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US Team Seeks To Top Steam-Car Speed Record

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the ready-with-the-coal-ready-with-the-shovel dept.

Transportation 108

Zothecula writes "Steam-engined vehicles are quaint, retro and obsolete ... right? Well, maybe not. The current land speed record for a steam-powered vehicle currently sits at 148 mph (238 km/h), set by the British car Inspiration team in 2009. Now, Chuk Williams' US Land Steam Record (USLSR) Team is hoping to steal that title in its LSR Streamliner, powered by a heat-regenerative external combustion Cyclone engine – an engine that could someday find common use in production automobiles."

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108 comments

240 km in THAT thing? (3, Funny)

Rinnon (1474161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101886)

You couldn't pay me to take that... thing up to 240 km an hour. It looks like a metal coffin on wheels.

Re:240 km in THAT thing? (1)

captain_dope_pants (842414) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101908)

Seconded ! I'm sure the guys know what they're doing but it seems to have a very narrow track (distance between wheels when viewed from the front). It looks kinda unstable. If any car geometrists (?!) can explain why it will, in fact, be stable I'd be interested.

Re:240 km in THAT thing? (1)

theSender (1062828) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101928)

Well they wanted a low drag shape, and with as narrow as it is there should be no problem burying it and the driver in the same hole. Could be even worse like a motor bike, no safety cage whatsoever.

Re:240 km in THAT thing? (4, Informative)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101936)

Speed Record Cars like this are usually build to run in a straight line on a salt flat. If you don't have wind from the side, there is no need for much stability. Building the car as narrow as possible reduces the area exposed to the wind and thus reduces drag.

Now if you try do drive that thing on a regular road, you'd probably not survive the first turn.

Re:240 km in THAT thing? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105690)

Even so, just adding another foot or two on each side would make a *lot* of difference in stability. As it is, the width/height ratio is vanishingly small, and at the speeds involved, this just looks like a thrilling way to die!

Making Steam uses up Water (5, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101914)

Steam is burned water, a limited naturil resorse that should not be frittered away by greedy car owners. Water beloongs to all of us to share so don't waste it, ride a bike you stupid dickface!

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102516)

The horror! Most bikes come with water bottles and since the bike's engine (ie you) consumes water, you are also "wasting" precious water.

PS - ever heard of the WATER cycle? How about conservation of matter? You think all the water just disappears off the face of the Earth?

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105260)

Oh boy! Here comes that speech about fluoride, vodka and precious bodily fluids again!

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103082)

And water is burned hydrogen, another declining natural resource. It has been declining for 13.2 billion years, and there isn't anymore of it being made...

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (1)

Merk42 (1906718) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103322)

The less water the better! You know how many deaths per year are attributed to water?

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103762)

Less than extreme heat.

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35105742)

Less than extreme heat.

What with all those roasting-hot dry floods and all.

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (2)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103672)

What!?!?!
You want to conserve the stuff? It's dangerous!!
Take a look here [dhmo.org].
We should be calling for the banning of it all together.

But if this type of engine can produce useful energy while safely incinerating what you claim as a "limited naturil resorse" , then I'm all for it.

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105922)

And what if there's a collision, or an accident, and the steam reservoir breaks open? Dangerous dihydrogen monoxide could make its way into the water table!

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104150)

The engine is a closed system. The water is continuously reused.

Re:Making Steam uses up Water (1)

Rabbidous (1844966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105902)

From TFA: The steam engine used (in its commercial version) is closed-loop- it doesn't consume water, but recycles it by condensing it and reheating. On the other hand, because the speed attempt is short distance, the removed the condenser (I assume to save weight and allow for higher steam flow rates).

Waste Heat Engine (2, Interesting)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101918)

The Cyclone engine may be grat as a waste heat engine, i.e. to convert process heat back to some more useful type of energy. I doubt it's really usefull as primary engine, because converting fuel to heat and then heat to motion does not really sound more efficient than your usual internal combustion engine. And the main advantage "can burn all kind of alternative fuels"? Come on, I can do that with my diesel engine already. Increasing the efficiency of a car with a internal combustion/steam engine hybrid by using the waste heat of a combustion engine to gain some additional power could be a much better idea.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35101984)

... I doubt it's really usefull as primary engine, because converting fuel to heat and then heat to motion is exactly like your usual internal combustion engine....

