Why Does Steam Cause Severe Burns?

Sylvester_Foley_3G
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2016 2:59 pm

Why Does Steam Cause Severe Burns?

Hello,

I was looking back at my notes, and I kind of got confused on one of the questions on the Course Reader. It asked, Why does Steam Cause Severe Burns? I know that it has to do with the steam taking more energy to get to the degree of your hand than water does, but can someone elaborate on this for me please.

Thank you in advance
Sylvester :)

feodora_r_3d
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2016 2:59 pm

Re: Why Does Steam Cause Severe Burns?

Hi! steam cause severe burns because as steam touches our skin, It needs to change first from vapor to liquid. After changing from the liquid, its temperature then needs to change from 100 degrees (because steam is water vapor and it is at least at 100 degrees as water boils at 100 degrees) to that of the skin's temperature. This again requires a lot of energy. Thus, when steam "burns" our skin, the energy used is the sum of the energy needed in the phase change (vapor to liquid) and the energy needed during the change in temperature from 100 degrees to the skin's temperature. And this is why steam cause severe burns...

Hope this helps :)

Henry_Shin_3B
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2016 2:55 pm

Re: Why Does Steam Cause Severe Burns?

Whenever a substance touches another substance, the temperature of those substances change over time to reach a third, final temperature.

When your skin (about 37 degrees Celsius) touches boiling water at 100 degrees Celsius, heat will transfer from the water to your skin and the final temperature will be somewhere between 37 and 100 degrees Celsius.
When your skin touches steam at 100 degrees Celsius, however, the steam first needs to convert to water at 100 degrees Celsius (this is phase change, temperature stays constant, and emits heat), then make the same trip down to whatever third final temperature mentioned in the above scenario.

The heat emitted during the phase change emits a lot of heat. That's why steam will hurt a bit more than water at the same temperature.

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