Energy & Power
The Museum's collections on energy and power illuminate the role of fire, steam, wind, water, electricity, and the atom in the nation's history. The artifacts include wood-burning stoves, water turbines, and windmills, as well as steam, gas, and diesel engines. Oil-exploration and coal-mining equipment form part of these collections, along with a computer that controlled a power plant and even bubble chambers—a tool of physicists to study protons, electrons, and other charged particles.
A special strength of the collections lies in objects related to the history of electrical power, including generators, batteries, cables, transformers, and early photovoltaic cells. A group of Thomas Edison's earliest light bulbs are a precious treasure. Hundreds of other objects represent the innumerable uses of electricity, from streetlights and railway signals to microwave ovens and satellite equipment.
- Liquid natural gas (LNG) is composed mostly of methane (80–99%). For shipping, it is chilled to -260°F, at which point it is condensed into a liquid 1/600 of its original volume. It is transported globally in this form aboard ships with insulated containers that offload it at special terminals.
- LNG tankers have been around the United States since 1959, when the first cargo was exported from Lake Charles, Louisiana, to England. There are around 200 LNG tankers in service in 2007, and nearly that many more are on order at specialized shipyards to meet the globe’s growing demand for this source of energy.
- LNG tankers have completed more than 40,000 voyages without serious incident; they have the best safety record of any category of commercial shipping. However, they are among the world’s most expensive and difficult ships to build.
- Methane Shirley Elisabeth is one of the newest types of LNG tankers, having been delivered to its owners in March 2007. Its double hulls, separated by six feet of seawater, protect the four gas tanks, which are refrigerated and insulated to maintain the -260°F temperature. The tanks, or membranes, consist of layers of stainless steel and other materials alternating with thick foam insulation. The insides of the membranes are lined with stainless steel, corrugated in two dimensions to prevent the frozen gas from sloshing around inside.
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