EXPERIMENTS WITH ALTERNATE CURRENTS OF HIGH POTENTIAL AND HIGH FREQUENCY
A Lecture Delivered before the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London
With a Portrait and Biographical Sketch of the Author
Biographical Sketch of Nikola Tesla.
While a large portion of the European family has been surging westward during the last three or four hundred years, settling the vast continents of America, another, but smaller, portion has been doing frontier work in the Old World, protecting the rear by beating back the "unspeakable Turk" and reclaiming gradually the fair lands that endure the curse of Mohammedan rule. For a long time the Slav people—who, after the battle of Kosovopjolje, in which the Turks defeated the Servians, retired to the confines of the present Montenegro, Dalmatia, Herzegovina and Bosnia, and "Borderland" of Austria—knew what it was to deal, as our Western pioneers did, with foes ceaselessly fretting against their frontier; and the races of these countries, through their strenuous struggle against the armies of the Crescent, have developed notable qualities of bravery and sagacity, while maintaining a patriotism and independence unsurpassed in any other nation.
It was in this interesting border region, and from among these valiant Eastern folk, that Nikola Tesla was born in the year 1857, and the fact that he, to-day, finds himself in America and one of our foremost electricians, is striking evidence of the extraordinary attractiveness alike of electrical pursuits and of the country where electricity enjoys its widest application. Mr. Tesla's native place was Smiljan, Lika, where his father was an eloquent clergyman of the Greek Church, in which, by the way, his family is still prominently represented. His mother enjoyed great fame throughout the countryside for her skill and originality in needlework, and doubtless transmitted her ingenuity to Nikola; though it naturally took another and more masculine direction.
The boy was early put to his books, and upon his father's removal to Gospic he spent four years in the public school, and later, three years in the Real School, as it is called. His escapades were such as most quick witted boys go through, although he varied the programme on one occasion by getting imprisoned in a remote mountain chapel rarely visited for service; and on another occasion by falling headlong into a huge kettle of boiling milk, just drawn from the paternal herds. A third curious episode was that connected with his efforts to fly when, attempting to navigate the air with the aid of an old umbrella, he had, as might be expected, a very bad fall, and was laid up for six weeks.
About this period he began to take delight in arithmetic and physics. One queer notion he had was to work out everything by three or the power of three. He was now sent to an aunt at Cartstatt, Croatia, to finish his studies in what is known as the Higher Real School. It was there that, coming from the rural fastnesses, he saw a steam engine for the first time with a pleasure that he remembers to this day. At Cartstatt he was so diligent as to compress the four years' course into three, and graduated in 1873. Returning home during an epidemic of cholera, he was stricken down by the disease and suffered so seriously from the consequences that his studies were interrupted for fully two years. But the time was not wasted, for he had become passionately fond of experimenting, and as much as his means and leisure permitted devoted his energies to electrical study and investigation. Up to this period it had been his father's intention to make a priest of him, and the idea hung over the young physicist like a very sword of Damocles. Finally he prevailed upon his worthy but reluctant sire to send him to Gratz in Austria to finish his studies at the Polytechnic School, and to prepare for work as professor of mathematics and physics. At Gratz he saw and operated a Gramme machine for the first time, and was so struck with the objections to the use of commutators and brushes that he made up his mind there and then to remedy that defect in dynamo-electric machines. In the second year of his course he abandoned the intention of becoming a teacher and took up the engineering curriculum. After three years of absence he returned home, sadly, to see his father die; but, having resolved to settle down in Austria, and recognizing the value of linguistic acquirements, he went to Prague and then to Buda-Pesth with the view of mastering the languages he deemed necessary. Up to this time he had never realized the enormous sacrifices that his parents had made in promoting his education, but he now began to feel the pinch and to grow unfamiliar with the image of Francis Joseph I. There was considerable lag between his dispatches and the corresponding remittance from home; and when the mathematical expression for the value of the lag assumed the shape of an eight laid flat on its back, Mr. Tesla became a very fair example of high thinking and plain living, but he made up his mind to the struggle and determined to go through depending solely on his own resources. Not desiring the fame of a faster, he cast about for a livelihood, and through the help of friends he secured a berth as assistant in the engineering department of the government telegraphs. The salary was five dollars a week. This brought him into direct contact with practical electrical work and ideas, but it is needless to say that his means did not admit of much experimenting. By the time he had extracted several hundred thousand square and cube roots for the public benefit, the limitations, financial and otherwise, of the position had become painfully apparent, and he concluded that the best thing to do was to make a valuable invention. He proceeded at once to make inventions, but their value was visible only to the eye of faith, and they brought no grist to the mill. Just at this time the telephone made its appearance in Hungary, and the success of that great invention determined his career, hopeless as the profession had thus far seemed to him. He associated himself at once with telephonic work, and made various telephonic inventions, including an operative repeater; but it did not take him long to discover that, being so remote from the scenes of electrical activity, he was apt to spend time on aims and results already reached by others, and to lose touch. Longing for new opportunities and anxious for the development of which he felt himself possible, if once he could place himself within the genial and direct influences of the gulf streams of electrical thought, he broke away from the ties and traditions of the past, and in 1881 made his way to Paris. Arriving in that city, the ardent young Likan obtained employment as an electrical engineer with one of the largest electric lighting companies. The next year he went to Strasburg to install a plant, and on returning to Paris sought to carry out a number of ideas that had now ripened into inventions. About this time, however, the remarkable progress of America in electrical industry attracted his attention, and once again staking everything on a single throw, he crossed the Atlantic.
