EnGen Roadshow Demo: Steam Generator

How It Works

Source: Wikipedia

Fuel is combusted, generating heat that boils water into steam that is pressurized. The high pressure steam pushes a piston through a device called an oscillating cylinder that turns the wheel.

How It Is Used Today

The modern steam turbine was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884. Its invention has effectively eliminated the use of the reciprocating piston that we are demonstrating here. This is due to the steam turbine having a higher thermal efficiency and power to weight ratio. The general principle of a high pressure gas is used to spin a wheel is used in coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, biomass burning-power plants and even geothermal plants. All tolled, around 60% of retail electricity in the united states is generated this way. There are a number of multi-stage turbine designs that transfer the motion of the high pressure steam into rotational motion which produces electricity by means of a generator.


The first modern steam turbine was connected to a 7.5 kW generator. Their early implementation on ships allowed for electricity at sea. George Westinghouse licensed Parsons' patent and began manufacturing larger steam turbines for use on land. Withing Parsons' lifetime, his original turbine was scaled up to 50,000 kW of capacity.

Other turbine designs include one invented by Gustaf de Laval which accelerated the steam to maximum speed before it contacted the turbine blade. This design is less efficient, but is also less expensive. Another design that was developed was the Brown-Curtis turbine in the 1900s and was used aboard ships of all kinds.

Projects You Can Do At Home

Steam boat: www.sciencetoymaker.org/boat/index.htm
Simple Steam Engine: library.thinkquest.org/C004471/tep/en/experiments/steam_experiment.html

Additional Information