What is Steam engine: Definition and 34 Discussions

A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid. The steam engine uses the force produced by steam pressure to push a piston back and forth inside a cylinder. This pushing force is transformed, by a connecting rod and flywheel, into rotational force for work. The term "steam engine" is generally applied only to reciprocating engines as just described, not to the steam turbine.
Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separated from the combustion products. The ideal thermodynamic cycle used to analyze this process is called the Rankine cycle.

In general usage, the term steam engine can refer to either complete steam plants (including boilers etc.) such as railway steam locomotives and portable engines, or may refer to the piston or turbine machinery alone, as in the beam engine and stationary steam engine.
Although steam-driven devices were known as early as the aeolipile in the first century AD, with a few other uses recorded in the 16th and 17th century, Thomas Savery is considered the inventor of the first commercially-used steam powered device, a steam pump that used steam pressure operating directly on the water. The first commercially successful engine that could transmit continuous power to a machine was developed in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen. James Watt made a critical improvement by removing spent steam to a separate vessel for condensation, greatly improving the amount of work obtained per unit of fuel consumed. By the 19th century, stationary steam engines powered the factories of the Industrial Revolution. Steam engines replaced sail for ships, and steam locomotives operated on the railways.
Reciprocating piston type steam engines were the dominant source of power until the early 20th century, when advances in the design of electric motors and internal combustion engines gradually resulted in the replacement of reciprocating (piston) steam engines in commercial usage. Steam turbines replaced reciprocating engines in power generation, due to lower cost, higher operating speed, and higher efficiency.

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  1. J

    On-demand steam engine idea

    Background: In my opinion the next decade has great potential for difficult circumstances for worldwide. I have been obsessed with coming up with a small electrical power generation system (minimum 500 watt, goal is 1kW) for charging batteries during disaster relief situations where refined...
  2. D

    I Steam flow rate in 2-chamber steam engine system

    Our system of interest has a duct on the left and a piston chamber on the right that make the shape of the letter T rotated 90º clockwise. The smaller tube on the left is abbreviated as P1 has an unspecified length while the piston chamber is P2. The air in P2 heats up and expands while the...
  3. Twigg

    Kelvin-Planck 2nd Law of Thermo & a Syringe Steam Engine

    So I found this steam engine on the youtubes: Consider the system not including the candles, only including the can that makes up the boiler shell and the piston, flywheel, etc. The boiler can acts as a hot reservoir; however, the Kelvin-Planck statement of the 2nd law says you can't have an...
  4. L

    Steam Engine Questions: Confederate Torpedo Boats and Operation in the 1860s

    Were steam pressure gauges used in 1860? Was a vessel reversed by reversing the engine or within the gearing? For a small steam powered launch, how long from a dead stop would it take to get a boiler up to operating steam? This is for my study of Confederate torpedo boats. Thank you for your...
  5. diogenesNY

    Naval Engineering 19-20c: Fun with numbers

    I have been reading the book _Able Seamen: The Lower Decks of the Royal Navy 1850-1939_ by Brian Lavery, Naval Institute Press 2011, and I came across an interesting paragraph regarding engine efficiency (and labor requirements) as steam began to replace sail. I reproduce the relevant...
  6. Dream Relics

    Steam engines -- A new idea, maybe....

    Why do we use water for steam engines? Why not something else? So, I have a question, or maybe it is an idea that i would like to share. So, sure, there are many finer points to the engineering of a steam turbine to make them work efficiently, and no doubt the designs have improved much since...
  7. evan-e-cent

    At what pressure does steam exiting a nozzle reach mach 1

    I am planning to build a Hero's steam engine or Aeolipile. This is the steam engine invented by the Greeks about 2000 years ago. It is attributed to Hero or Heron (10-70 AD) but was also referred to in 15 BC. My grandfather build one for a show. I have inherited it but rather than try to repair...
  8. W

    Internal combustion hybrid Steam engine

    Would it be possible to build an engine that runs primarily off a petrol but has a steam engine that captures all the heat lost from the combustion (70%) and applies it towards powering the engine? Looking for ideas, opinions and attitudes on whether or not it is a practical idea.
  9. X

    How Does Recirculation Work in Steam Engines?