Mr. Tesla buckled down to work as soon as he landed on these shores, put his best thought and skill into it, and soon saw openings for his talent. In a short while a proposition was made to him to start his own company, and, accepting the terms, he at once worked up a practical system of arc lighting, as well as a potential method of dynamo regulation, which in one form is now known as the "third brush regulation." He also devised a thermo-magnetic motor and other kindred devices, about which little was published, owing to legal complications. Early in 1887 the Tesla Electric Company of New York was formed, and not long after that Mr. Tesla produced his admirable and epoch-marking motors for multiphase alternating currents, in which, going back to his ideas of long ago, he evolved machines having neither commutator nor brushes. It will be remembered that about the time that Mr. Tesla brought out his motors, and read his thoughtful paper before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Professor Ferraris, in Europe, published his discovery of principles analogous to those enunciated by Mr. Tesla. There is no doubt, however, that Mr. Tesla was an independent inventor of this rotary field motor, for although anticipated in dates by Ferraris, he could not have known about Ferraris' work as it had not been published. Professor Ferraris stated himself, with becoming modesty, that he did not think Tesla could have known of his (Ferraris') experiments at that time, and adds that he thinks Tesla was an independent and original inventor of this principle. With such an acknowledgment from Ferraris there can be little doubt about Tesla's originality in this matter.
Mr. Tesla's work in this field was wonderfully timely, and its worth was promptly appreciated in various quarters. The Tesla patents were acquired by the Westinghouse Electric Company, who undertook to develop his motor and to apply it to work of different kinds. Its use in mining, and its employment in printing, ventilation, etc., was described and illustrated in The Electrical World some years ago. The immense stimulus that the announcement of Mr. Tesla's work gave to the study of alternating current motors would, in itself, be enough to stamp him as a leader.
Mr. Tesla is only 35 years of age. He is tall and spare with a clean-cut, thin, refined face, and eyes that recall all the stories one has read of keenness of vision and phenomenal ability to see through things. He is an omnivorous reader, who never forgets; and he possesses the peculiar facility in languages that enables the least educated native of eastern Europe to talk and write in at least half a dozen tongues. A more congenial companion cannot be desired for the hours when one "pours out heart affluence in discursive talk," and when the conversation, dealing at first with things near at hand and next to us, reaches out and rises to the greater questions of life, duty and destiny.
In the year 1890 he severed his connection with the Westinghouse Company, since which time he has devoted himself entirely to the study of alternating currents of high frequencies and very high potentials, with which study he is at present engaged. No comment is necessary on his interesting achievements in this field; the famous London lecture published in this volume is a proof in itself. His first lecture on his researches in this new branch of electricity, which he may be said to have created, was delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers on May 20, 1891, and remains one of the most interesting papers read before that society. It will be found reprinted in full in The Electrical World, July 11, 1891. Its publication excited such interest abroad that he received numerous requests from English and French electrical engineers and scientists to repeat it in those countries, the result of which has been the interesting lecture published in this volume.
The present lecture presupposes a knowledge of the former, but it may be read and understood by any one even though he has not read the earlier one. It forms a sort of continuation of the latter, and includes chiefly the results of his researches since that time.
EXPERIMENTS WITH ALTERNATE CURRENTS OF HIGH POTENTIAL AND HIGH FREQUENCY
I cannot find words to express how deeply I feel the honor of addressing some of the foremost thinkers of the present time, and so many able scientific men, engineers and electricians, of the country greatest in scientific achievements.
The results which I have the honor to present before such a gathering I cannot call my own. There are among you not a few who can lay better claim than myself on any feature of merit which this work may contain. I need not mention many names which are world-known—names of those among you who are recognized as the leaders in this enchanting science; but one, at least, I must mention—a name which could not be omitted in a demonstration of this kind. It is a name associated with the most beautiful invention ever made: it is Crookes!
When I was at college, a good time ago, I read, in a translation (for then I was not familiar with your magnificent language), the description of his experiments on radiant matter. I read it only once in my life—that time—yet every detail about that charming work I can remember this day. Few are the books, let me say, which can make such an impression upon the mind of a student.
