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gory has not done so, we must take the liberty to say, that his taste or his intentions have been greatly in fault.
As Mr Hornblower's description is extremely desultory and ill arranged, it appears to us that we shall best correct the errors of it, by giving a short account of the principles of Mr Watt's steam-engine, and of the steps by which he was led to his successive improvements; and, having thus got a consistent and distinct view of the subject, we shall be able to expose the errors and misrepresentations contained in the paper before us. In doing this, we are conscious of no prejudices by which we can be misled; we are interested only for the truth; and we can assure our readers that we have taken considerable pains to be well informed concerning it.
The first idea of the steam-engine is found in the writings of that celebrated projector, the Marquis of Worcester, who, in the year 1663, published a small tract, entitled, "A Century of Inventions," consisting of short heads or notices of schemes, many of them obviously impracticable, which at various times had suggested themselves to his very fertile and warm imagination. No contemporary record exists to illustrate or verify his description of the contrivance which we presume to call a steam-engine, or to inform us where, and in what manner, it was carried into effect, though it is evident, from his account, that he had actually constructed and worked a machine that raised water by steam. His description of the method is short and obscure; but inclines us to think, contrary to what many have supposed, that the force of his engine was derived solely from the elasticity of steam; and that the condensation of steam by cold, was no part of his contrivance. This last, we believe, was the invention of Captain Savary, who, in 1696, published an account of his machine, in a small tract entitled the Miner's Friend, having erected several engines previous to that period. In these engines the alternate condensation and pressure of the steam took place in the same vessel into which the water was first raised, from a lower reservoir, by the pressure of the atmosphere, and then expelled into a higher one, by the elastic force of strong steam.
Steam, it must be observed, was thus employed merely to produce a vacuum, and to supply the strength that was applied, for a like effect, to the sucker or piston of an ordinary pump; and it was a great step to have discovered a method of bringing the air to act in this manner by the application of heat to water, without the assistance of mechanical force.
The next essential improvement was made by Newcomen, for which he obtained a patent in 1705. It consisted in separating the parts of the engine in which the steam was to act, from those
in which the water was to be raised; the weight of the atmosphere being employed only for the purpose of pressure, and the steam for that of first displacing the air, and then forming a vacuum by condensation. Newcomen was thus enabled to dispense with the use of steam of great and dangerous elasticity, to work with moderate heats, and to remove at least some part of the causes of wasteful and ineffectual condensation. To him we are indebted for the introduction of the steam cylinder and piston, and for their connexion with the pump by means of the main lever with its rods and chains, to which we might add several other subordinate contrivances, which do great credit to his ingenuity.
Still, however, the machine required the constant attendance of a man to open and shut the cocks at the proper intervals, for the alternate admission of steam and cold water and although traditional report attributes the invention of the mechanism by which the engine was made to perform this work itself, to the ingenuity of an idle boy, we know that the contrivance was first perfected by Mr Henry Beighton in 1717, who also improved the construction of several other parts of the engine. From this time to the year 1764, there seems to have been no material improvement in the structure of the engine, which still continued to be known by the appellation of Newcomen's, or the atmospheric engine. The boilers, however, had been removed from under the cylinder in some of the larger engines, and the cylin ́der had been fixed down to a solid basis. Still the steam was condensed in the cylinder; the hot water was expelled by the steam; the piston was pressed down by the weight of the atmosphere, and kept tight by being covered with water. It was moreover considered as necessary that the injection cistern should be placed on high, in order that the water might enter with great force. It had been found by experience, that the engine could not be loaded, with advantage, with more than seven pounds on each square inch of the piston; and the inferiority of that power to the known pressure of the atmosphere, was, without due consideration, imputed wholly to friction. The bulk of water when converted into steam was very erroneously computed; the quantity of fuel necessary to evaporate a given quantity of water was not even guessed at; whether the heat of steam is accurately measured by its temperature was unknown; and no good experiment had been made to determine the quantity of injection water necessary for a cylinder of given dimensions. In a word, no man of science in this country had considered the subject since Desaguliers; and his writings, in many respects, tended more to mislead than instruct.
Such was the state of matters, when, fortunately for science X 2
and for the arts, Mr Watt, then a mathematical instrumentmaker at Glasgow, undertook the repair of the model of a steam engine belonging to the University. In the course of his trials with it, he found the quantity of fuel and injection water it required much greater in proportion than they were said to be in large engines; and it soon occurred to him, that this must be owing to the cylinder of this small model exposing a greater surface, in proportion to its contents, than larger cylinders did. This he endeavoured to remedy, by making his cylinders and pistons of substances which conducted heat slowly. He employed wood prepared on purpose, and resorted to other expedients, without producing the desired effect in any remarkable degree. He found, also, that all attempts to produce a greater degree of exhaustion, or a more perfect vacuum, occasioned a disproportionate expenditure of steam. In reflecting upon the causes of these phenomena, the recent discovery, that water boiled in an exhausted receiver at low degrees of heat, (certainly not exceeding 100 degrees of Fahrenheit, but probably, when the vacuum was perfect, much lower) occurred to him; and he immediately concluded, that, to obtain any considerable degree of exhaustion, the cylinder and its contents must be cooled down to 100 degrees at least; in which case, the reproduction of steam in the same cylinder must be accompanied with a great expense of heat, and consequently of fuel. He next endeavoured to ascertain the temperature at which water boils when placed under various pressures; and, not having any apparatus at hand by which he could make his experiments under pressures less than that of the atmosphere, he began with trying the temperature of water boiling under greater pressures; and by laying down a curve, of which the abscissa represented the temperatures, and the ordinates the pressures, he found the law by which the two are connected, whether the pressure be increased or diminished.