    I am very fascinated by steam engines. When I took my thermodynamics course a few years back, I remember learning that the steam is recirculated after it does work. I am confused on how this happens. After the steam is used to do work, it is expelled at a lower pressure than it started...
  10. N

    Advice request - design a toy steam engine and do a pull event

    Advice request -- design a toy steam engine and do a pull event Hello, Please do forgive me if this is inappropriate use of this sight, I'm looking for general advice, any suggestions as to where I could get information and thoughts on the subject are welcome. I've taken a challenge to...
  11. S

    Steam Engine Question - Help Understanding Needed

    Ok, so I have complete faith in the tried and proven laws of thermodynamics, including the part of the second law which states that it is impossible to create a heat engine working in cycle that takes in a certain amount of heat energy, and converts all the heat energy it takes in, into...
  12. dbmorpher

    Solar Driven low Resource Consuption Steam Engine Materials

    Hi I'm dbmorpher For my local History fair I am basing my report on the Indutrial Evolution and it's Inventions namely the Steam Engine. I wanted to know if there was an easy way to make a steam engine that was or had... Low cost parts No fuel such as coal or wood No need for complicated...
  13. M

    Calculating the force on a Crankshaft in a Steam Engine

    Given that I have a steam engine, and now its size, the size of the piston, the length of its stroke and the force acting on the piston at certain points, I need to calculate the force on the crankshaft. Now, I now that Fx should be the same where the piston meets the crank, and we can ignore...
  14. G

    Build a Simple Steam Engine for Under Rs. 10

    Hello everyone this is my first steam engine made using very simple parts like cardboard, disposable syringe, straw, pen end caps and bicycle spokes. How much economical can you make your engine? Here it is costs only about Rs.10. Blowed air through mouth that's why produces lower rpm use...
  15. K

    Steam engine out of coke can help

    Hi, my first post. So brief presentation, I'm an undergraduate mechanical engineer student. I hope this doesn't actually fall in homework, but it's a project that I have this semester: a steam engine car (small). I've made a bit of research and I ended up discovering the following "engine"...
  16. 8

    Steam Engine work application problem

    Homework Statement In a steam engine the pressure and volume of steam satisfy the equation PV1.4=k, where k is a constant. Calculate the work done by the engine (in ft/lbs) during a cycle when the steam starts at a pressure of 100 lb/in2 and a volume of 400in3 and expands to a volume of...
  17. B

    How Do I Light My Steam Engine Fuel Tablets?

    I recently bought one of those model steam engines, which came with a box of fuel tablets which I can't figure out how to light. I've put them over my cigarette lighter until they snap, crackle, and pop but they just won't catch and my engine won't go. How do you light these things? The box...
  18. G

    Steam engine at room temperature

    Let's say we have a room in which it is around 20° C and at normal pressure. There is a substance that is a liquid, but when the temperature increases to 25° C or so, it rapidly expands, whether that is by boiling (conversion to gas), or just by expanding as a liquid. First question: does...
  19. D

    Need ideas about a project : Thermodynamics description of a watt steam engine.

    I have to do a paper ( kind of project ) for 4-6 page on Thermodynamics description of a watt steam engine. i have no idea where to start. It is for a Thermodynamics 1 class. Thanks in advance.
  20. J

    Solving a Steam Engine Flywheel Angular Displacement Problem

    Homework Statement The flywheel of a steam engine begins to rotate from rest with a constant angular acceleration of 1.33 rad/s2. It accelerates for 23.5 s, then maintains a constant angular velocity. Calculate the total angle through which the wheel has turned 67.3 s after it begins...
  21. R

    Low Cost Clay/Ceramic Steam Engine

    I am trying to design a low cost solar/steam engine for deployment where clean water and electricity are scarce. The prototyping I am currently doing is being done using plywood and a CNC router (mainly because that is what I have at my disposal). This will almost certainty not work as an end...
  22. M

    Can Alternative Liquids Improve Solar Powered Steam Engines?

