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updated steam locomotive

drag thomas into the 21st century
  [vote for,

some countries that have little or no indigenous oil do however have plenty of coal. now we all know that old-fashioned steam engines, whilst spectacular, are horrendously inefficient. but how efficent could a coal-powered locomotive be if designed from a clean slate, using the latest modern technologies? a fluidised-bed combustor is cleaner & more efficient than a plain old boiler, the water would go through a heat exchanger... or perhaps use some other working fluid, or the combustor could drive a gas turbine directly. yes i suppose you could just burn the coal in a power station & run electric trains, but then you have transmission losses reticulating the electric power... and you need a proper electric train network to start with
philmckraken, Jun 07 2004

Make Hydrogen from Coal http://www.lbl.gov/...Mets%20LBNL0104.ppt
(no nuclear physics involved) [kbecker, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

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       Those fancy burners and filters are more than one train can drag around. They are only efficient and economic if you continuously use many MW of power. However, a train could carry hydrogen tanks with it. The tanks are simple and heavy; trains like that. It is fairly easy to make hydrogen from coal in a stationary system. It has been done for nearly a century now (see link for a modern approach).   

       Using hydrogen the train can do all kinds of modern stuff from plain combustion to fuel cells. The electrical path through fuel cells has the advantage that the train can recover braking energy.
kbecker, Jun 07 2004

       for sure, bring on the hydrogen economy - and you raise a good point; hydrogen is perhaps better suited to locomotives than say cars. but i'm thinking of places/countries that are not fully developed yet, and also of using a mix of technologies appropriate to the situation - i always admired the waste-sugar-cane fired steam train working on the sugar cane plantation. BTW i believe that there are designs for fluidised-bed home furnaces. i don't expect such designs to be incredibly efficient, just cheaper to run than diesels. (anyways bring on the genetically-engineered plants that 'grow' petroleum - i want to drive my gas-guzzler!)
philmckraken, Jun 07 2004

       {you're way better off with... a big fat carbon atom attached to the hydrogen} what about lots and lots of carbon atoms? no, wait... that's coal! and so we're back where i started
philmckraken, Jun 08 2004

       Current steam engine Technology uses natural gas for the burners rather than coal, and by current i mean the new engines built for preserved and heritage lines in the UK.
engineer1, Jun 08 2004

       Not exclusively. "Tornado", The Peppercorn A1 Pacific currently being built in Darlington, is designed for coal-firing, with the option of oil-firing. (I am not particularly interested in locomotives, but the works where it is being built are around 50 yards from my house.)
angel, Jun 08 2004


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