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Definition

turbine

A turbine is a machine that transforms rotational energy from a fluid that is picked up by a rotor system into usable work or energy. 

Turbines achieve this either through mechanical gearing or electromagnetic induction to produce electricity. Types of turbines include steam turbines, wind turbines, gas turbines or water turbines. Mechanical uses of turbine power go back to ancient Greece. The first wind wheels relied upon gearing and shafts to power machinery. Windmills and water wheels are forms of turbines too and might drive a millstone to grind grain, among other purposes.

Thermal steam turbines driven by burning oil or coal or the use of nuclear power are still among the most common methods of producing electricity. Green electricity applications include wind turbines and water turbines used in applications for wind power and tidal power.

Because of the turbine’s many applications in a wide variety of technologies, research is still ongoing to perfect turbine and rotor efficiency.

See a demonstration of how a wind turbine works:

This was last updated in January 2014
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