What Are Steam Engine Generators?

Jean Marie Asta

Steam engine generators are devices that produce energy through water vapor, or steam, which is heated to a very high temperature. There are many different types of steam engine generators that are built in a variety of ways. They can be used to burn materials to produce heat, which in turn produces electrical energy. One of the benefits of using a generator of this kind is that it does not need to use petroleum based products, which are a pollutant when burned and consumed. Two common devices which use steam engine generators include the wood-burning generator and the electrical engine.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

Generators can use burning wood as a means of producing electrical power. Though burning wood releases some pollutants into the air, it releases far fewer pollutants than other materials, including petroleum-based ones, and is therefore a favored alternative. The engines in these kinds of steam engine generators can have a large range of horsepower, depending on the size and amount of electrical output needed to power certain devices. The parts of a wood burning generator consist of a single steam whistle, an injector, drip oilers, one steam gage, one check valve, a pop-off valve, and an engine lubricator. Other materials include pipes and valves for smaller, though still important, functions of the generator.

When putting together steam engine generators, one of the most important things to do is to hydrostatically test the engine’s boiler. Performing this process involves knowing the max pounds per square inch (psi) of the boiler and topping it off with water. Upon applying the max psi to the boiler, it should be evaluated for the existence of leaks. If a boiler has any leaks, they can be fixed with highly adhesive sealant once the water has been drained. This is normally done for industrial grade units where this type of material is available, but the safest practice to follow is to dispose of the generator and gather newer materials for construction.

The steam engine generator is also seen in internal combustion engines, like those seen on railroad trains. Steam engine generators on trains operate using a fuel mix of alcohol and water that passes through two heat exchangers. The first uses engine coolant to vaporize the mixture before combustion. After the alcohol and water are vaporized, another exchanger uses the heat from the exhaust gas to raise the temperature of the combusted air before it passes through an intake manifold.

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