The uses of the steam engine have been changing with the passage of time.
Initially, since the early eighteenth century, steam engines have been used to power a multitude of uses. At first, the steam engine was used as a piston pump. A piston pump is a hydraulic pump that generates movement in it by the movement of a piston.
Subsequently, from the years 1780 began to appear alternative engines. With the alternative motors a new use of the steam engine appears: to give power to the factories and to the industrial one. At the beginning of the 19th century, steam engines began to be used in transport by land and sea.
Uses of the steam engine in the Industrial Revolution
Steam engines were of great importance in the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution was a process of economic evolution and industrialization of society that, from an agricultural, craft and commercial system, became a modern industrial system characterized by the general use of machines driven by mechanical energy and the use of new sources of energy. inanimate energy (like fossil fuels), all favored by a strong component of technological innovation. This process was accompanied by phenomena of growth, economic development and profound socio-cultural and even political changes.
These new steam engines were very useful to move machinery in mills, factories, pumping stations and transportation uses. In the field of transport, steam engines were often used in locomotives, ships and other land vehicles.
Steam machines were of great importance in their uses in the field of agriculture. Its use meant the possibility of increasing the available crop land.
The low steam power machine also has its uses where it can be used. This type of machine is useful to give power to prototypes or models in the field of research and development.
Appearance of internal combustion engines and electric motors
One of the disadvantages of the steam engine is the presence of different phases between the heat source and the mechanical power transmission. This disadvantage has made it generally very difficult to obtain a power-to-weight ratio similar to that obtained with the use of internal combustion thermal engines.
Due to this characteristic, the fact that, to give power to the applications of medium and low power, the steam engines have been replaced little by little by another type of thermal engines: the internal combustion engine and, subsequently, the electric motor.
The technological image of steam technology has diminished because of this described obsolescence. However, a large part of the power supplied to the electricity grid is supplied using power plants with steam turbines, (nuclear power plants and nuclear power plants in particular). That is, one of the most important use of the steam engine is to convert the thermal energy generated in a power plant into mechanical energy to be converted, in turn, into electrical energy.
Environmental uses, the movement of modern steam
The use of traditional thermal engines involves a very high emission of pollution, require the use of fossil fuels that is a non-renewable resource and also contributes to increase the greenhouse effect and global warming of the planet. The use of fossil fuels implies that it is a non-renewable energy source.
These new concerns have prompted the appearance of new uses of the steam engine. In this way, cogeneration solutions and primary power plants based on the technology of steam engines are proposed. This trend is known as the movement of modern steam.
Classification of steam engines according to their use
Steam engines can be classified according to the application in which they are used. In this sense we distinguish:
- Logistics and transport uses. The transport uses of steam engines involve the creation of steam engines for driving vehicles. Examples of these uses are steam trains, steamboats, etc.
- Stationary uses. We refer to stationary uses of steam engines those uses in which it does not involve a displacement of the machine. An example of this type of application are the steam turbines of power plants (thermal power plants, nuclear power plants ...).