FTFY

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102008)

The way physics, thermodynamics (a bitch...), Carnot cycle works - it won't give much. Might harm things (added weight, etc.). There's a reason that's a waste heat.

But who knows, steam itself might partly return [wikipedia.org]...

Re:Waste Heat Engine (2)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102090)

Well, the main reasons why otto and diesel engines don't reach the theoretical maximum efficiency of the otto or diesel cycle is that they lose energy to the cooling medium. If you could use some of that heat, you might close the gap between the theoretical maximum efficiency and the practical efficiency. The added weight will of course reduce the gain, but it still might be greater than zero.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (2)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102138)

Uhm...no, it's because practical implementations have limits (nvm general imperfections of the real world - the major thing for Otto are properties of fuel / octane number; for Diesel - materials of the engine). Cooling medium, efficient disposal of waste heat is required for the cycles to work!

Re:Waste Heat Engine (4, Interesting)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102218)

Well, if you look at what they are claiming to have already achieved, it's pretty good.

Sure, the Carnot equations do predict that they have a lower theoretical maximum efficiency 1- dT/Th, however, they seem to make up for that in the following ways:

  1. more efficient combustion process
  2. recycling waste heat, not work heat, to get more heat to do work. (ie the heat that gets exhausted without going through the system)
  3. making use of the lower Th to use lighter materials and better design. The videos shows the kind of materials they use are much cheaper looking and lighter for example
  4. more useable tq and tq/vol ratio
  5. they might be able to drop transmissions, oil, other added weight
  6. They could probably harness heat off the brakes
  7. much cleaner and more flexible engine with a closed loop Rankine design
  8. They could end up with less maintenace and cost per maintenance too by the looks of it
  9. Their exhaust temps seem just about right to think about heating the cabin as a final efficiency boost in the winter too

So, they give up some theoretical max efficiency to get a whole bunch of nice trade offs, and from the numbers they allege, those trade offs come back in terms of real world efficiency as well.

It seems worth more investigation before writing it off.. Plus, it looks like a Mr. Fusion.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102354)

But they don't do that on top of another engine which already tries to optimize the hell out of its cycle. It would compromise efficiency of the former stage, weight of its cooler (BTW, heating the cabin in the winter is when the cooling works at its best...), et al.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104156)

The physics is undoubtedly good for a one-off run, but it is the chemistry that will determine whether steam engines can be brought to market.

The physics are limited by Carnot equations, but current automobiles perform well below the theoretical limits. Steam engines have effective torques at very low RPMs and have much higher limits on RPMs than ICEs: they can come a lot closer to the theoretical limits. They also reduce the need for a complicated, and heavy, transmission. The power band is, IIRC, very similar to electric motors.

But the problem is the chemistry of water, which is not even touched upon in this story. Water, when put under high temperature and pressure, is THE universal solvent. To make heating coils that will survive long enough to be economical requires some pretty fancy metallurgy. Almost certainly too expensive for the market. And the standard automotive engine that is being used in this race car will be destroyed very quickly. It will be interesting to see what the initial point of failure will be. I'm guessing the piston rings will seize before the valves fail.

As much as I am fan of steampunk like this [girlgeniusonline.com], I really doubt that there is any future for an automotive reciprocating steam engine.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102310)

"But who knows, steam itself might partly return... [via the proposed 5AT]"
To some extent it already has, with the arrival of A1 Pacific N0. 60163 [a1steam.com] I saw this start off from Edinburgh Waverley a few months ago; the experience left me blubbing like a girl and temporarily rather deaf.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102402)

I've heard about it - but it would have to be a more regular service IMHO ... something which is the case near my place! [thewolszty...rience.org] (rather old engines of course) Might be useful, considering their relatively very wide requirements for the type of fuel.

(seriously, completely regular (of "lowest", regional class even) services few times a day; I had a ride on one of those trains not thanks to planning it - but because I wanted to commute a short distance on some random time and day)

*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (3, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102112)

And the main advantage "can burn all kind of alternative fuels"? Come on, I can do that with my diesel engine already

I'd like to see what sawdust, wood chips, grass clippings or charcoal would do to your diesel engine. Even liquid fuels will not work if they are high-octane, like ethanol. Diesel engines require liquid fuel at a certain cetane number [wikipedia.org] range.

