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World's smallest steam engine wieghs less than 2 gms

Sixty one year old Iqbal Ahmed is the Guinness World Record for constructing the smallest working stationary steam engine, reports Satyen Mohapatra.

tech reviews Updated: Jul 21, 2007 21:44 IST
Satyen Mohapatra

Sixty one year old Iqbal Ahmed is a class nine drop out but today holds the Guinness World Record for constructing the smallest working stationary steam engine.

On Friday evening, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal gave him a plaque, appreciating his work, while giving away the India Innovation Pioneers Challenge Awards for 2006-07.

Guinness World Records has given him a certificate stating, "The smallest working stationary steam engine was constructed by Iqbal Ahmed of Nagpur, India, and has a flywheel measuring just 6.8 mm (0.267 inch) across. The machine stands at 6.8 mm (0.267 inches) high, and is 16.24 mm (0.639 inch) long and weighs 1.72 gm (0.06 oz)."

In an interview to the Hindustan Times, Dr Iqbal said, "With steam generated by 10 cc water, this engine can run for about two minutes. There is a separate boiler (45 mm high and 15 mm in diameter) which has to be connected to the steam intake nipple through a 1.5 inch pipe. The boiler is heated with an alcohol burner."

The tiny engine has a cylindrical body of brass with built in crankshaft bearings, piston, connecting rod and valve mechanism. While the smallest part is the 0.7 mm connecting pin, the largest is the 6.8 mm diameter flywheel. Its total length is 16.24 mm.

He said, "Watching the moving wheels of steam locomotives and toy Swiss electric train which my grandfather gave me when I was just seven year old, I had always dreamt of making engines one day."

Discontinuing studies due to family circumstances Iqbal worked in the lathe machine workshop set up by his father.

"Inspired in 1975 by a friend from England who sent me a book on model making with diagrams I slowly started making models of various steam engines, internal combustion engines which developed into a hobby," he said.

As a person fascinated by new challenge, Mr Iqbal said, "While the model making book gave dimensions of an eight inch stationary steam engine model, I created a four inch model in 1978 and thereafter went ahead and created a two inch one."

In 2001, Mr Iqbal made a one inch steam engine model and sent it for Guinness World Record but failed to make it. He was informed that the world record is held by a engine which is 17 mm high and weighing just 1.8 gm in weight.

"I took it as a challenge and same year constructed a smaller engine achieving the Guinness World Record."

Mr Iqbal's models have also been getting awards at the Sherline Machinist Challenge Competition, USA, since 2001.

In 2001, he got special recognition for miniature vertical steam engine. In 2004, he got third position and a special award for making miniature lathe machine working model. In 2005, he got second prize for making the four stroke four cylinder water cooled internal combustion engine without any design or blue print.

This year for the first time in the 16 year history of Sherline Machinist Challenge Competition, he got both the first and second prize award for a miniature 4.5 inch milling machine and a miniature 4 inch lathe machine respectively.

Mr Ahmed said that the prize winning lathe machine had been donated by him to Joe Martin Foundation at Vista, California, USA.

Mr Iqbal said, "Miniature models can be made but it is virtually impossible to make miniature models work. The model for which I hold the Guinness record cannot be made smaller than 5mm… I made all my miniature models and precision tooling on my big six feet lathe machine."

"Though, it's my hobby but miniature engines may generate electricity or be used for pumping water," he added.

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