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James Watt's Steam Engine

James Watt was a Scottish Engineer famous for improving the steam engine during the latter part of the 1700's. Since the engines were used as local sources of power in mines and factories, we could say that Watt may have been one of the earliest pioneers of MicroGrid power technology.

Watt started out as an instrument maker where he eventually became involved with the earliest steam engine called the Newcomen Engine. These engines employed a steam injected power piston and were used at mines as water pumps. The Newcomen Engine was crude, inefficient, and limited in it's capabilities (not to mention they consumed large amounts of coal). Watt began to study the thermodynamic properties of steam, the heat transfer capability of different materials, the design of mechanisms, and came up with a series of improvements to propel the steam engine to the forefront of the Industrial Revolution.

The major improvements to the steam engine that are credited to Watt include:
- A separated condenser system applied to the piston's vacuum stroke, which allowed the engines to extract more power and run at a greater efficiency
- Eliminating multiple sources of wasted energy and inefficiency
- A double acting cylinder design which increased the power / weight ratio of the engine. This means that a full thermodynamic power cycle is applied to both sides of the piston rather than one.
- A mechanism to convert the linear motion of the pistons to rotary power. In effect this was a fancy crankshaft with a planetary gear set (see photo below).
- A centrifigal governor system for automated speed control. The governor backed down the steam flow when speeds were too high.
- Rating the power capability of engines. Watt equated his engines with the lifting capability of the average horse (units of horsepower) for marketing purposes. It is for this reason that the unit of power is named in Watt's honor.

microgrid history watt steam engine

The steam engine came into popularity due to the thirst of industrial factories and textile mills for rotating power. Watt's machine quenched this thirst and is said to be one of the keystones driving the Industrial Revolution. One must remember the difficulty in manufacturing high quality parts out of Iron in the 1700's. Manufacturing technologies were early in development and inventing new machinery during that time was much more difficult than in the modern day. With this in mind, Watt's achievements appear that much more remarkable.

MicroGrid Living

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MicroGrid History

- Nikola Tesla Source of Human Energy
- Nikola Tesla Energy from the Medium
- James Watt & the Steam Engine
- Marcellus Jacob Wind Turbine

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