Steampowered Dieselpunk Aircraft

Another wonderful piece of tech art I found on DeviantArt. The concept behind it is rather weird, but we can still dream, can’t we?

So, to sum up what this is about: This is an experimental German aircraft (from a completely different time line) powered by a steam turbine.  I actually wonder if it would be possible to create a steam engine efficient enough to get a figher aircraft into the air.

If any of my readers happen to be aeronautical engineers, I would appreciate some input regarding this matter.

Steampowered fighter plane by CUTANGUS

Steampowered Fighter Aircraft 2 by CUTANGUS

The artist, as you can see in the image, is CUTANGUS. Check out his gallery on DeviantArt! He has quite a collection of all sorts of flying machine, some very Dieselpunk, others far more advanced than that.


9 Responses to Steampowered Dieselpunk Aircraft

  1. Pingback:Steampowered Dieselpunk Aircraft | The Traveler's Steampunk Blog | Aevs News of the Aetherverse |

  2. It reminds me of a cross between the VTOL Convair Pogo (design) and the coal-fired vessels from Mutant Chronicles (power source).

    I really don’t think a steam-powered fighter would be feasible. I’m no aeronautical engineer or anything, but I do have a pilot license.

    1) Power to Weight Ratio: The general consensus is that steam is simply inefficient compared to an internal combustion engine. If you had a 100hp steam engine and a 100hp internal combustion engine, the steam engine would likely be heavier since it requires a boiler, piping, a water supply, heavier fuels, etc. The gasoline engine is simply more compact. A fighter is supposed to be nimble and slender. The weight of a full steam engine would bog it down.

    2) Conversion to energy: Gasoline simply burns more quickly, so it takes less time to throttle up to power. I can throttle up a Cessna from idle to full power in a couple seconds. The fuel ignites in the cylinders and directly drives the pistons and turns the propeller shaft..

    To do the same in a steam engine requires far more time. The energy is harder to extract from the slow-burning fuel. Even when the fuel is burning it then needs to heat the mass of the water which then needs to boil and convert to steam. Only then can that energy be directed to the transmission or propeller. Along the way, some of the energy is wasted.

    3) Fuel Type: Gasoline is of course stored in tanks, which can be put under pressure via pumps so that it can be forced into the engine even during maneuvering. Early fighter aircraft like the P-40 didn’t have fuel injection, so their engines would die under negative G-loading.

    So, for our airborne steam engine we’d use fuel oil instead of coal or wood. However, even then, steam rises. What if the aircraft maneuvers and rolls inverted. Would the rising steam go to the now-bottom of the tank and cut off the power?

    Just my opinion. Someone with an engineering background may feel differently.

    • Hey Mark,

      this is quite a lot of information, thank you. And even though you are not an engineer, the reasons you give why it would most likely not be feasable are very reasonable and fit to what I heard before.

  3. Avatar michael R. Himes
    michael R. Himes says:

    The aircraft is the proposed ME – 264 never built. 6,000 hp 17′ 6″ prop. Used a slurry of coal in water to produce steam. It was indeed a VTOL aircraft intercepter concept.

  4. Avatar Ed Woods
    Ed Woods says:

    It’s not so outlandish an idea as you may think. Osermaschinen claimed that the advantages of steam turbine power were the time between overhauls was as much as 10 times that for piston engine; constant power at varying heights; capacity for 100% overloading for extended periods (e.g. on a 6,000hp engine you can go to 12,000hp War Emergency Power); full steam output in 5-10 seconds from start-up; not sensitive to low temperatures; simple to control and poor quality fuels could be used.

    They had made some progress on this before the war’s end.

    M. Rossmore.

    1) Power to Weight Ratio. The proposed aircraft was steam turbine powered, which would be about 40% efficient. The average i/c engine, even with turbochargers, averages around 20%. Things such as boilers are an issue as regards to weight, but a steam powered (piston) aeroplane was successfully flown in 1933 and the performance was not notably worse than the standard i/c model of that aeroplane. The Bristol Tramp of 1920 was to be steam turbine powered, but the 3000 hp available was too powerful for the airframe and there was an issue with getting a lightweight boiler and condenser circuit.

