From Ancient China to Modern France - Inventors and Ideas in the Story of the Steam Engine

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Talk or debate
09 February 2016 19:00 - 21:00
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The ancestry of the steam engine can be traced back to developments in both ancient Greece and early Song dynasty China. Building on those early ideas the first European efforts led to Newcomen’s “atmospheric” engine then with James Watt’s improvements, the steam engine saw commercial success. James Watt and his partner Matthew Boulton gained an effective monopoly until 1800 when a rapid succession of improvements led to mobile forms of steam engine and notably the Stephenson locomotive. The use of compound expansion, high steam pressure and the reduction in boiler losses characterised the work of locomotive engineer, André Chapelon. From 1925, working at the PLM Company, Chapelon established the principles of managing sources of irreversibility in the locomotive systems and until the withdrawal of steam traction from the French railway network in the 1950s was continuing to demonstrate improvements to the performance and efficiency of locomotives.
We will look at the history of the steam engine in the context of the thermodynamic improvements that were made at each step in the technology. We will consider how the free flow of ideas led to the earliest concepts and how the early patent system substantially slowed the progress of the technology. We will see how the quest for greater thermal efficiency and specific performance led to the use of scientific principle and a series of innovations that could be argued set the scene for modern applications of steam technology in mobile applications.


Richard is currently the Professor of Powertrain Systems in the Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering Department at Loughborough University and serves as Technical Director for Caterpillar's engine research activity at Loughborough


The Holiday Inn - Peterborough
Thorpe Wood
United Kingdom

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