What do Indian sugar processors and small scale CHP systems in the U. have in common? They are ideal applications for modern reciprocating steam engines. While the technology is well established in the sugarcane business, it is only beginning to be considered as part of a CHP package. This paper discusses the modern use of steam engines and shows how adoption of this technology can allow increased energy efficiency in a variety of industrial processes. .
The history of the industrial revolution includes a large chapter on the invention, introduction, and adoption of steam engines for all kinds of industrial applications and electric power. As time went on, the steam engine gaveway to other prime movers and industry switched to electric motors and gas engine powered equipment. Power plants, still using steam, moved to steam turbines. Until recently, the existence of a reciprocating steam engine in an industrial plant was usually vestigial, with the device being kept around as an oddity or historical icon. The rebirth of the steam engine is an interesting study in the development of technology. Often "the new "displaces "the old" in such a grand scale, that it is only later that the merits of the old technology can regain some visibility. Cogeneration is a good example of this, where new "ultra-high" efficiency power cycles were thought to make CHP almost undesirable. Clearly this has not turned out to be the case. Steam engines are getting a new look as energy prices get higher, even to the point of a technical prize being awarded for steam engine design. .
The discussion of steam engines begins necessarily by considering the importance of steam itself. Not quite a magic material, steam has the benefit of a large latent heat of vaporization. This is used in many ways, primarily using the change in phase for energy storage and energy release. As steam changes phase, it Gives up energy without changing temperature – a phenomenon which is very useful in chemical processing, the development of power cycles and in heat exchanger design.