A steam engine, OTOH, has basically a single requirement for fuel: it must burn without damaging the boiler.

Re:*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (1)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102392)

A practical steam engine fuel has at least the requirements:
- high energy density (you don't want a tender full of grass clippings behind your car)
- maintenance free fuelling the burning chamber (you don't want to shovel coal)
- clean, low emission burn

So basically, you have to process most of your example fuels anyways to be useful. Processing them to anything a conventional diesel engine (or, if you really like ethanol, otto engine) can burn is not a significant loss of efficiency.

Re:*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104250)

A garbage-to-oil process would solve a lot of these issues (thermal depolymerisation, perhaps), and then you can use whatever kind of engine you want; though, whether you can do it in a manner that is cost-effective is always the issue with this kind of thing.

Re:*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104112)

"I'd like to see what sawdust, wood chips, grass clippings or charcoal would do to your diesel engine"

Even though this was said as a joke (I hope you know you can't get solids into an engine efficiently) there is some truth to it. Early diesel engines were designed to run on coal dust. However, liquid happens to be easier to transport for use in an engine than solids, I don't see steam power coming back anytime soon.

Re:*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105256)

Actually a steam engine has two additional advantages. One is that it is essentially a hybrid for free. If a computer system (either carbon or silicon based) controlled the rate of fuel flow, then the engine could end up not using any energy while idling, which is the main benefit of a hybrid. No expensive batteries to wear out, just some code. The second is that the car is clean in terms of particulate, NOx, and hydrocarbon emissions. AFAIK steam car from 1915 meets 2025 California emissions standards.

Re:*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35107164)

"...the engine could end up not using any energy while idling, which is the main benefit of a hybrid..."

As a former Honda Insight owner I know first hand that this already exists, commercially. Once up to operating temperature, when the Insight stops and you take it out of gear, the engine shuts down. Back in gear, it fires up again. The only way the "hybrid" aspects of the car play into that are through the use of the electric motor to start the ICE instead of a typical starter motor. That quieter and more efficient starting cycle wouldn't necessarily require a 30HP electric motor and powerful battery pack to pull that same trick off in an alternative configuration however.

The original Insight employed a very different take on hybrid drive power than Toyota did (not sure about the newer Insight that just came out). You should check it out though...

Re:*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35107426)

Yes, that's a mild hybrid. I should have said that the its not just idling but also lower speed power, which is why the prius is so efficient. I think the prius drive train is better than the insight's, but since the insight is so small and light it gets better MPG. In fact, some modders put a VTEC civic engine in the insight and got 48 mpg. The modern insight and the CR-Z all have the same IMA mild hybrid system.

Re:*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35108808)

Zero energy use while standing still? Unlikely, you still have heat losses to the environment.

Zero pollution? Coal burning electricity plants have filter stacks on their chimneys that cost many millions, because burning coal is bloody dirty. Biomass can be even worse (if it's wet). As for NOx, that's formed at high temperatures. Unfortunately you need those for high efficiencies. That's why otto engines in cars have catalytic converters; a high NOx production can be fixed in a second stage. The poor efficiencies associated with low NOx prodiction can't be corrected later on.

Re:*ALL* kind of alternative fuels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35105456)

I can't see how it can be efficient to a practical extent though, I mean if their is no compression a lot of chemical energy will just be sent out the exhaust. Then on top of that you would have to carry a fair amount of water or if you use the recycling method skated over in the article you would lose a lot of heat cooling the water to put it back in the system. I just can't see it coming close to the 30/40% efficiency of regular Petrol/Diesel engines. That said a car with a decent throttle responsiveness would be nice.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102214)

Can your diesel engine run off of compressed bricks of dung? Didnt think so.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102510)

Steam engines have some nice properties for some applications though. First they really can burn anything can you put solid fuel in your diesel? The real value of steam however is torque! Most(all?) ICE designs only produce a useful amount of torque over a very small range of engine speed with any efficency. Steam on the other hand produces torque at pretty mcuh any speed.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (5, Informative)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102948)

