What Is the Formula for Steam

What is the formula for steam? How can you show a child how steam can be used to power mechanics? If you're looking for an experiment that will demonstrate how steam works, you can try this simple project.

Making Steam
The formula for steam is simple. Water, when heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, will vaporize and become steam because the molecules can no longer stick together like they did at cooler temperatures. This makes the vapor lighter than the heavy water. Steam rises because it is warmer than the air around it. As steam rises, it cools and then condenses, returning to the state of water. If steam is released into air that is at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler, it freezes and becomes snow or ice.

The molecular formula for steam is exactly the same as that for water: two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, or H2O. Steam and water have the same chemical makeup; they're simply two different forms of the same material, with temperature the only difference between them.

Steam at Work
You can demonstrate how steam is formed and how powerful it is by performing this simple experiment. All you will need is a pot of water, a stove and a pinwheel with a long handle.

Place the pot of water on the stove and have your child hold the pinwheel over the pot. Point out that the pinwheel will not move on its own while sitting over the pot of cool water. Now turn on the burner to high and let your child continue to hold the pinwheel so that it is over the pot. Be sure that your child doesn't come in contact with the pot, the steam or the stove. For younger children, parents should hold the pinwheel.

Point out the initial bubbles inside the water as it heats, and the point where the water is boiling rapidly and steam is being produced. The rising steam will cause the pinwheel to rotate. Show your child that if the pinwheel moves out of the rising path of the steam, it stops rotating. Explain that this is the most basic demonstration of free-flowing steam power, but that contained steam can be pressurized and directed to power machinery.

Another fun experiment you can try requires a peeled, hard-boiled egg, a glass bottle with a neck slightly narrower than the girth of the peeled egg and hot steam. For this experiment, you will want to heat up a pot of water until it is boiling rapidly, then hold the glass bottle over the pot until you are sure it has filled with hot steam. Quickly place the peeled, hard-boiled egg on top of the bottle and set the bottle on the counter. As the steam cools and condenses back into water, it will create a suction power and suck the egg right into the bottle. This experiment shows another way that steam power can be used.

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