Practical Airship Design Analysis of a Real System!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Steam Plants for Aircraft analysed in 1926!

I found an interesting report from NACA (NASA's original name) concerning the analysis and experimentation of light weight steamplants for use in aircraft.

The paper is entitled "Steam Power Plants in Aircraft" and compiled by  E.E. Wilson at the Bureau of Aeronautics in 1926, and you can get the paper in PDF format here.

In this paper the author analyses a lightweight boiler setup capable of generating sufficient steam at high enough pressures to power an aircraft. He then estimates the weight and efficiency of a complete system model using this boiler and compares it to the current internal combustion power plants used in the heavier than air craft of the time.

The result of the analysis is that with the current state of the art in 1926, using steam power for heavier than air craft was NOT practical. This is not really a surprise given the power/weight ratio of even an efficient boiler and turbine setup. However there were two constraints that really tipped the analysis over against the use of steam power for aircraft.

  1. Fuel consumption/efficiency of steam power compared to internal combustion power plants.
  2. Weight and area of the system for condensing the steam for re-use.
If you have been reading the other parts of my Practical Airship Design series you will note that neither of those constraints exist in the design of our airship!

First the fuel consumption issue doesn't exist because of our fantastical core, which uses no fuel but produces steam at potentially very high temperatures and pressures. Second the condensation issue is moot because the exhaust steam can simply be added to the lift system and condensed on the hull condenser as described in Part 4.

Interestingly enough the author concludes something similar and even postulates a turbine electric propulsion system, which was very cool to read indeed!

Again we do not have any worries about efficiency in our design.


Fascinating to see this analysis and it is an interesting read if you are curious about the analysis of a real system that could be implemented in an airship like I have been describing.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.
KJ

Here is the table of contents for the whole series of Practical Airship Design posts.

You can see all the posts related airships and airship design here.

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