As a Steam enthusiast I can add that while your statements are technically correct, in a more practical sense they are not. What do I mean? Allow me to explain;

While Steam engines, being external combustion engines, can technically burn just about anything, in order to make burning low grade fuels such as soft and green woods, dung bricks and garbage useful, you need a very large and well aerated grate in a boiler designed to handle those kinds of fuels. More specifically, you need a very large boiler with a gigantic grate and an easily cleaned and serviced heating surface. You can see an examples of low grade fuel burning boilers over here: www.tinytechindia.com [tinytechindia.com] The boiler pictured is the smallest they make with 54sq feet of grate area. That's about as large as the back of your average small pickup truck.

Most steam boilers, particularly the more modern designs (such as the one in TFA) have very tightly packed and not easily serviced tube arrangements. This means that one must avoid "sooting" the tubes with low grade fuels that don't burn cleanly as soot and creosote buildup on the tubes causes loss of efficiency and can cause tube failure. Thus one must use cleaner burning fuels such as high-density hardwoods, low sulfur coal, steam atomized oil, propane or Nat Gas. In an automobile application one is pretty much restricted to the liquid fuels, so you are back to using hydrocarbon fuels for heating.

Sadly, even the most efficient steam engine cannot compare in efficiency to even the LEAST efficient gas or diesel engine. The absolute best one could expect to get from a conventional steam engine plant is about 15% efficiency, with most ones in existence (primarily small Hobby sized ones in boats) running at around 7% efficiency. A specialized high-tech plant like this one probably runs at a real-world efficiency of about 25%. That's not bad, but nothing compared to the 50% efficiency of an 80 year old V8 from a 1940's Ford. I'm sorry, but Steam power won't make a true comeback until hydrocarbon options are simply too expensive to use anymore, or we have a global socio-economic collapse requiring a "rebuilding" period.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE steam. But I'm also realistic about it's capabilities and applicability. Maybe this engine design is good enough to get over that hump. I guess we'll see.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (2)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103270)

That's not bad, but nothing compared to the 50% efficiency of an 80 year old V8 from a 1940's Ford.

I suggest you recheck your facts. Thermodynamic efficiencies above 50% are in the realm of modern combined-cycle gas+steam turbine power plants, or gargantuan low-speed diesel engines (with cylinder bores that can exceed 36 inches) in big ships. I doubt that a flat head V8 from the 1940s even approaches 20%.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103744)

Yeah, but show me the little 6-cylinder gas engine that can get 850 LB/FT OF TORQUE like this baby can! You could pull out tree stumps in between runs on the drag strip.
Jay Leno describes driving his Doble steam car as like "being pushed by the hand of God." *

* No atheist trolls, please. I'm sure your mom is proud of you already.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35106970)

Yeah, but show me the little 6-cylinder gas engine that can get 850 LB/FT OF TORQUE like this baby can! You could pull out tree stumps in between runs on the drag strip.

An old Corolla 1.6 liter 4-cylinder makes about 100 lb-ft torque (peak) and first gear is about 14:1 total reduction, so 1400 lb/ft to the front wheels. I chose this example because the steam engine in tfa and the 1.6 liter Corolla are both 100 hp (peak).

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35107584)

Your Corolla would go about 5 MPH in first gear. With that kind of logic, I would be surprised if you could find the oil dipstick in your car.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104474)

Mostly, this post is good input, but I would argue a couple things.

First, that steam turbines are actually pretty decent in terms of real efficiency (you may have been referring to the piston-type engines). It's something something similar to high-efficiency diesel engines.

Second, that a 1940s V8 is far from 50% efficiency. From what I could dig up, these engines have a compression ratio of somewhere between 4:1 and 7:1, which is truly dismal in terms of thermodynamic efficiency (which is related to compression ratio). Diesel engines are nice in terms of efficiency because of the high running compression ratios it can achieve (14:1 and higher).

Last, I just want to add that the downside of steam power is that a boiler is a (typically heavy) pressure vessel, water is also pretty damn heavy, and a ruptured boiler is really dangerous; this is probably why steam will never catch on in anything but things that don't move, or things that are extremely large and it's a wonder that they move at all (like a ship or something).

