In common speech, steam most often refers to the white mist that condenses above boiling water as the hot vapor ("steam" in the first sense) mixes with the cooler air. This mist is made of tiny droplets of liquid water, not gaseous water, so it is no longer technically steam. In the spout of a steaming kettle, the spot where there is no condensed water vapor, where there appears to be nothing there, is steam.

In physical chemistry, and in engineering, steam refers to vaporized water. It is a pure, completely invisible gas (for mist see below). At standard temperature and pressure, pure steam (unmixed with air, but in equilibrium with liquid water) occupies about 1,600 times the volume of liquid water. In the atmosphere, the partial pressure of water is much lower than 1 atm, therefore gaseous water can exist at temperatures much lower than 100 C (see water vapor and humidity).

Uses Edit

A steam engine uses the expansion of steam in order to drive a piston or turbine to perform mechanical work. In other industrial applications steam is used for energy storage, which is introduced and extracted by heat transfer, usually through pipes. Steam is a capacious reservoir for energy because of water's high heat of vaporization. The ability to return condensed steam as water-liquid to the boiler at high pressure with relatively little expenditure of pumping power is also important. Engineers use an idealised thermodynamic cycle, the Rankine cycle, to model the behaviour of steam engines.

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Links Edit


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