But if, on the present occasion, I mention this name as one of many your institution can boast of, it is because I have more than one reason to do so. For what I have to tell you and to show you this evening concerns, in a large measure, that same vague world which Professor Crookes has so ably explored; and, more than this, when I trace back the mental process which led me to these advances—which even by myself cannot be considered trifling, since they are so appreciated by you—I believe that their real origin, that which started me to work in this direction, and brought me to them, after a long period of constant thought, was that fascinating little book which I read many years ago.
And now that I have made a feeble effort to express my homage and acknowledge my indebtedness to him and others among you, I will make a second effort, which I hope you will not find so feeble as the first, to entertain you.
Give me leave to introduce the subject in a few words.
A short time ago I had the honor to bring before our American Institute of Electrical Engineers[A] some results then arrived at by me in a novel line of work. I need not assure you that the many evidences which I have received that English scientific men and engineers were interested in this work have been for me a great reward and encouragement. I will not dwell upon the experiments already described, except with the view of completing, or more clearly expressing, some ideas advanced by me before, and also with the view of rendering the study here presented self-contained, and my remarks on the subject of this evening's lecture consistent.
[Footnote A: For Mr. Tesla's American lecture on this subject see THE ELECTRICAL WORLD of July 11, 1891, and for a report of his French lecture see THE ELECTRICAL WORLD of March 26, 1892.]
This investigation, then, it goes without saying, deals with alternating currents, and, to be more precise, with alternating currents of high potential and high frequency. Just in how much a very high frequency is essential for the production of the results presented is a question which even with my present experience, would embarrass me to answer. Some of the experiments may be performed with low frequencies; but very high frequencies are desirable, not only on account of the many effects secured by their use, but also as a convenient means of obtaining, in the induction apparatus employed, the high potentials, which in their turn are necessary to the demonstration of most of the experiments here contemplated.
Of the various branches of electrical investigation, perhaps the most interesting and immediately the most promising is that dealing with alternating currents. The progress in this branch of applied science has been so great in recent years that it justifies the most sanguine hopes. Hardly have we become familiar with one fact, when novel experiences are met with and new avenues of research are opened. Even at this hour possibilities not dreamed of before are, by the use of these currents, partly realized. As in nature all is ebb and tide, all is wave motion, so it seems that; in all branches of industry alternating currents—electric wave motion—will have the sway.
One reason, perhaps, why this branch of science is being so rapidly developed is to be found in the interest which is attached to its experimental study. We wind a simple ring of iron with coils; we establish the connections to the generator, and with wonder and delight we note the effects of strange forces which we bring into play, which allow us to transform, to transmit and direct energy at will. We arrange the circuits properly, and we see the mass of iron and wires behave as though it were endowed with life, spinning a heavy armature, through invisible connections, with great speed and power—with the energy possibly conveyed from a great distance. We observe how the energy of an alternating current traversing the wire manifests itself—not so much in the wire as in the surrounding space—in the most surprising manner, taking the forms of heat, light, mechanical energy, and, most surprising of all, even chemical affinity. All these observations fascinate us, and fill us with an intense desire to know more about the nature of these phenomena. Each day we go to our work in the hope of discovering,—in the hope that some one, no matter who, may find a solution of one of the pending great problems,—and each succeeding day we return to our task with renewed ardor; and even if we are unsuccessful, our work has not been in vain, for in these strivings, in these efforts, we have found hours of untold pleasure, and we have directed our energies to the benefit of mankind.
We may take—at random, if you choose—any of the many experiments which may be performed with alternating currents; a few of which only, and by no means the most striking, form the subject of this evening's demonstration: they are all equally interesting, equally inciting to thought.
Here is a simple glass tube from which the air has been partially exhausted. I take hold of it; I bring my body in contact with a wire conveying alternating currents of high potential, and the tube in my hand is brilliantly lighted. In whatever position I may put it, wherever I may move it in space, as far as I can reach, its soft, pleasing light persists with undiminished brightness.
Here is an exhausted bulb suspended from a single wire. Standing on an insulated support. I grasp it, and a platinum button mounted in it is brought to vivid incandescence.
Here, attached to a leading wire, is another bulb, which, as I touch its metallic socket, is filled with magnificent colors of phosphorescent light.
Here still another, which by my fingers' touch casts a shadow—the Crookes shadow, of the stem inside of it.
Here, again, insulated as I stand on this platform, I bring my body in contact with one of the terminals of the secondary of this induction coil—with the end of a wire many miles long—and you see streams of light break forth from its distant end, which is set in violent vibration.