Re:Waste Heat Engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102744)

Both steam and Stirling engines are more efficient than either gas of diesel internal combustion engines. The problem is the power to weight/volume ratios, the warm-up times, and that it is more challenging to get quick changes in power output from them.

Re:Waste Heat Engine (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104704)

You can't burn ANY fuel in a Diesel engine. If the certane rating of the fuel is too far off you will destroy the engine (try putting gasoline in a diesel and STAND BACK!). In theory you could make a piston engine that would burn any fuel, but you'd need to dynamicly adjust valve, injection, and ignition (for some fuel modes) timing and have a fuel sensor to figure it all out.

external combustion? (2)

shish (588640) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101922)

external combustion engine

This can only end well.

Re:external combustion? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102020)

All steam engines are - the working medium is heated by external energy source.

Re:external combustion? (2)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102662)

There are all kinds of external combustion engines out there. External combustion means that you have a heat source (a boiler, burner, etc.) that heats up some working fluid (often steam), and the working fluid performs useful work as it expands and cools. Every coal- and oil-fired electrical generation plant is a kind of an external combustor. Nuclear stretches the semantics a bit, because the heat doesn't come from combustion per se. Some natural gas plants are, too, though the preferred architecture these days is combined cycle [wikipedia.org]. Stirling engines are another external combustor. The "external" in this case means that the combustion is happening outside of the mechanical workings.

External combustion has the significant advantage that it doesn't really matter where the heat comes from. Boilers are tuned to work with a specific fuel, and can be further tuned to work on a specific grade of a specific fuel. But beyond that, all the rest of the infrastructure can be input-agnostic: all you need is heat. Contrast this to the internal combustion engine, which is very heavily tuned to its fuel source. Diesels tend to be a bit more forgiving, and modern engine controls allow for a wider efficient operating range, but you would destroy a typical gasoline ICE if you accidentally gave it diesel.

Re:external combustion? (1)

matfud (464184) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104060)

Yes you will destroy a gas engine if you put diesel in it. I know someone who did just that. She must have had a fair bit of petrol in the tank when she refilled the car as it ran for some time before breaking. Very expensive to get the tank drained and the engine fixed. And her face when trying to explain it.

Re:external combustion? (1)

matfud (464184) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105108)

Actually that is the wrong way around. She put gas into a diesel. The same effect though. Little fuel injected tubo diesels are quite highly tuned and though they may run bio diesel they do not like petrol. Must of been that way around as in the UK you cannot put diesel into a gas car.

Re:external combustion? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35106762)

Very expensive to get the tank drained and the engine fixed. And her face when trying to explain it.

Her face was very expensive to get fixed after trying to explain it?

What, was it her abusive husband's car?

Re:external combustion? (1)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105850)

but you would destroy a typical gasoline ICE if you accidentally gave it diesel.

No, you wouldn't.

If there were a fair amount of petrol/gasoline mixed with the diesel fuel, the engine would run poorly and would produce a lot of smoke, but it would not be destroyed. Catalytic converters and oxygen sensors could be destroyed if the engine is run that way for more than a few minutes. If the engine ran smoothly, there would be a higher propensity for combustion knock due to the diesel fuel lowering the octane value of the mixture, but mechanical damage is unlikely.

An engine designed for petrol/gasoline would not start on straight diesel. It doesn't atomize well enough at the low injection pressures seen in gasoline fuel injection systems.

How do I know? I know the manager of a fleet of vehicles and have heard about just about every combination of wrong-fuel-in-the-tank.

A diesel engine run on gasoline would destroy the injection pump and injectors, because those high-pressure parts are normally lubricated by the fuel and gasoline is a terrible lubricant.

Radiators (2)

jamesl (106902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35101944)

The fatal flaw in portable/mobile steam applications to date has been the need for large radiators (really really large radiators) to cool the steam, converting it back to water to complete the cycle. I see no magic fairy dust in this device that solves that problem.

The alternative is to carry enough water to run the engine without recycling and eliminate the condensers. And that's a lot of water.

