School of Physics Lecture Demonstration Manual

Hd-1 The Rubber Band Heat Engine

Published: Monday 13 March 2006 - Updated: Monday 28 March 2011


To demonstrate that rubber contracts on heating and to illustrate this with a simple rubber band heat engine.



Click on pictures to enlarge.

Rubber Band Engine Diagram


The engine consists of a bicycle wheel with rubber bands for spokes. Rubber contracts on heating so lamps placed on one side of the wheel shift the center of gravity resulting in rotation. Cooler spokes move into the irradiated region to repeat the process. To achieve a smoother rotation the wheel is balanced using small pieces of plasticene placed around the rim.

Safety notes

Electrical safety 

Fire/Burn Safety 


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