Get to know the history of steam turbines

Steam turbines are not new now as they have been powering our world since decades. But did you know when was the first steam turbine made? But before jumping into that aspect, let’s know more about the steam turbines first.

A steam turbine generally refers to a mechanical device which is used to produce thermal energy using high pressure steam and convert it into rotary motion. Its modern demonstration was devised by Sir Charles Parsons in the year 1884.

In other words, this turbine system is a kind of thermal engine that gets much of its improvement in thermodynamics efficacy through the employment of various stages during the expansion of the steam. Over the years, there have been several changes that have taken place such as the replacement of reciprocating piston steam engine due to its higher thermal efficiency and greater power-to-weight ratio.


The first such device may be marked as a reaction steam turbine was not majorly different from a toy, named Aeolipile, described in the 1st century by Greek mathematician Alexandria in Roman Egypt. Almost 1000 years later, Spanish naval officer Blascode Garay devised a primeval steam machine to drive a ship in the port of Barcelona.

It was Sir Charles Parsons who was behind the invention of modern steam turbine and made it in 1884. His first model was connected to a dynamo that was able to produce 7.5kW of electricity. His invention paved the ways of cheaper and abundant electricity and transformed marine transport and naval warfare. He had licensed patent for his device and the turbine scaled-up soon after by an American, George Westinghouse. Another feature of that turbine was its scalability. It is great know to that during the entire life span of Parson, the electricity generation capacity of the device was scaled by about 10,000 times.

There was several other variations developed that work perfectly with steam. The de Laval turbine was made by Gustaf de Laval and fast-tracked the steam to optimum speed before running it against a turbine blade. Hence the turbine is simpler; cost-effective and does not need to be pressure-proof. It can easily work with any pressure of steam, but is noticeably less effective. It can easily work with any pressure of steam. Despite this it is noticeably less effective.

One of the great originators of the latest concept of gas and steam-based turbines was Aurel Stodola, a Slovak physicist, working as an engineer at Swiss Polytechnic Institute in Zurich. Aurel Stodola was one the greatest originators of the latest concept of steam and gas turbine. He was a Slovak. Apart from being a physicist and engineer, he offered his services as a professor at Swiss Polytechnic Institute in Zurich. His remarkable work was Die Dampfturbinen und ihreAussichtenals Wärmekraftmaschinen (The Steam Turbine and its standpoint as a Thermal Energy Machine) which was put out in Berlin in the year 1903. In 1922, in Berlin, he published another relevant book Dampf und Gas-Turbinen related to English Steam and Gas Turbines.

Small turbines are used to run compressors, pumps and shaft driven equipment whereas huge turbines are used to produce electricity. The range of the steam turbines varies from small to the largest capacities.

Turbine Efficiency

In order to optimize turbine efficiency the steam is expanded, producing work, in several stages. These states actually are considered by the way energy is derived from them and majorly known as impulse and reaction turbines. In majority of steam turbine solutions, a combination of impulse and reaction mechanisms are used. Though each stage performs as either one or the other, the entire turbine employs both the stages. In general terms, higher pressure sections are called impulse type while lower pressure stages are reaction type.

Impulse Turbines

This kind of steam turbine contains fixed nozzles that turn the flow of steam into high steam jets. Loaded with significant amount of kinetic energy, these jets enable the movement of rotor blades. A pressure drop takes place across only the inactive blades, with an overall rise in steam velocity across the stage.

When the steam traverses through the nozzle its pressure decreases from inlet pressure to the leaving pressure. Just because of this higher expansion steam ratio in the nozzle, the steam passes through it at an extremely high velocity.

Reaction Turbines

In this kind of reaction turbines, the rotor blades are made to build convergent nozzles. The reaction turbine employs the reaction force in the form of steam that accelerates through the nozzles created by the rotor. Steam is placed onto the rotor by the stationary fins of the stator. It then leaves the stator in the form of a jet that fills the entire circumference of the rotor. The steam then alters its direction and augments its speed in comparison to the speed of the blades. A pressure drop takes place between both the stator and the rotor, with steam fast-tracking through the stator and slowing near the rotor.

Due to their continuous operations and varying pay loads, turbine maintenance services play a vital role in keeping up the efficiency of these mechanical devices.

And it case of any trouble, there are steam turbine repair companies that provide round-the-clock support to power generating companies to ensure trouble-free operations.

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