A steam engine is just another energy conversion device that can use a
variety of fuels like gas turbines, stirling cycles, thermoelectrics, etc.
So playing with a steam engine, by itself, doesn't help us find a good or
economically viable alternative fuel.
It looks like the Brit car uses an open cycle steam engine which doesn't
advance the technology in spite of the $ millions spent. The Stanley record
holder was an open cycle engine as were the Dobles, other steam cars, and
railroad steam locomotives (including the New York Central passenger
locomotives that regularly ran at 100 MPH in 1900).
The trouble with the old open cycle steam engines was that they spewed out
a lot of oil with the exhausted steam and the new Brit steam engine most
likely emits more than just pure water vapor. And they use up a lot of water
per mile. When steam locomotives started running from the Mississippi to the
west coast they weren't limited by the coal or firewood they could carry but
by the availability of clean water sites along their rail routes. I don't
think a steam engine will be able to compete with IC engines unless it is a
A closed cycle steam engine is a major technical challenge because the water
chemistry must be constantly monitored and adjusted to prevent corrosion.
This is a familiar problem for nuclear power plants where the peak steam
temperature is only about 600F (lower than coal fired plants). Bill Lear
spent a lot of money trying to meet this challenge to develop a closed cycle
steam engine for automotive applications in the 1960s. We followed his work
at the time because I was a patent holder of an artificial heart we were
trying to develop--it was fueled by a radioisotope heat source and used a
small closed cycle rotary steam engine to drive the heart ventricles.
Neither one of us was successful commercially, but it was fun while it
[mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Keith Turk
Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2009 4:51 PM
To: John Burk; LandSpeed List
Subject: Re: [Land-speed] British Steam effort 139.843mph
I don't mean to poke a stick in anyone's eye... but I've been following this
effort for a While... to include back in England... and honestly I'm
suspecting you guys are taking this whole effort to lightly...
That having been said... I'd agree with the lack of huge gains in all the
years... which just goes to show how little we truly have cared about
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