Underwater glider is one of the most popular platforms for long term ocean observation. Underwater glider driven by ocean thermal energy extends the duration and range of underwater glider powered by battery. Thermal engine is the core device of underwater glider to harvest ocean thermal energy. In this paper, (1) model of thermal engine was raised by thermodynamics method and the performance of thermal engine was investigated, (2) thermal engine with a double-tube structure was developed and isostatic pressing technology was applied to improve the performance for buoyancy driven, referencing powder pressing theory, (3) wall thickness of thermal engine was optimized to reduce the overall weight of thermal engine, (4) material selection and dimension determination were discussed for a faster heat transfer design, by thermal resistance analysis, (5) laboratory test and long term sea trail were carried out to test the performance of thermal engine. The study shows that volumetric change rate is the most important indicator to evaluating buoyancy-driven performance of a thermal engine, isostatic pressing technology is effective to improve volumetric change rate, actual volumetric change rate can reach 89.2% of the theoretical value and the average power is about 124 W in a typical diving profile. Thermal engine developed by Tianjin University is a superior thermal energy conversion device for underwater glider. Additionally, application of thermal engine provides a new solution for miniaturization of ocean thermal energy conversion.