Observing, also, that there was a great error in Desaguliers's calculation of the bulk of water when converted into steam, and that the experiment on which he founded his conclusion was in itself fallacious, he thought it essential to determine this point with more accuracy. By a very simple experiment with a Florence flask, which our limits will not allow us to detail, he ascertained, that water, when converted into steam under the ordinary pressure of the atmosphere, occupies about eighteen hundred times its original space.
These points being determined, he constructed a boiler in such a manner, as to show by inspection, with tolerable accuracy, the quantity of water evaporated in any given time; and he also ascertained by experiment the quantity of coals necessary to evaporate a given quantity of water.
He now applied his boiler to the working model above mentioned; when it appeared, that the quantity of steam expended at every stroke, exceeded many times what was sufficient to fill the cylinder; and deducing from thence the quantity of water required to form as much steam as would supply each stroke of the engine, he proceeded to examine how much cold water was used for injection, and what heat it gained; which, to his very great surprise, he found to be many times the number of degrees which could have been communicated to it by a quantity of boiling water equal to that of which the steam was composed. Suspecting, however, that there might be some fallacy in these deductions, he made a direct experiment to ascertain the degree of heat communicated by steam to water; when it clearly appeared, that one part of water, in the form of steam, at 212°, had communicated about 140 degrees of heat to six parts of water. The fact, thus confirmed, was so contrary to all his previous conceptions, that he at first saw no means of explaining it. Dr Black indeed had, some time before, made his discovery of latent heat; but Mr Watt's mind being otherwise engaged, he had not attended sufficiently to it, to make himself much acquainted with the doctrine but upon communicating his observations to the Doctor, he received from him a full explanation of his theory; and this induced him to make further experiments, by which he ascertained the latent heat of steam to be above 900 degrees.
The causes of the defects of Newcomen's engines were now evident. It appeared that the steam could not be condensed so as to form an approximation to a vacuum, unless the cylinder, and the water it contained, were cooled down to lefs than 100°; and that, at greater degrees of heat, the water in the cylinder must produce fteam, which would in part refift the preffure of the atmosphere. On the other hand, when greater degrees of exhauftion were attempted, the quantities of injection water required to be increased in a very great ratio; and this was followed by a proportionate destruction of steam on refilling the cylinder.
Mr Watt now perceived, that to make an engine in which the deftruction of fteam fhould be the leaft poffible, and the vacuum the most perfect, it was neceffary that the cylinder thould condenfe no fteam on filling it, and that, when condenfed, the water, forming the fteam, fhould be cooled down to 100 degrees, or lower. In reflecting on this defideratum, he was not long in finding that the cylinder muft be preferved always as hot as the fteam that enters it; and that, by opening a communication between this hot cylinder when filled with team, and another veffel exhaufted of air, the fteam, being an elaftic fluid, would rush into it, until an equilibrium was established between the two X 3
veffels; and that if cold water, in fufficient quantity, were injected into the second veffel, the steam it contained would be reduced to water, and no more fteam would enter until the whole was condenfed.
But a difficulty arofe-How was this condensed steam and water to be got out of the fecond veffel without letting in air? Two methods prefented themselves. One was, to join to this fecond veffel (which, after him, we shall call the condenser) a pipe, which fhould extend downwards more than 34 feet perpendicular, fo that the column of water contained in it, exceeding the weight of the atmosphere, would run out by its own gravity, and leave the condenfer in a state of exhauftion, except in fo far as the air, which might enter with the fteam and injection water, fhould tend to render the exhauftion less perfect: this air he propofed to extract by means of a pump. The fecond method which occurred, was to extract both air and water by means of a pump, or pumps; which would poffefs the advantage over the other, of being applicable in all fituations. This latter contrivance was therefore preferred; and is known by the common name of the Air-pump. There still remained fome defects unremedied in Newcomen's cylinder. The pifton in that engine was kept tight by water; much of which paffing by the fides, injured the vacuum below, by its evaporation; and this water, as well as the atmosphere which came into contact with the upper part of the piston and fides of the cylinder at every ftroke, tended materially to cool that veffel. Mr Watt removed thefe defects, by applying oils, wax, and fat of animals, to lubricate his pifton and keep it tight he put a cover on his cylinder (with a hole in it made air and fteam tight, for the pifton rod to pafs through), and employed the elaftic force of fteam to prefs upon the piston; he also furrounded the cylinder with a cafe containing steam, or a cafe of wood, or of other nonconducting fubftance, which fhould keep it always of an equable temperature.
The improvement of Newcomen's engine, fo far as the faving of fteam and fuel was concerned, was now complete in Mr Watt's mind; and in the courfe of the following year 1765, he executed a working model, the effect of which he found fully to answer his expectations. It worked readily with 10 lib, on the inch, and was even capable of raising 14 lib.; and did not require more than one third of the fteam, ufed in the common atmospheric engine, to produce the fame effect. Indeed, the principle of keeping the veffel, in which the elasticity of the fteam is exerted always hot, and that in which the condenfation is performed always cold, is in itself perfect. For the steam never coming in contact with any fubftance colder than itself until it had done its of