Steam power

Discussion in 'Propulsion' started by parkland, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. parkland
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    parkland Senior Member

    Does anyone think that steam power might make a comeback of sorts?
    I know were talking about an age old technology, not known for efficiency or clean emissions, but could there be a future?

    Steam engines have a wild range of efficiency, ranging from 1 - 50 % thermal efficiency, but what if the waste heat is used again?
    -From wikipedia:
    It is also possible to capture the waste heat using cogeneration in which the waste heat is used for heating a lower boiling point working fluid or as a heat source for district heating via saturated low pressure steam. By this means it is possible to use as much as 85-90% of the input energy.

    So what about a triple expansion steam engine, and then have another stage or 2, but use something like butane as the working fluid, which has a much lower boiling point?

    I suppose something like that could be coupled onto an internal combustion engine, but the mechanics and speed of a steam engine seem more suitable.

    Think we'll ever see a triple expansion steam engine with a butane double expanding co-gen?
     
  2. NavalSArtichoke
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    NavalSArtichoke Senior Member

    I doubt you will ever see an explosive working fluid EVER used in an external combustion cycle, unless you have some kind of death wish. Why not use gasoline and get things over more quickly and spectacularly?

    The boiling point of the working fluid is only a secondary consideration. Water is used as a working fluid because it is relatively common, it is chemically and thermally inert, and it has a relatively high specific heat capacity.
     
  3. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    External combustion, closed cycle engines with naptha as the working fluid were commonly used in pleasure launches and similar in the late 19th century. Naptha launches were popular in the US because an engineers license was not required. Operation of a steam engine in the US required an engineers license since the naptha engines didn't use water they were not "steam" engines and no license was required.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naptha_launch
     
  4. parkland
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    parkland Senior Member

    I never heard of the naptha before, thats pretty cool!
     
  5. NoEyeDeer
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    NoEyeDeer Senior Member

    What's wrong with steam turbines? They're used all over the place, and they're still steam engines.
     
  6. NavalSArtichoke
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    NavalSArtichoke Senior Member

  7. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    Modern steam cycle power plants are still used and are highly refined. The closed cycle steam turbines are used on most stationary large power plants, be they oil, natural gas, coal or nuke powered to generate the steam (they can easily be made to use multiple fuel too). They can reach efficiencies of over 60 percent with regeneration. They are also used on navy vessels with small nuke power plants. Not sure why they were never applied to large commercial cargo ships, even using oil or propane as the heat supply. The modern steam turbine is very efficient, much more so that a steam piston, much fewer moving parts as well.

    They used to make cargo ships that used very large steam piston engines that ran on wood, coal and fuel oil, but the diesel engines made them obsolete (lower operating costs I would presume, likely more reliable as well).

    Most likely the total life cycle costs were too high on piston steam engines, and they took a lot of room in the cargo hold so it also means they could not ship as much cargo.

    I think the registration of nuke power plants, the size and regulations, makes them unsuited for private cargo ship use. Thorium based reactors might change that, the can be very small, and are not capable of using them for making nuke explosives, so regulations might not be as costly.

    might be kind of fun to find a surplus steam turbine engine some where and rig it into a larger cabin cruiser or pleasure boat to run on recycled french fry oil. It would have almost no vibrations or exhaust noise at all.
     
  8. parkland
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    parkland Senior Member

    That would be cool!
    having multifuel capability would be awesome.
    Sure, diesels can work, but steam seems to take a lot of the technical details out.
     
  9. dinoa
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    dinoa Senior Member

    VLCC tankers among other cargo vessels used steam turbines before being displaced by the ever larger two stroke diesels that were being developed. In their final iterations in response to higher fuel prices they were being produced and even retrofitted to make them more efficient. Diesels also needed less crew as their were no boilers to tend to.

    Dino
     
  10. parkland
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    parkland Senior Member

    I know steam was associated with more labor, and other drawbacks, but I wonder how many of those drawbacks could be eliminated with modern technology?
    Think auto feeding pellet stove!
     
  11. dinoa
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    dinoa Senior Member

    Probably all of them.

    Dino
     
  12. whitepointer23

    whitepointer23 Previous Member

    if you want to see something really cool google besler steam plane, there is even a movie of it on utube.
     
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  13. parkland
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    parkland Senior Member


    Haha that is damn cool!
     
  14. Stumble
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    Stumble Senior Member

    There is a pretty advanced engine called the Cyclone Waste Heat Engine http://www.cyclonepower.com/whe.html that is just getting ready for commercial deployment. The idea is you can scavange the heat of an exhaust from a diesel and turn that heat into electricity. While the total amount of power is somewhat limited, it does increase the total available power and efficiency.

    I can easily see using this attached to a normal diesel generator to increase power production with the same fuel burn. Or for many ships to power house loads from the waste heat of their prime movers.
     

  15. dinoa
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    dinoa Senior Member

    Exhaust gas economizers have been installed on cargo vessel diesels for decades spurred by increases in bunker prices.

    Dino
     
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