STEAM ENGINE SMALL.

A small steam engine has long been the ultimate aim of every amateur engineer.

During the late 19th century and well into the last, steam engines were a popular pastime for many people. Originally devised as a plaything for young boys, they quickly became the sort of toy that a lad was only allowed to play with on special occasions. They returned for a brief period of popularity during the 1960s and 1970s but even then were more adornments for a bookcase rather than well-used toys. This was probably due to the exorbitant cost of the product rather than any regard for safety.

They are an extremely attractive toy and fairly easy to make in the average workshop.  However, a recent stint at Rangitoto College as a technology teacher threw me in at the deep end. My predecessor had embarked on a unit of work that involved a group of Year 13 boys constructing steam engines in order that they could achieve NCEA grades in Brazing and Welding. I will confess that I am an amateur lathe operator and still have a huge way to travel on the learning curve.

COMPOUND OF STEAM ENGINE

A compound engine unit is a type of steam engine where steam is expanded in two or more stages. A typical arrangement for a compound engine is that the steam is first expanded in a high-pressure (HP) cylinder, then having given up heat and losing pressure, it exhausts directly into one or more larger-volume low-pressure (LP) cylinders. Multiple-expansion engines employ additional cylinders, of progressively lower pressure, to extract further energy from the steam.

HOW STEAM ENGINE WORK?

To understand a basic steam engine, let’s take the example of the steam engine found in an old steam locomotive like the one depicted. The basic parts of the steam engine in a locomotive would be a boiler, slide valve, cylinder, steam reservoir, piston, and a drive wheel.

In the boiler, there would be a firebox where coal would be shoveled into. The coal would be kept burning at a very high temperature and used to heat the boiler to boil water producing high-pressure steam. The high-pressure steam expands and exits the boiler via steam pipes into the steam reservoir. The steam is then controlled by a slide valve to move into a cylinder to push the piston. The pressure of the steam energy pushing the piston turns the drive wheel in a circle, creating motion for the locomotive.

HISTORY 

Humans have been aware of the power of steam for centuries. Greek engineer, Hero of Alexandria (circa 100 AD), experimented with steam and invented the aeolipile, the first but very crude steam engine. The aeolipile was a metal sphere mounted on top of a boiling water kettle. The steam traveled through pipes to the sphere. Two L-shaped tubes on opposite sides of the sphere released the steam, which gave a thrust to the sphere that caused it to rotate. However, Hero never realized the potential of the aeolipile, and centuries were to pass before a practical steam engine would be invented.

WHY WAS IMPORTANT STEAM ENGINE 

The engine helped to power the Industrial Revolution. Before steam power, most factories and mills were powered by water, wind, horse, or man. Water was a good source of power, but factories had to be located near a river. Both water and wind power could be unreliable as sometimes rivers could dry up during a drought or freeze during the winter and wind didn’t always blow.

THE STEAM ENGINE OPERATING CYCLE

The engine was developed over several decades. Working engines using steam were in operation before the theory of the work producing cycle described above and was developed in the nineteenth century. Water was the working fluid of choice for heat (steam) engine design starting in the mid-seventeenth century.

One of the first devices that used steam was designed to lift water from mines. In 1698, Thomas Savery was issued a British patent for a mine water pump based on a simple device. 

ADVANTAGES 

  • A wide range of fuel can be used to generate steam in a boiler.
  • boiler and the engine can be placed apart.
  • steam can be condensed to water to use again.
  • steam engines can be used where there is no other type of power source is available.

DISADVANTAGES 

  • They occupy more floor area as compare to modern engines.
  • The starting time of the steam engine is much more as compared to modern instant start engines.
  • The steam engine parts are more prone to rusting.
  • Steam engine is less efficient they are about 10–15 % effecient.. Where modern petrol and diesel engines are near 27 and 45 % efficient respectively
  • Modern engines are very compact as compared to steam engines.

CONCLUSION

A review of the technology and possible applications of steam engines to industrial power and waste heat opportunities indicates that steam engines are likely to be part of the energy engineer’s portfolio as we move forward.

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