Conceived in 1816 by Robert Stirling the external combustion engine was originally designed as an alternative to the steam engine, but was basically confined to domestic uses and not very many industrial ones. One of the drawbacks of early Stirling engines was that they could not automatically start without user intervention. You can read more about Stirling Engines here, or in Italian here. There are even Stirling cycle engines that can run off of the heat of your hand.
Below you will find some pictures and videos of my demonstration Stirling cycle engine.