Parsons' steam turbine-generator, 1884.

Image number: 10305251

Parsons' steam turbine-generator, 1884.

Detail. Made by Clarke, Chapman, Parsons & Co, this machine was the forerunner of the turbo-generators that today provide most of the world's electricity. It was the first prototype produced by Charles Parsons (1854-1931), who promoted the turbine as a smaller and more efficient alternative to the steam reciprocating engine. In the turbine, the expanding steam works continuously as it passes through many turbine stages. This gives far higher efficiency than was possible with the steam engine. The turbine combines freedom from vibration with the high speed suited to electrical generators. The turbine was also employed in marine propulsion. In 1894 Parsons launched his first turbine-powered boat, the SS Turbinia, which reached previously-unattainable speeds of up to 34 knots.

Image number:
Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
Date taken:
20 October 2003 13:51
Image rights:
Science Museum

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