# Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam engi

1. Jan 25, 2013

### jamesd2008

Hello everyone,

Could someone help me with the following question:

I'm trying to find out the equations that govern this process; why if you condense steam in a cylinder is a partial vacum created (such as in early steam engines)? The pressure difference then causes the atmosphere to push down a cylinder?

Any suggestions much appreciated

James

2. Jan 25, 2013

### jbriggs444

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

Left alone in sealed box, a cup of water will evaporate until the partial pressure of water vapor in the air is high enough that the rate of evaporation equals the rate of condensation, resulting in an equilibrium. This partial pressure will depend on the temperature of the box and is called the "vapor pressure" of water at that temperature.

Boiling occurs when the temperature of the water is high enough so that its vapor pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure. At this point an equilibrium cannot be attained within a leaky container. Water will turn into steam faster than it can recondense and steam will come out through the leaks.

Significantly, in a chamber that is almost sealed this eventually drives all of the air out of the chamber leaving nothing but water and water vapor.

If you seal the chamber and reduce the temperature then the vapor will condense until the pressure in the chamber is equal to the vapor pressure of water at the reduced temperature.

You can google for a table of water vapor pressure as a function of temperature. I believe that there are also formulas that can predict this pressure, but my chemistry education does not reach that far.

3. Jan 25, 2013

### rollingstein

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

The Antoine equation:

For Water the eq. is:

4. Jan 25, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

This happens when you sterilize and can foods at home in mason jars. You get a partial vacuum in the jar as a result of the water vapor condensation from the head space. It is also a characteristic of industrial food canning operations (vacuum sealing). If you don't get a hissing when you open the can, don't eat the food.

5. Jan 25, 2013

### jamesd2008

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

Thanks for your replies, you give me a good start at reading further on this. Thanks

6. Jan 25, 2013

### jamesd2008

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

I was trying to apply the gas laws, but vapour pressure is something I'm not familiar with.

7. Jan 25, 2013

### jamesd2008

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

Also what is the situation if the cylinder is completely sealed?

8. Jan 25, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

Vapor pressure is an extremely important concept in vapor-liquid equilibrium behavior.

9. Jan 25, 2013

### rollingstein

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

If you fully seal the cylinder before heating then no vacuum is created.

10. Jan 25, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacum (Early steam

However, we should also mention that during heating of a fully sealed cylinder, the pressure inside the cylinder gets much higher.

11. Feb 22, 2013

### sanka

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacu

If the cylinder is fully sealed and you condense steam within it a vacuum will be created. The temperature of the steam-water mixture will drop to the surrounding ambient temp and the vapor pressure will correspondingly drop also. Air in the cylinder will contribute to a partial pressure but the total pressure will still be less than atmosphere

12. Feb 22, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacu

I think what rollingstein was saying was that, if you seal the can before heating it, the pressure within the can will start out at atmospheric pressure. When you heat the can and then return it to its original temperature, the state of the liquid and gas in the can will be the same as when you started. In this case, no vacuum will be created.

13. Feb 22, 2013

### sanka

Re: Why does condensing steam in a fixed volume produce a partial vacu