- Isabell Berry
Steam Is So Cool
Updated: Jan 16
OK so maybe cool isn’t the best word to describe it… but it is amazing and it has been utilized by human beings for thousands of years!
Water increases in volume by 1,700 times at standard temperature and pressure; this change in volume can be converted into mechanical work.
The first steam engine we know of was invented around 30 BC. Since then it has been reinvented in many many different formats and functions. From opening temple doors to powering a church organ to a cannon and a mill wheel, steam was utilized by cultures around the world. Steam engines were used as the prime mover in pumps, locomotives, steam ships, traction engines, steam lorries and other road vehicles, and were essential to the Industrial Revolution. Steam heat has been around since 1745. Steam heat systems are extremely durable, they are efficient and low cost (while hydrogen for example is projected to cost twice to three and a half times as much as current heating systems). It’s clean energy, it’s cheap, isn’t flammable and has no toxic side effects.
Today steam turbines are used to generate more than 80% of the world's electricity. In addition steam is used to power machinery and even aircraft carriers, sterilize laboratory equipment without the use of harsh chemicals, clean fabric or soil, humidification, atomization, food production, distillation, pasteurization and much more.
As companies worldwide get closer and closer to their Net Zero deadlines, everyone is scrambling to find new sources of power and heat. Steam is essential, in fact many biofuels require steam as part of their production. Plus most power stations use subcritical steam to spin their turbines, but the latest and most efficient power stations are using supercritical steam.
What is supercritical steam you ask? Steam is considered to be supercritical once its pressure pushes it past the critical point where water and vapor coexist. It is hotter and under more pressure than regular steam and is able to release more energy to the power station.
Now for the newest breakthrough. Scientists and engineers in Australia have used solar panels with mirrors to produce the same quality steam as used in supercritical power stations. After their success similar installations were deployed in Greece and Japan.
This technology has the ability to revolutionize our energy future. We even see some organizations looking at Ultra-supercritical steam. The future looks bright for steam!