A Corliss steam engine (or Corliss engine) is a steam engine, fitted with rotary valves and with variable valve timing patented in 1849, invented by and named after the American engineer George Henry Corliss in Providence, Rhode Island.
Engines fitted with Corliss valve gear offered the best thermal efficiency of any type of stationary steam engine until the refinement of the uniflow steam engine and steam turbine in the 20th century. Corliss engines were generally about 30 percent more fuel efficient than conventional steam engines with fixed cutoff. This increased efficiency made steam power more economical than water power, allowing industrial development away from millponds.
Corliss engines were typically used as stationary engines to provide mechanical power to line shafting in factories and mills and to drive dynamos to generate electricity. Many were quite large, standing many metres tall and developing several hundred horsepower, albeit at low speed, turning massive flywheels weighing several tons at about 100 revolutions per minute. Some of these engines have unusual roles as mechanical legacy systems and because of their relatively high efficiency and low maintenance requirements, some remain in service in early 21st century (see, for example, the engines at the Hook Norton Brewery and the Distillerie Dillon in the list of operational engines).
1 Corliss engine mechanisms
1.1 Corliss valve gear
1.2 Corliss valves
1.3 Barring and barring engines
2 Company history
3 Centennial Engine
4 List of operational engines
5 See also
7 External links
Corliss engines have four valves for each cylinder, with steam and exhaust valves located at each end. Corliss engines incorporate distinct refinements in both the valves themselves and in the valve gear, that is, the system of linkages that operate the valves.
The use of separate valves for admission and exhaust means that neither the valves nor the steam passages between cylinders and valves need to change temperature during the power and exhaust cycle, and it means that the timing of the admission and exhaust valves can be independently controlled. In contrast, conventional steam engines have a slide valve or piston valve that alternately feeds and exhausts through passages to each end of the cylinder. These passages are exposed to wide temperature swings during engine operation, and there are high temperature gradients within the valve mechanism itself.
Clark (1891) commented that the Corliss gear ‘is essentially a combination of elements previously known and used separately, affecting the cylinder and the valve-gear’.The origins of the Corliss gear with regard to previous steam valve gear was traced by Inglis (1868).