    Hey all...So i have this project, to use any other liquid apart from water in a solar powered steam engine. At the moment i am still in research phase, and have been reading on quite a few liquids although i have been concentrating on ethanol, as it is readily available and has a BP of 78...
  23. F

    Thermodynamics and Steam Engine

    Homework Statement If a steam engine operates at half of its theoretical maximum efficiency (emax) and does work at a rate of W J/s, calculate how much heat is discharged per second. Homework Equations WMax = \epsilon_{Max}*Q_{H} W = QH-QC The Attempt at a Solution W =...
  24. M

    How do you test the efficiency of a wobbler steam engine

    I have a project for my sophomore design class to test the efficiency of a wobbler steam engine. I have heard people talk of using a dc motor and connecting it with a belt to the flywheel to see what voltage it produces but I don't know how to do that. In addtion, some have suggested to just...
  25. O

    Heat Pump Powered Steam Engine

    I have been working on an idea for a new energy source that I would like to get some input on. I took physics in college about 10 years ago, so I have a general understanding of the concepts, but I am definitely not an expert on thermodynamics. Here is my idea: 1. Use a heat pump(ground...
  26. K

    Calculating Heat Discharge in a Steam Engine: Efficiency and Work Rate Analysis

    Homework Statement If a steam engine operates at half of its theoretical maximum efficiency, and does work at a rate of W J/s, calculate how much heat is discharged per second. The Attempt at a Solution emax = W/QH (Carnot) emax = W/2QH --> QH = W/emax Wrong answer. What...
  27. M

    Can a Steam Engine Be Made with Carbon Fiber Components?

    Would it be possible to build a steam engine using parts made primarily of carbon fiber? Any engine?
  28. P

    Flywheel of a steam engine problem

    Homework Statement The flywheel of a steam engine runs with a constant angular speed of 156rev/min. When the steam is shut off, the friction of the bearings and of the air brings the wheel to rest in 2.20h. What is the tangential linear acceleration of a particle 52.4cm from the axis of...
  29. V

    Calculating Tangential Acceleration of a Particle on a Flywheel

    Homework Statement The flywheel of a steam engine runs with a constant angular speed of 137 rev/min. When steam is shut off, the friction of the bearings and the air brings the wheel to rest in 2.7 h. What is the magnitude of the tangential component of the linear acceleration of a...
  30. F

    Rotational motion- steam engine

    Homework Statement The flywheel of a steam engine begins to rotate from rest with a constant angular acceleration of 1.35 rad/s^2. It accelerates for 33.1 s, then maintains a constant angular velocity. Calculate the total angle through which the wheel has turned 47.5 s after it begins...
  31. sas3

    Microwave Steam Engine, Would this work?

    I found this the other day and was wondering if it could work. If nothing else it is an interesting concept. http://www.keelynet.com/energy/microeng.htm"
  32. P

    Is a Vertical Increase in Pressure Possible in the Pump Stage of a Steam Engine?

    My textbook shows a PV diagram for a steam engine with the pump stage having no change in volume and with only a vertical increase in pressure. How can that be done. I can only imagine pumping a substance by pushing it inwards hence increasing its pressure but also reducing its volume. How can...
  33. wolram

    Novel Steam Engine: Amazing Power for Airplanes

    What do you think of this crazy looking engine. http://www.greensteamengine.com/ And a steam engine that powered an aeroplane. http://www.tinypower.com/airplane.htm
  34. P

    Freezing Water with a Reversed Steam Engine

    The steam engine which operates between 500°C and 200°C is run in reverse. How long would it take to freeze a tray of a dozen 37 g compartments of liquid water at room temperature (20°C) into a dozen ice cubes at the freezing point, assuming that it takes 300 W of input electric power to run it...