The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Density of Steam

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Cember, Herman. Introduction to Health Physics. McGraw-Hill Medical, 1996. "If the entire 3 L of water were vaporized, the density of the steam would be 3 kg/1000 m3 = 0.003 kg/m3" 0.003 kg/m3
Beiser, Arthur. Schaum's Outline of Applied Physics. McGraw-Hill, 2004. "At 100 ℃ and atmospheric pressure the heat of vaporization of steam is 2260 kJ/kg, the density of water is 103 kg/m3, and the density of steam is 0.6 kg/m3." 0.6 kg/m3
White, Frank M. Fluid Mechanics. McGraw-Hill, 2002. "Then the density estimate follows from the perfect gas law... 0.00607 slug/ft3." 3.1 kg/m3
Metz, Clyde R. Schaum's Outline of Physical Chemistry. McGraw-Hill, 1988. "The density of steam at 100 °C and 760.0 torr is 0.5974 kg m-3." 0.6 kg/m3
Joly, J. On the Steam Calorimeter. Proceedings of the Royal Society. 1889: 218. "Thus according to the latter observers, the density at 100 [℃] is 0.0006187 [g/m3]." 0.6 kg/m3

Water, while remarkable in its liquid form, becomes immensely more useful as a gas. Steam was the footing of the Industrial Revolution. With the invention and refinement of the steam engine many possibilities were created. In 1912, steam drove the Titanic, and is still used to power ships today. Smaller steam engines were used in factories and helped ramp up production. Today, perhaps even more importantly steam is used in the production of electricity; Nuclear power heats water into steam which rotates a turbine. The turbine spins a generator which makes electric current. This is where the density of steam comes in handy. Higher differences in density will cause a turbine to spin faster, and in turn be more powerful.

Steam also has some more exotic uses. The television show Mythbusters created a steam cannon, and while it was less than powerful, it was a successful proof of concept. The Mythbusters used steam at a much higher temperature than the boiling point; however, our daily interaction with steam happens at 100 °C and 1 atm, where it has a density of 0.6 kg/m3. This interaction is not high-tech or complicated, and we usually take it for granted. Steam causes that signature whistle that lets one know, tea is ready.

Dmitriy Gekhman -- 2007