A Catechism of the Steam Engine eBook

John Bourne
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 507 pages of information about A Catechism of the Steam Engine.


139. Q.—­What is the nature of combustion?

A.—­Combustion is nothing more than an energetic chemical combination, or, in other words, it is the mutual neutralization of opposing electricities.  When coal is brought to a high temperature it acquires a strong affinity for oxygen, and combination with oxygen will produce more than sufficient heat to maintain the original temperature; so that part of the heat is rendered applicable to other purposes.

140. Q.—­Does air consist of oxygen?

A.—­Air consists of oxygen and nitrogen mixed together in the proportion of 3.29 lbs. of nitrogen to 1 lb. of oxygen.  Every pound of coal requires about 2.66 lbs. of oxygen for its saturation, and therefore for every pound of coal burned, 8.75 pounds of nitrogen must pass through the fire, supposing all the oxygen to enter into combination.  In practice, however, this perfection of combination does not exist; from one-third to one-half of the oxygen will pass through the fire without entering into combination at all; so that from 16 to 18 lbs. of air are required for every pound of coal burned. 18 lbs. of air are about 240 cubic feet, which may be taken as the quantity of air required for the combustion of a pound of coal in practice.

141. Q.—­What are the constituents of coal?

A.—­The chief constituent of coal is carbon or pure charcoal, which is associated in various proportions with volatile and earthy matters.  English coal contains 80 to 90 per cent. of carbon, and from 8 to 18 per cent. of volatile and earthy matters, but sometimes more than this.  The volatile matters are hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulphur.

142. Q.—­What is the difference between anthracite and bituminous coal?

A.—­Anthracite consists almost entirely of carbon, having 91 per cent. of carbon, with about 7 per cent. of volatile matter and 2 per cent. of ashes.  Newcastle coal contains about 83 per cent. of carbon, 14 per cent. of volatile matter, and 3 per cent. of ashes.

143. Q.—­Will you recapitulate the steps by which you determine the quantity of air required for the combustion of coal?

A.—­Looking to the quantity of oxygen required to unite chemically with the various constituents of the coal, we find for example that in 100 lbs. of anthracite coal, consisting of 91.44 lbs. of carbon, and 3.46 lbs. of hydrogen, we shall for the 91.44 lbs. of carbon require 243.84 lbs. of oxygen—­since to saturate a pound of carbon by the formation of carbonic acid, requires 2-2/3 lbs. of oxygen.  To saturate a pound of hydrogen in the formation of water, requires 8 lbs. of oxygen; hence 3.46 Fibs. of hydrogen will take 27.68 lbs. of oxygen for its saturation.  If then we add 243.84 lbs. to 27.68 lbs. we have 271.52 lbs. of oxygen required for the combustion of 100

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A Catechism of the Steam Engine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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