Almost two thousand years before the world entered the industrial era, Hero, a Greek inventor, invented the Steam Engine!
Hero’s ‘Aeolipile’, more commonly known as ‘Hero’s Engine’ is a simple radial steam turbine which spins when the central water container is heated. Hero, also known as heron, is credited with creating the first steam turbine around the year 60AD in the city of Alexandria. Usually, as Hero himself described the device, water is heated in a simple boiler “place a cauldron over a fire” which, in the later versions of his design is part of the rotating chamber. The later versions being greatly simplified compared to the original which has the boiler forming part of the stand and connected to the rotating chamber via pipes which also served as pivots for the chamber.
How does it work?
When the vessel is pressurised with steam, steam is expelled through the nozzles, which generates thrust due to the rocket principle thanks to Newton’s 2nd and 3rd laws of motion. When the nozzles, pointing in different directions produce forces perpendicular to the axis of the bearing which makes the thrusts combine resulting in rotational movement, in other words, it spins. Aerodynamic drag and frictional forces in the bearings build up quickly with increasing rotation speed which eventually balances out the forces meaning the vessel will spin at a constant speed until all of the steam has escaped the vessel.
Here at Curious Minds we stock a working model of Hero’s steam turbine with some modern improvements. Our model has ball race bearings, a steam safety release valve and a water retainer that almost completely stops water spitting out (the original sprayed out hot water). It looks great and wouldn’t look out of place on many mantle pieces.
As you can see on the model in store and online it is of a stylish and highly functional design. Fill the vessel with water, light the fire and you’re in action!
Our kit requires little work to set up, simply screw the vessel into place, put the wicks through the metal plate, fill the burner with spirit, use the included syringe to add about 12ml of water and light the burner!