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are steam driven aircraft physicaly posible?
ie like the coal driven steamers. could the steam produce enough power to fire up a jet turbine? i'm watching a movie called the mutant chronicals set in the future and they have a steam aircraft. pure scifi? or a possibility?
asked in sci fi, aircraft, physics



moonzero2 answers:

Possibliy in the form of a Dirigible (airship) but I cant see it having much of a payload.


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blacksmith81 answers:

A fixed wing aircraft powered by steam, pure fantasy, IMO. A steam engine, wouldn't produce enough power, to get the thing airborne. The power to weight ratio wouldn't be high enough, even if you superheated the steam.


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wumpus answers:

Using present technology, it's not feasible.
The power to weight ratio simply isn't enough to make it work.

That's not to say it's impossible using technology which could be developed in the future.

For instance, if small fusion reactors ever become a reality, I would expect that steam would be the best way to harness the thermal energy and turn it into motive force.


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KentPDG answers:

Probably not, but never say never.

A steam driven airplane designed like a steam locomotive wouldn't work, for several reasons. The weight of the steam boiler, plus the weight of the burner, would probably be too much for the plane to lift. Steam locomotives expel used steam, which is why they need to be refilled with water every hundred miles or so. Carrying that much water in an airplane, and expelling it after one cycle, would produce an impossible weight load.

That said, there are chemical reactions which produce steam. That would save considerable weight, but of course a great supply of chemicals would be required. There is also a concept called "flash steam", which requires a very much smaller and lighter reactor. And it is possible to condense and recycle steam, so far less water would have to be carried.

Steam-driven turbines can be made to be fairly efficient. A proper system of water decomposition (i.e., not electolysis) to create hydrogen and oxygen could fuel (and even be part of) a flash steam generator; and the water could be recycled.

So a steam-driven aircraft is feasible, but would require considerable new and different technology. No manufacturer shows any indication of working on such new technologies. If such a machine is to be developed, it will almost certainly be done by someone not in the aircraft industry at present.


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