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Steam is water in the gas phase, which is formed when water boils. Steam is invisible; however, "steam" often refers to wet steam, the visible mist or aerosol of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses. At lower pressures, such as in the upper atmosphere or at the top of high mountains, water boils at a lower temperature than the nominal 100 °C (212 °F) at standard temperature and pressure. If heated further it becomes superheated steam.
The enthalpy of vaporization is the energy required to turn water into the gaseous form when it increases in volume by 1,700 times at standard temperature and pressure; this change in volume can be converted into mechanical work by steam engines such as reciprocating piston type engines and steam turbines, which are a sub-group of steam engines. Piston type steam engines played a central role to the Industrial Revolution and modern steam turbines are used to generate more than 80% of the world's electricity. If liquid water comes in contact with a very hot surface or depressurizes quickly below its vapor pressure, it can create a steam explosion. Steam explosions have been responsible for many foundry accidents, and may also have been responsible for much of the damage to the plant in the Chernobyl disaster.
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