operate continuously, will allow customers to lower their energy bills by creating both their own electric power and sufficient heat for domestic water and space heating purposes. Where permitted, consumers will also have the option of selling excess electric power back to the grid, thus becoming net producers of electricity for their communities”.

I have to say that after reading both these press releases, I am still not quite sure what the TAPS system is. Nirvana describes it as being “small in size, less than 32″ in length, and 8-10″ in diameter while producing 2-4 KWe and 15-35 KWh. The TAPS™ unit weighs less than 60 pounds”. Since NASA mentions Stirling technology, it will apparently operate from a heat source — natural gas is mentioned, but perhaps any heat source (LENR?) would be sufficient. When informed about this press release, Andea Rossi stated on the JONP: “You are right, very interesting!Thank you for the information”. We know that Rossi has been looking for a way to use Stirling engines with the E-Cat, so maybe this is an idea he finds intriquing.

NASA states that TAPS is going to be tested throughout the year, and will be released to the marketplace once testing, certification and regulatory approval is complete — no timeframe provided.

  • It works as described – a resonant chamber with a travelling wave. It is a pistonless Stirling engine. There is a program for designing them available for free at the Los Alamos National Lab website.

    Units for cooling are made commercially up to perhaps 135 kW (of cooling power) that run on nat gas. They are pressurized to maybe 12 bars and if the gas has a high expansion/kg, it works more efficiently ≈45%. Obviously H and He are interesting (but hard to retain).

    It sounds like NASA worked out how to make a nuclear heated one which is a pretty good idea. They are far more efficient than stacked thermocouples.

    I am surprised to hear they are ‘silent’. The noise inside is 210 dB and it is virtually impossible to stop them from shaking end to end. One of the guys tried at Los Alamos using a hydraulic cylinder to press a big 14′ one against a 3′ thick concrete wall and it looked as if it was going to bring down the building when it was turned on (>100 kw). Maybe this NASA one has two synchronized units end to end opposing each other (?) to cancel those good vibrations.

    There are some very interesting travelling wave versions which is the type you want if you need more than 10 or 20 Watts out. Look for a Dutch researcher making small ones with a rectangular layout – a loop of steel pipe.

  • Sounds like a mini Bloom Box

  • greggoble

    Thanks for the article…I found this patent of theirs:

    Home energy systems
    US 20120169065 A1


    An energy system is provided that includes an engine disposed to produce electricity, a fuel storage disposed to hold fuel for use by the engine, a battery disposed to store the electricity produced by the engine, an electrical grid having electrical connectivity of a charging station from the engine or the battery, and an electrical grid controller disposed to regulate the generation, use and delivery of the electricity to and from the electrical grid.

  • GreenWin

    This is a rather huge development since the thermo-acoustic Stirling uses no moving parts to generate it’s energy. As best as I can determine from the patent, they tune a standing acoustic wave to compress and decompress a ferromagnetic gas/liquid. The invention belongs to the American people as it was developed at NASA GRC. The NA rights have been exclusively assigned to Nirvana, a principle of which is A. Dyson one of the NASA inventors.

    This Nirvana CHP product is housed in a three foot by 12 inch tube using NG as its heat source. Were it to use the E-Cat for its hot end it would be essentially self-sustaining for life of the catalyst. The Alpha Stirling design can also run in “reverse” providing chiller-type cooling. This means a single energy appliance could supply a home with 2-3kW electric, heat, hot water and cooling. Impressive.

    • Fortyniner

      And it could also act directly as an atmospheric water recovery device in arid areas, as discussed in several previous threads. Of course the efficiency would be low, and there would be a lot of waste heat to be disposed of (cooking?). That wouldn’t matter much if the heat source was CF, but I can’t see this being ‘permitted’ for quite some time.

      • GreenWin

        49er, I think you’re right however the wheels have already churned and I suspect this is just the first of many new CCHP “energy appliances.” There is simply too much money to be made designing, manufacturing, installing, and maintaining such systems. Initially these units will run on conventional NG – allowing partnerships with gascos. Later, things may change.

    • Alain Samoun

      GreenWin can you give the link to the patent?

    • Daniel Maris

      A Dyson? NOthing to do with the British inventor James Dyson then?

    • Alain Samoun

      And charge the batteries of your electric car…

  • Christopher Calder

    This is a terrific development and sure to have implications for LENR.

  • Pekka Janhunen

    I only knew that Nasa has had for a long time an “advanced Stirling radioisotope generator” under development which is ordinary Stirling generator and is described here: I don’t know if this Nirvana thing is similar to ASRG and also I have no idea how acoustic waves would be involved.

  • Chris the 2nd

    Honestly, I don’t care WHAT it is. If it works as advertised I want it in my house.

  • Chris the 2nd

    Basically, I want this in my house.