Re:Radiators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35101990)

They are not Radiators. They are called Condensers.
The use of these on Steam Loco's is pretty old hat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_locomotive_condensing_apparatus

Re:Radiators (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102590)

And not a very good old hat. For the few that were in service, "The system was intended to reduce the problems of getting enough water to steam locomotives running through desert and very arid areas."
(from your link)
Carrying lots of water was a better solution for most railroad applications.

Re:Radiators (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102806)

Condensing Steam locos were often used in Underground Railways where the exhaust from the locos was a problem.
Since the majority of what comes out of the chimney is Water Vapour (aka Steam) capturing it is a good idea.
One issue that you face is that putting a pipe over the top of the chimney completely changes the drafting of the fire.
The Smokebox in a steam loco is at a lower pressure than the outside. This is caused by the steam exhating from the cylinders is jetted out up the chimney using a device called a Blast Pipe. Klychap(sp) towards the end of the Steam era vastly improved the design of the blast pipe.
This jet of steam pulls air with it this causing air to be drawn into the smokebox. The only place this can come from is through the steam tubes and thus the fire. As everyone knows, a goot draft of air is needed to make a fire burn well.

Back in 1975 I attempted to turn my 5in Gauge GWR 96xx 0-6-0 Panier Tank loco into a condensing loco. This was the type that ran on the London Underground. Boy did it mess up its steaming capability. I has to modify the Blast Pipe considerably as well as remove two of the four superheater tubes.

Re:Radiators (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102220)

There were a few condensing steam locomotives [wikipedia.org] built. I don't know why they weren't more common, surely a train has space enough to fit a condenser there and stopping to get water must have been a PITA.

In the 1960s Bill Lear [wikipedia.org] a very prolific inventor started working on steam cars. By then Lear had already a number of important inventions to his name, among them the car radio (he created the name "Motorola") and the business jet plane (Lear Jet).

He claimed to have the condenser problem solved by 1969, using an advanced accordion-shaped radiator, but nothing came of his steam car plans. I remember seeing an article on Popular Science mentioning he had a steam turbine bus prototype.

He also had plans for a steam powered race car to run the Indy 500. This car would use a delta-shaped engine, inspired by the Napier Deltic [wikipedia.org]

Re:Radiators (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102554)

Because it was much easier to scoop up water from a trough every so often than to condense water (which added to the complexity). A train has a hell of a lot of momentum. Putting out a scoop to refill every so often will not slow it down at all...

Re:Radiators (4, Interesting)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103026)

Except that most steam engines didn't refill by "scoop". They refilled from the TOP via a water tower. They would come to a stop under the tower, the engineer would open the input cap on the hot-well or make-up tank, and a large pipe on a swing-arm would be positioned over the opening. A lever was pulled and gravity would drain the water down into the tank.

The reason that more steam engines weren't condensing is because air-condensers are notoriously inefficient. You simply couldn't make them large enough to condense the water fast enough to supply a large engine. Eventually you would start getting steam back into the hot-well, and it would cause all sorts of problems. It was simply easier and more efficient to set up water-refilling stations all along the track that were refilled from local sources or via "water trains" that were sent along to the drier outposts.

Re:Radiators (1)

dogsbreath (730413) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105800)

Except that most steam engines didn't refill by "scoop". They refilled from the TOP via a water tower.

Although you are correct that most did not use a "scoop", replenishing water by this method was well known and not uncommon on main lines where there was a competitive desire to reduce transit times. Look up "track pans" for US references.

For an absolutely smashing discussion of scoops see http://jimquest.com/writ/trains/pans/scoop2.htm [jimquest.com].

"Scoop" accidents could be deadly; imagine a steamer running full tilt and the scoop drops out or catches on something it shouldn't. Nasty.

Re:Radiators (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102772)

Your link explains why condensing steam locomotives weren't popular.
"Spent steam is fed through the thick pipe on the locomotive's left side to the condensing tender, where five steam turbine driven fans in the roof blows air down through the radiators on each side of the tender ... The Class 25 was a complex locomotive that required high maintenance ... The equally complex tender also required frequent maintenance."

Re: Bill Lear -- don't forget the eight track tape.
His other secret was Learium, a magic fluid that expanded more than water when heated/vaporized. The potential of Learium was never realized and the secret never revealed.
It turned out that he didn't have the condenser problem solved which is just one of the many reasons that his steam cars and busses never reached production.

