The Long and Fascinating History of Harnessing Steam Power
Apr 17, 2019
Steam power had a role to play even before the popular observation by James Watt which changed the course of human history. Origins of steam power dates back to the first century AD when the first-ever harnessed 'power of steam' is mentioned as the 'aeolipile'.
Steam is referred to as 'vaporized water'. In its purest form, it's invisible and gaseous. It is the condensing 'mist' seen above water at boiling point.
The hot vapor or steam is droplets of water and has the power to move objects and run complex gadgetry. Experiments with steam to understand its properties have always been conducted.
Probably the first pot of boiling liquid witnessed intrigue setting in. The inherent virile of steam to heat and empower movement was used but never defined in a scientific manner.
Steam-powered turbines are mentioned in the 1551 Taqi al-Din. It was also harnessed for Thomas Savery's water pump in 1698. However, frequent explosions kept the experiments within laboratories, till the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century.
In 1712, Thomas Newcomen designed the atmospheric engine using steam power. Steam was additionally used to pump water, drain mines and work water-wheels.
The first major revelation and defined recording of power generated through steam came with James Watt's development of the Watt engine. This coal-powered engine functioned on generated steam. Easy management of coal made the design cheaper to use.
The next step was the designed mechanism to generate a rotary motion. The makeshift and rudimentary factory machinery were hugely benefited due to this.
Once it was harnessed, factories were constructed away from rivers. This accelerated the production levels during the Industrial Revolution and enabled the strength of condensation to create the 'vacuum'.
In 1800, steam was used to generate high-pressure for transport. The race to create better and smaller manufacturing techniques with the help of steam power never stopped thereafter.
Steam power was successfully used to franchise engines till the advent of electric motors. All through the initial stages of the Industrial Revolution, steam power relieved energy generated by animal and employees.
Slowly, it sanctioned the presence of locomotives, steam ships and heavy duty furnaces. Steam technology was the answer to the smelting requirements of the base metal during the Industrial Revolution.
Engine-building fostered favorable ground for engineering partnerships and this in turn fueled the demand for steam technical centers to solve related problems within the machine tool applications.
Steam power and also the plants earned patronage and dedicated markets. Radical improvements and improved engine efficiency led to savings that kept manufacturers and clients happy.
It added quality to the working of the atmospheric engine, blast furnace, lathe machines and boilers.
Today, it is not so difficult to imagine the smallest steam engine, generation of electricity, without adding to pollution levels, clean fuel transportation modes or steam-powered thermal energy.
The result is work environment that is not only quieter and cleaner, but also fuel and space efficient. The modern era has redefined the use of steam. It is no more something that is lost in the kitchen that manifests full potential in an industrial environment.
Steam saunas for weight loss and the transfer of heat generated by steam for cooking, fabric cleaning and central heating systems are lavishing aspects of our adopted lifestyles.