Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. Water vapor cannot be seen, though in common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air. Strictly speaking, in terms of the chemistry and physics, true steam is invisible. At lower pressures, such as in the upper atmosphere or at the top of high mountains water boils at a lower temperature than the nominal 100 °C (212 °F) at standard temperature and pressure. If heated further it becomes superheated steam.
The enthalpy of vaporization is the energy required to turn water into the gaseous form when it increases in volume by 1,600 times at standard temperature and pressure; this change in volume can be converted into mechanical work by steam engines and steam turbines. Steam engines played a central role to the Industrial Revolution and modern steam turbines are used to generate electricity. If liquid water comes in contact with a very hot substance (such as lava, or molten metal) it can create a steam explosion. Steam explosions have been responsible for many foundry accidents, and may also have been responsible for much of the damage to the plant in the Chernobyl accident.
Types of steam and conversion 
Water vapor that includes water droplets is described as wet steam. As wet steam is heated further, the droplets evaporate, and at a high enough temperature (which depends on the pressure) all of the water evaporates and the system is in vapor-liquid equilibrium.
Steam tables  contain thermodynamic data for water/steam and are often used by engineers and scientists in design and operation of equipment where thermodynamic cycles involving steam are used. Additionally, thermodynamic phase diagrams for water/steam, such as a temperature-entropy diagram or a Mollier diagram shown in this article, may be useful. Steam charts are also used for analysing thermodynamic cycles.
|enthalpy-entropy (h-s) diagram for steam||pressure-enthalpy (p-h) diagram for steam||temperature-entropy (T-s) diagram for steam|
Steam's capacity to transfer heat is also used in the home: for cooking vegetables, steam cleaning of fabric and carpets, and heating buildings. In each case, water is heated in a boiler, and the steam carries the energy to a target object. "Steam showers" are actually low-temperature mist-generators, and do not actually use steam.
Electricity generation (and cogeneration) 
In electric generation, steam is typically condensed at the end of its expansion cycle, and returned to the boiler for re-use. However in cogeneration, steam is piped into buildings through a district heating system to provide heat energy after its use in the electric generation cycle. The world's biggest steam generation system is the New York City steam system which pumps steam into 100,000 buildings in Manhattan from seven cogeneration plants.
Energy storage 
In other industrial applications steam is used for energy storage, which is introduced and extracted by heat transfer, usually through pipes. Steam is a capacious reservoir for thermal energy because of water's high heat of vaporization.
Fireless steam locomotives were steam locomotives that operated from a supply of steam stored on board in a large tank resembling a conventional locomotive's boiler. This tank was filled by process steam, as is available in many sorts of large factory, such as paper mills. The locomotive's propulsion used pistons and connecting rods, as for a typical steam locomotive. These locomotives were mostly used in places where there was a risk of fire from a boiler's firebox, but were also used in factories that simply had a plentiful supply of steam to spare.
Lifting gas 
Owing to its low molecular mass, steam is an effective lifting gas, providing approximately 60% as much lift as helium and twice as much as hot air. It is not flammable, unlike hydrogen, and is cheap and abundant, unlike helium. The required heat, however, leads to condensation problems and requires an insulated envelope. These factors have limited its use thus far to mostly demonstration projects.
Mechanical effort 
A steam engine and steam turbines use the expansion of steam to drive a piston or turbine to perform mechanical work. The ability to return condensed steam as water-liquid to the boiler at high pressure with relatively little expenditure of pumping power is important. Condensation of steam to water often occurs at the low-pressure end of a steam turbine, since this maximizes the energy efficiency, but such wet-steam conditions have to be limited to avoid excessive turbine blade erosion. Engineers use an idealised thermodynamic cycle, the Rankine cycle, to model the behavior of steam engines. Steam turbines are often used in the production of electricity.
Steam in piping 
Steam is used in piping for utility lines. It is also used in jacketing and tracing of piping to maintain the uniform temperature in pipelines and vessels.
Wood treatment 
Steam is used in the process of wood bending, killing insects and increasing plasticity.
Concrete treatment 
Steam is used to accentuate drying especially in prefabricates. Care should be taken since concrete produces heat during hydration and additional heat from the steam could be detrimental to hardening reaction processes of the concrete.
Used in cleaning of fibers, sometimes prior to painting.
See also 
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Water vapor|
- Food steamer or steam cooker
- Geyser—geothermally-generated steam
- IAPWS—an association that maintains international-standard correlations for the thermodynamic properties of steam, including IAPWS-IF97 (for use in industrial simulation and modelling) and IAPWS-95 (a general purpose and scientific correlation).
- Industrial Revolution
- Live steam
- Mass production
- Nuclear power—and power plants use steam to generate electricity
- Psychrometrics—moist air/vapor mixtures, humidity and air conditioning
- Steam locomotive
- Singh, R Paul (2001). Introduction to Food Engineering. Academic Press. ISBN ISBN 978-0-12-646384-2.
- "Superheated Steam : International site for Spirax Sarco".
- Malhotra, Ashok (2012). Steam Property Tables: Thermodynamic and Transport Properties, ISBN 978-1-479-23026-6
- Wiser, Wendell H. (2000). Energy resources: occurrence, production, conversion, use. Birkhäuser. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-387-98744-6.
- Carl Bevelhymer, "Steam", Gotham Gazette, November 10, 2003
- Steam Balloon JBFA Article
- EP Patent Publication 2,091,572
- USA (2013-03-25). "Biofilms on environmental surfaces: eval... [Am J Infect Control. 2012] - PubMed - NCBI". Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2013-05-05.
|Look up steam in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Steam Tables & Charts by National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST
- What Is Steam? (general article about the properties of water/steam)
- Steam Tracing