    Osermaschinen’s 1944 design requirements for the Luftwaffe plane’s turbine specified 6,000hp @ 6,000rpm for the turbine, a power to weight ratio for the entire installation of 1.5lb/hp and a Specific Fuel Consumption of 0.42lb/hp/hr. The Me 264’s predicted service ceiling with conventional engines was 26,000ft and as steam turbines are unaffected by altitude, it’s possible it could’ve gone higher.

    For comparison the specifications for the contemporary Allison V-1710 used in the P-38 Lightning were 1,500hp @ 3,000rpm, a power to weight ratio for the entire installation of 0.93lb/hp and a Specific Fuel Consumption of 0.365 lb/hp/hr. It was however badly affected by altitude and was limited to 15,000ft.

    Steam engines can run on a far wider range of fuels than i/c engines, due to the fact that the fuels aren’t subjected to compression and can therefore be anything that burns. That was the reason why the fuel-starved Third Reich considered them: why would they consider adopting a type of engine that was even more fussy about the type of fuel used than i/c engines? Steam engines can quite happily run on light fuels such as alcohol.

    2) Conversion to energy. It would take time to get up to operating temperature, but flash boilers can develop full pressure in 30 seconds and the Germans believed they could get full pressure in 5 – 10 seconds, so not much of a disadvantage really. The engine would also be steam throttled, so fluctuations in power would be instantaneous. The Germans had fuel shortages that affected all of their aircraft, including jets, but all things being equal there’d be no reason why they wouldn’t have used standard aviation fuel if it was available. Therefore your point about slow burning, heavy fuel is incorrect. The efficiency issue I’ve addressed above.

    3) Fuel Type. What makes you believe that fuel for a steam turbine wouldn’t be stored in tanks and pressurised? All liquid fuels used for transport purposes are stored in tanks. A steam engine using liquid fuel would require it to be pumped into the burner, as the action of the engine itself would not draw the fuel, as with an i/c engine. The German steam turbine was fitted with a combustion air draught fan to supply air to the burner, so presumably the fuel was injected into the burner too.

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by this.

    „Early fighter aircraft like the P-40 didn’t have fuel injection, so their engines would die under negative G-loading. So, for our airborne steam engine we’d use fuel oil instead of coal or wood. However, even then, steam rises. What if the aircraft maneuvers and rolls inverted. Would the rising steam go to the now-bottom of the tank and cut off the power?“

    I think you perhaps don’t fully understand how steam works as a fluid. The P-40 had liquid fuel and as a liquid it would have a fixed volume. Steam is a gas and does not have a fixed volume, so therefore fills any container it is in. Turning a container of liquid upside-down would mean the liquid would indeed flow away from the outlet, e.g. the pipe to the carburettor. Turning a steam generator upside-down would do nothing, as it is a pressurised vessel with steam at well over 1,000psi, (Junkers designed an earlier aero-steam turbine that was to deliver 3,000hp at 1,470psi) and the steam exerting an equal pressure all round. If all steam did was float upwards there’d be no need to reinforce the bottoms of steam generators.

  5. Avatar Ed Woods
    Ed Woods says:

    That aircraft is not an Me-264, which resembled a B-29.
    It’s the artist’s own design and slightly resembles a Focke-Wulf Triebflügel.

  6. Hey Ed,
    wow! Quite sone information you provided here. Thank you so much for the feedback and in-depth information. I have to dig into this myself now once more.

  7. Also remember that water steam may be generated at lower and lower temperatures as atmospheric pressure decreases. Perhaps the steam lines don’t have to carry such high temperature. OR use a different fluid than water (like alcohol) for turning the turbine…

    What was the name of the Junkers engine? I want to see this monster!

  8. Hello again! 🙂 The Junkers 4,000 hp steam turbine (Professor Lösel and Dipl-Ing Pauker at the Technische Hochschule) was about 1/2 the length and 2/3 the height of the Jumo 213. That’s roughly 1225mm long x 565mm high, but double the power of 2,022hp. It was cancelled in 1942.