Re:Radiators (1)

GiveBenADollar (1722738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103862)

Condensing steam engines didn't catch on because there was already and infrastructure for refilling water, condensing locomotives were more expensive, and there was also the potential problem of oil in the condensate (which leads to boiler fouling). By the time the benefits started outweighing the costs we had diesel locomotives. Look at Stanley Steamers if you want more information on steam powered cars, at least one of the models was condensing.

Re:Radiators (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102668)

If you had read TFA, you would have seen that for this speed run they are skipping to regenerator: it's large, heavy, and bulky, and for a sprint run of a few minutes they don't need it.

Re:Radiators (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103668)

I read TFA and noted that they are not using the regenerator. I also went to the company's website where they say, "From garden equipment and generators to cars, trucks, trains and ships, we see a day when our planet will be powered in a sustainable manner by just One Engine -- the Cyclone Engine."

Ships are the only application where condensing will not be a problem due to the quantity of cooling water available.

They also state that one of the things their engine will not require in automotive applications is a radiator.

Further from their web site, "Steam escapes the cylinders through exhaust ports and ... enters the patent-pending condensing unit where it turns back into water, and ... collects in a sealed pan at the bottom of the condenser. Note, this is a closed-loop system -- the water does not need to be replaced or topped-off. ... Blowers spin fresh air around the condenser to speed the cooling process."

No mention of why the condenser is so effective -- certainly an important part of their secret sauce.

mario 3D (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35101964)

This is a good news but here u can find this game http://www.barbie-games.eu

all the signs of a scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102070)

Take a look at the corporate info page for www.cyclonepower.com 300,000,000 shares available!
Technically there is a mix of valid and imaginary claims--a common sign of a scam...along with the diversion of a Bonneville car. There are good reasons (ie, very poor power:weight ratio) that the steam powered speed record is still below 150 mph, a speed that many normal luxury cars can achieve. The only thing surprising is that it's from Florida, normally these are set up to fleece Southern California investors.

whois leading exporter of election fraud methods? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102130)

seems that lead to much of what we're seeing in the east. the message might be; look at the mess we're in.

censorship, fraud, strongarming the press.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102174)

sounds like a weekend in the gulf of, or trying to post an 'unpopular' posit on /.......

Steam cars will never be practical mainstream (0)

fnj (64210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102232)

For one simple reason. Most people live in climates where the temperature dips below freezing for much of the year. Water freezes.

Re:Steam cars will never be practical mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102636)

There is a heat source attached to the boiler by definition. Supplying enough heat just to keep the water from freezing wouldn't require much fuel at all. Steam locomotives seemed to get by alright. They were certainly used even in very cold climates.

Re:Steam cars will never be practical mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103818)

That will however mean draining the engine everytime you park the car for more than a few minutes in winter and refilling before you can start it again.

Re:Steam cars will never be practical mainstream (1)

BattleApple (956701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104524)

a tank of boiling water isn't going to turn into a block of ice in a few minutes, and a small battery powered heater could keep it from freezing overnight

Re:Steam cars will never be practical mainstream (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104570)

If you're trying to maintain an constant temperature, all you have to do is add in the same amount of heat that is being lost to the environment. The better the tank is insulated, the less heat loss, and the less input required.

Re:Steam cars will never be practical mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103038)

u do know steam is achieved by heating water up? yes, water freezes, but ice melts

Re:Steam cars will never be practical mainstream (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103842)

I guess it could use an ethylene glycol / water mix instead of pure water in it's steam loop?

It wouldn't freeze (at least at normal Canadian winter temperatures) but the different boiling point may cause some (probably not insurmountable) effects.

Re:Steam cars will never be practical mainstream (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105124)

All you have illustrated an engineering problem. An easily solvable one at that. Not that I think steam engines will ever be mainstream, but your reasoning is simple minded.

Next 50 years is about efficiency (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35102324)

The reason that the internal combustion engine won out over external combustion engines in the last 50 years is its ability to instantly deliver the power on demand. But now with fuel prices going north we are going to need to start looking at efficiency of the engines we use and that's where external combustion engines win out. We are going to probably going to see a internal combustion engine that runs until the other engine gets up to speed. It will most likely be a Stirling engine with its flywheel as a rotating stator for a generator.

