The History of Steam Engine


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Storyboard Description

The Storytime briefly describes the major moments in the history of one of the most important inventions of human society - the steam engine.

Storyboard Text

  • Cheap Steel Iron + Carbon (Coal)
  • Feel the power of Alchemy
  • COAL
  • The first steam engine was built by Heron of Alexandria, in 1st century AD. Heron called his invention aeolipile. It functioned based on the principle of steam turbine, driven by kinetic energy of gas. Check out the full description of aeolipile with cool illustrations at
  • AC DC
  • However, aeolipile found no practical application in the ancient times. Most likely, its function was limited to serving as one of the 'temple wonders' or, at best, as a demonstration of certain physical properties in kinetics. The probable reason for such attitude was the absence of demand for steam technology in the Ancient Roman society. Indeed,the production processes in the Ancient Rome did not pose any kind of challenges that could not be resolved with animal or human power. Hence, it was more convenient to preserve the common animal-powered mechanisms and leave aside the steam engine.
  • Transport (Trains)
  • Steam Engine
  • COAL
  • Since Heron's times, a number of attempts by other scientists from different parts of the world were made to re-introduce the steam engine. Yet, their efforts yielded no results, as the society felt no need in the steam technology. The situation changed in the 18th century, with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. The mechanisation of manufacturing and the introduction of systematized production created need for convenient and durable materials, plus a greater demand for sources of energy (something that could power machine-tools). At that time, the most used energy-rich material was coal, which was also extensively applied in the production of steel (a very reliable and durable material for manufacturing purposes). However, extracting coal was difficult due to underground water wells that were often located close to coal mines. Clearing mines from water required a lot of time and effort and was sometimes very dangerous.
  • Precisely at that time, Thomas Newcomen invented an atmospheric engine that used steam power to pump water from underground. His device proved to be extremely effective as it could work day and night, making about 12 'cycles' per minute, pumping several tens of liters of water every hour. His invention became the first commercially successful steam engine that was extensively used throughout most of the 18th century. Learn more about the Newcomen's engine at: #mediaviewer/File:Newcomen_atmospheric_engine_animation.gif
  • The advent of the steam engine significantly boosted the production capacity of mines and factories. Moreover, it induced further improvements in steam technology. Increased output of coal mines, made coal and steel cheaper, creating greater demand for these materials. This in turn, created further demand for steam engines (to enable even greater production of coal and steel). Yet, the manufacturing of steam engines and their operation itself required more steel and coal. Thus, the two processes reinforced each other. Moreover, coal and steel needed to be transported from mines and factories to manufacturing centers. A more efficient transport became necessary. This led to the use of steam technology in transport sector and the eventual appearance of steam trains.
  • The steam engine had a tremendous impact on human lives. Its integration in production process and its application in transport have significantly accelerated the pace of the Industrial Revolution. In particular, it played a crucial role in the development of the textile and the heavy industries. Further modifications appeared throughout the 19th century, as the demand for more efficient motors grew. Today, the steam engine is used in power plants (as a part of turbine) and as a component of some 'green' engines.
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