Atmospheric beam engine

Thomas NewcomenCirca 1930

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers

This machine rocks a pivoting beam working pumps emptying water from a mine. It does not directly use the power of the steam it produces but that created by atmospheric pressure. The mass of our planet exerts gravitational force on all other bodies. As a result, the pressure the air exerts on the Earth can be used to drive a piston in a cylinder. To do this, the piston has to be subjected to the pressure difference obtained by creating a vacuum in the cylinder. The boiler of Newcomen’s machine produces the steam that penetrates the base of the cylinder to raise the piston. When the piston arrives at its upper standstill point, cold water is injected into the cylinder. The steam condenses, producing a vacuum beneath the piston, and the atmospheric pressure exerted above the piston makes it redescend to its lower standstill point and the cycle can recommence.

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  • Title: Atmospheric beam engine
  • Creator: Thomas Newcomen
  • Date: Circa 1930
  • Date Created: Circa 1930
  • Physical Dimensions: 1:30 scale model by Robert Christian
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: Serge Picard. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 19606
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Sylvain Pelly


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