Re:Next 50 years is about efficiency (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104698)

In comparison to a gasoline piston engine, gas turbines are more efficient and smaller. In the 60s, Chrysler tried making cars with gas turbines, but went the "direct drive" route (which isn't fitting for the "stop and go" type of city driving); it didn't work out too well. Now that we have computer controllers and electric-drive cars, a (truly) small gas-turbine could be connected to a generator to charge batteries and/or drive electric motors of modern cars. This type of engine is arguably more fitting for a hybrid, and is able to be configured to run a wider selection of fuels.

Century of progress (3, Interesting)

boustrophedon (139901) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102422)

The 2009 records by Inspiration [gizmag.com] were the first beat the 1906 record of 127 mph (204 km/hr) set by Fred Marriott driving a modified Stanley Steamer [stanleysteamers.com].

Re:Century of progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35105790)

http://www.stanleysteemer.com/ lold

Re:Century of progress (1)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 3 years ago | (#35106360)

The 2009 records by Inspiration [gizmag.com] were the first beat the 1906 record of 127 mph (204 km/hr)

I called what I called a 'Sputnik moment' for US! We must defeat the brits and take back the honor of being the greatest nation! We will fix our edukation!!!

They'd better hurry (2)

Cytotoxic (245301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35102782)

From the links at the bottom of TFA, the British team already has a body on their 200mph steam car. Looks a lot cooler too. [gizmag.com]

Re:They'd better hurry (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104204)

And that's how you know that the one in the article is fake. I can spot half a dozen problems from the picture alone, from the heavy gauge steel frame to the geometry and (well, the list is very long). It looks like something cobbled together in a garage by people who don't know how to do proper design.(at least use aluminum tubing to keep the weight down, fools) The British team, though, it looks like a proper purpose-built vehicle.

http://www.steamcar.co.uk/ [steamcar.co.uk]
Interesting reading.

Note - I do wish someone here at Slashdot would filter some of the articles for common sense and scientific validity. A lot of rubbish is getting through lately.

I can biold a faster one. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105110)

A simple nuclear reactor system similar to what is used in submarine could easily beat the record.

Re:I can biold a faster one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35106946)

with the same level of safety and inherent non-radiating-the-area ness?

Embarrassing 2009 effort. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35105608)

The 2009 effort was embarrassing. They built a low-slung vehicle powered by a steam turbine, designed to travel only in a straight line, and took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats. And they went 148mph.

That's pathetic. A sizable number of street-legal cars and motorcycles can do that. All Indy, F1, and NASCAR cars can do far better. The current land speed record for a wheel-driven vehicle is 416mph. (Jet cars running on wheels have exceeded Mach 1, but those are really aircraft flying at a very low altitude.)

Re:Embarrassing 2009 effort. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35105992)

An internal combustion engine exhausts it's working fluid every cycle so it only needs cooling to handle heat conducted away by the engine and exhaust components. A steam engine(if not using a total loss system like a locomotive) needs to reject ALL the heat from the working fluid so it can complete its thermodynamic cycle. For a 100hp engine, this amounts to at least 200hp(149,000 watts) being dissipated. Achieving this with forced air cooling on a vehicle that size is not trivial. Take a look at some steam engines with condensers, their radiators are huge.

Origin of the term "Cars" and steam revealed! (1)

Invisible Now (525401) | more than 3 years ago | (#35106804)

My ancestor Dr JW Carhart is often credited with building and using the first automobile in Wisconsin in 1871. He actually used his 1,100 pound horseless buggy as a circuit-riding Methodist minister [wordpress.com] (he was also a medical doctor and physics professor). Some claim he won a $10,000 priize in the first organized steam powered race in 1878. His two cylindered coal fired "Car" covered 201 miles in a loop, starting and returning to Green Bay in 33 hours 27 minutes: exactly 6 smoking miles per hour.

good post (1)

rainbow9898 (1988456) | more than 3 years ago | (#35109982)

I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff you post. escorts services delhi [hotmodelindelhi.com]
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