The French Denis Papin, with a medicine degree but passionate about physics and inventor by profession, is the first to have the idea of exploiting steam to reach water boiling temperatures higher than 100 ° C and to move a piston inside of a cylinder.
The machine designed by Papin, consists of a tube closed at the bottom and containing a piston under which there is a small amount of water which, transformed into steam, pushes the piston up to the top of the cylinder where it stops against a stopper. As the cylinder cools down, the vapor condenses, producing a partial vacuum under the piston. Atmospheric pressure forces the piston to descend rapidly. The tube performs the triple function of boiler, engine cylinder and condenser. The steam engine will be built in successive stages by separating these three parts. Papin was also responsible for a project for an atmospheric steam engine to be used in mines to pump water to the surface.
Captain Thomas Savery, a mining engineer, along with his partner Thomas Newcomen, perfects a steam pump, the vacuum of which raises water from British flood-prone mines. The principle is simple and is based on a container with two valves. The steam pushes the water contained in the tank upwards, so the vacuum created by condensation causes a depression that sucks in the water that comes from below. It is a machine without piston intended for a single use: removing the water from the the mines. It is probably after seeing this machine that Denis Papin in 1707, took up his ideas by introducing the plunger
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The boiler is connected to the tank and the external valve is opened. The steam pressure pushes the water out.
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The cooling valve is opened, the water cools the tank.
The external valve and the boiler valve are closed.
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The suction valve is opened, the steam in the tank decreases in volume as it cools and the vacuum sucks the water from the pipe.
Englishman Thomas Newcomen designs an atmospheric steam engine that pumps water from deep mines. It is reported that one of these engines, built in 1739 to pump water from a French mine, was able to lift as much water in 48 hours as 50 men and 20 horses could do in a whole week.
The most relevant inventions of this period (first industrial revolution) are strongly linked to the needs of the mines and the processing of the extracted materials.
The Newcomen machine, essentially the first application of steam to an industrial process, is a piston pump driven by an internal condensing steam engine. It is the main player of the first industrial revolution, as early example of the energy application that can be transmitted with steam, or the transformation of chemical energy (given by the oxidation of carbon with oxygen) into mechanical energy (expressed in lifting work).
Steel production with the crucible steel method, by melting case hardening steel, rediscovered by the Englishman Benjamin Huntsman of Sheffield; this technique would have made Sheffield steel as famous as Damascus steel for sword making, using a technique discovered in India but lost in time.
CONTINUE: Timeline from 1743 to 1865