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Steam Engine – Brief Explanation

Steam Engine – Brief Explanation

What is the Steam Engine?

The steam engine is an internal combustion engine that, instead of directly consuming hydrocarbons, uses the expansive energy of water vapor to move. It is a very representative device of the Industrial Revolution, a historical period in which it was invented and widely used in all vehicles and machinery.

The operation of the steam engine depends on the volume of water that is boiled in a boiler, initially through the burning of coal or some other fuel.

What is the Steam Engine_

The steam obtained in this way is circulated under pressure through a duct, and as it expands, it pushes a plunger or piston connected to a rotating crank mechanism. Once moved to the end of its travel, the piston is returned to its original position by releasing the accumulated steam, which is again injected into the duct to move it again. This circuit activates the rotary crank and produces circular motion.

In this way, the steam engine converts the thermal energy of boiling water into usable kinetic energy, for example, to move a locomotive’s wheels or produce electricity, as modern steam turbines do, although through slightly different mechanisms. Different.

Although the steam engine was created and implemented in the 17th century, its antecedents date back to Antiquity, human beings have pursued the idea of using water for various practical purposes since early times.

Steam Engine is a Discovery or Invention?

The steam engine is an invention since its development concludes a long history of efforts shared by inventors, engineers, and scientists of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. On the other hand, scientific discoveries are natural forces or phenomena humans learn to use to their advantage or understand, thanks to a scientific perspective. Machines, whatever type they are, are always inventions.

Historical Importance of the Steam Engine

The steam engine marked a before and after in the world and summarized the spirit of a time of significant changes at a technological and industrial level. Until then, movement and transportation of cargo had been done through blood traction, that is, animals pulling a wheeled vehicle. The invention of the steam engine demonstrated that vehicles could be created with greater work capacity than those drawn by animals: they traveled greater distances more quickly and without the need for rest.

The first of these vehicles was the locomotive, capable of pulling an entire train on special rails. It was an extraordinary technological advance: it communicated distant geographical regions exceptionally quickly. It allowed the movement of large quantities of passengers and cargo and thus marked the beginning of the transportation era. This same principle was soon applied to boats, giving birth to steamboats and even early automobile models.

The steam engine was one of the Industrial Revolution’s most transformative and potential inventions.

Steam Engine Applications

The main applications of the steam engine have to do with:

  • Engines for industrial vehicles of the time, such as the railway, the steam tractor, or the steamboat.
  • Motors for stationary industrial circuits include mills, rolling rollers, treadmills, and other similar devices.
  • Engines for thermal power plants, pumping stations, and other sites that generate electricity or move large materials.
  • Engines for road rollers, excavators, and other types of bulky tools.


In conclusion, we explain what a steam engine is and why its invention was important. We will also explain its applications to you.

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