Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. Water vapor cannot be seen, though in common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air. Strictly speaking, in terms of the chemistry and physics, true steam is invisible. At lower pressures, such as in the upper atmosphere or at the top of high mountains water boils at a lower temperature than the nominal 100 °C (212 °F) at standard temperature and pressure. If heated further it becomes superheated steam.
The enthalpy of vaporization is the energy required to turn water into the gaseous form when it increases in volume by 1,600 times at standard temperature and pressure; this change in volume can be converted into mechanical work by steam engines and steam turbines. Steam engines played a central role to the Industrial Revolution and modern steam turbines are used to generate electricity. If liquid water comes in contact with a very hot substance (such as lava, or molten metal) it can create a steam explosion. Steam explosions have been responsible for many foundry accidents, and may also have been responsible for much of the damage to the plant in the Chernobyl accident.
Famous quotes containing the word steam:
“Time has an undertaking establishment on every block and drives his coffin nails faster than the steam riveters rivet or the stenographers type or the tickers tick out fours and eights and dollar signs and ciphers.”
—John Dos Passos (18961970)
“Now that the steam engine rules the world, a title is an absurdity, still I am all dressed up in this title. It will crush me if I do not support it. The title attracts attention to myself.”
—Stendhal [Marie Henri Beyle] (17831842)
“Blotting the sun
Stinging the eyes.
The hot seeds steam underground
—Gary Snyder (b. 1930)