Steam Engine

A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.

Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be used. Water is heated into steam in a boiler until it reaches a high pressure. When expanded through pistons or turbines, mechanical work is done. The reduced-pressure steam is then released into the atmosphere or condensed and pumped back into the boiler. The ideal thermodynamic cycle used to analyze this process is called the Rankine cycle. Most mobile steam engines and some smaller stationary engines discard the low-pressure steam instead of condensing it for reuse.

The idea of using boiling water to produce mechanical motion has a very long history, going back about 2,000 years. Early devices were not practical power producers, but more advanced designs producing usable power have become a major source of mechanical power over the last 300 years, beginning with applications for removing water from mines using vacuum engines. Subsequent developments used pressurized steam and converted linear to rotational motion which enabled the powering of a wide range of manufacturing machinery. These engines could be sited anywhere that water and coal or wood fuel could be obtained, whereas previous installations were limited to locations where water wheels or windmills could be used. Significantly, this power source would later be applied to vehicles such as steam tractors and railway locomotives. The steam engine was a critical component of the Industrial Revolution, providing the prime mover for modern mass-production manufacturing methods. Modern steam turbines generate about 90% of the electric power in the United States using a variety of heat sources.

In general usage, the term steam engine can refer to either the integrated 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. Specialized devices such as steam hammers and steam pile drivers are dependent on steam supplied from a separate boiler. In this article purely for clarity we refer to the whole plant as 'steam engine' and pistons and turbines as the 'motor unit'.

Read more about Steam Engine:  History, Steam Cycle, Components and Accessories of Steam Engines, Advantages, Safety, Efficiency, Applications

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Famous quotes related to steam engine:

    Now that the steam engine rules the world, a title is an absurdity, still I am all dressed up in this title. It will crush me if I do not support it. The title attracts attention to myself.
    Stendhal [Marie Henri Beyle] (1783–1842)