Grading Your Steam

As with all things scientific and industrial, there are ways to quantify just how good steam is and where it can be used. We can think of these as three basic grades of steam: Utility, Culinary, and Pure. These essentially deal with how sterile the steam has to be, how much or how little water vapor it can carry, and what contaminants or additives it can be exposed to. Utility Steam There are numerous applications where the chemical make up of the steam isn’t a terribly big deal. Consider steam used for heating oil pipes. It doesn’t matter if the steam is wet or dry, if it contains any anti-corrosives, or if we put anti-freeze in it to prevent pipe bursts in the return lines. This is steam that’s never going to come into contact with humans, never touch food or clothes, or otherwise be an exposure risk. We put up a nice biohazard sign, some skulls and crossbones on the pipes, a sign that reads “if you drink, touch, or breath this, not only will you die, but it will be slow and painful,” and everything is pretty much set. The same can be said for steam used exclusively used to heat a building or dedicated to other purposes. In these environments, there’s not going to be human exposure, so it’s treated like any other chemical. In these instances, it’s helpful to use additives to extend the life of […]

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What Is Dry Steam?

Despite being a centuries old technology, steam is still an essential part of the industrial world. There are a ton of special uses cases for steam in manufacturing, chemical processing, and elsewhere in heavy industry. We use steam for precise temperature control in specialized vacuum systems, for heating oil and fluids over long distances, for electrical turbines, to push fluids through piping such as in distillation towers, to improve burner efficiency, and for drying things. You Do WHAT?! It turns out that steam is actually incredibly useful for drying things, typically clothe things, but it’s been used on paints and other parts of product drying. You mean for WRINKLES in clothes and pants, right? NOPE. Alright, let’s break out the physics. This is actually something weird and incredibly interesting. Starting with the basics. Matter has essentially three states that you’re going to actually experience in day to day life: Solid, Liquid, and Gas. We all know what these look like, right? Solid water is ice. Liquid water is… well tap water, ocean water, lake water, rain. Gas-water is steam, a big, white, puffy, and usually burn-inducing cloud rising up from those noodles I boiled last night (and got the burn on my hand for). It turns out, we’re not entirely right about how we think of steam. That white, puffy cloud steam makes? It’s not a gas. It’s a liquid. If you physically see steam, the thing you’re seeing isn’t […]

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