Here, once more, I attach these two plates of wire gauze to the terminals of the coil. I set them a distance apart, and I set the coil to work. You may see a small spark pass between the plates. I insert a thick plate of one of the best dielectrics between them, and instead of rendering altogether impossible, as we are used to expect, I aid the passage of the discharge, which, as I insert the plate, merely changes in appearance and assumes the form of luminous streams.
Is there, I ask, can there be, a more interesting study than that of alternating currents?
In all these investigations, in all these experiments, which are so very, very interesting, for many years past—ever since the greatest experimenter who lectured in this hall discovered its principle—we have had a steady companion, an appliance familiar to every one, a plaything once, a thing of momentous importance now—the induction coil. There is no dearer appliance to the electrician. From the ablest among you, I dare say, down to the inexperienced student, to your lecturer, we all have passed many delightful hours in experimenting with the induction coil. We have watched its play, and thought and pondered over the beautiful phenomena which it disclosed to our ravished eyes. So well known is this apparatus, so familiar are these phenomena to every one, that my courage nearly fails me when I think that I have ventured to address so able an audience, that I have ventured to entertain you with that same old subject. Here in reality is the same apparatus, and here are the same phenomena, only the apparatus is operated somewhat differently, the phenomena are presented in a different aspect. Some of the results we find as expected, others surprise us, but all captivate our attention, for in scientific investigation each novel result achieved may be the centre of a new departure, each novel fact learned may lead to important developments.
Usually in operating an induction coil we have set up a vibration of moderate frequency in the primary, either by means of an interrupter or break, or by the use of an alternator. Earlier English investigators, to mention only Spottiswoode and J.E.H. Gordon, have used a rapid break in connection with the coil. Our knowledge and experience of to-day enables us to see clearly why these coils under the conditions of the tests did not disclose any remarkable phenomena, and why able experimenters failed to perceive many of the curious effects which have since been observed.
In the experiments such as performed this evening, we operate the coil either from a specially constructed alternator capable of giving many thousands of reversals of current per second, or, by disruptively discharging a condenser through the primary, we set up a vibration in the secondary circuit of a frequency of many hundred thousand or millions per second, if we so desire; and in using either of these means we enter a field as yet unexplored.
It is impossible to pursue an investigation in any novel line without finally making some interesting observation or learning some useful fact. That this statement is applicable to the subject of this lecture the many curious and unexpected phenomena which we observe afford a convincing proof. By way of illustration, take for instance the most obvious phenomena, those of the discharge of the induction coil.
Here is a coil which is operated by currents vibrating with extreme rapidity, obtained by disruptively discharging a Leyden jar. It would not surprise a student were the lecturer to say that the secondary of this coil consists of a small length of comparatively stout wire; it would not surprise him were the lecturer to state that, in spite of this, the coil is capable of giving any potential which the best insulation of the turns is able to withstand: but although he may be prepared, and even be indifferent as to the anticipated result, yet the aspect of the discharge of the coil will surprise and interest him. Every one is familiar with the discharge of an ordinary coil; it need not be reproduced here. But, by way of contrast, here is a form of discharge of a coil, the primary current of which is vibrating several hundred thousand times per second. The discharge of an ordinary coil appears as a simple line or band of light. The discharge of this coil appears in the form of powerful brushes and luminous streams issuing from all points of the two straight wires attached to the terminals of the secondary. (Fig. 1.)
Now compare this phenomenon which you have just witnessed with the discharge of a Holtz or Wimshurst machine—that other interesting appliance so dear to the experimenter. What a difference there is between these phenomena! And yet, had I made the necessary arrangements—which could have been made easily, were it not that they would interfere with other experiments—I could have produced with this coil sparks which, had I the coil hidden from your view and only two knobs exposed, even the keenest observer among you would find it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from those of an influence or friction machine. This may be done in many ways—for instance, by operating the induction coil which charges the condenser from an alternating-current machine of very low frequency, and preferably adjusting the discharge circuit so that there are no oscillations set up in it. We then obtain in the secondary circuit, if the knobs are of the required size and properly set, a more or less rapid succession of sparks of great intensity and small quantity, which possess the same brilliancy, and are accompanied by the same sharp crackling sound, as those obtained from a friction or influence machine.
Another way is to pass through two primary circuits, having a common secondary, two currents of a slightly different period, which produce in the secondary circuit sparks occurring at comparatively long intervals. But, even with the means at hand this evening, I may succeed in imitating the spark of a Holtz machine. For this purpose I establish between the terminals of the coil which charges the condenser a long, unsteady arc, which is periodically interrupted by the upward current of air produced by it. To increase the current of air I place on each side of the arc, and close to it, a large plate of mica. The condenser charged from this coil discharges into the primary circuit of a second coil through a small air gap, which is necessary to produce a sudden rush of current through the primary. The scheme of connections in the present experiment is indicated in Fig. 2.
G is an ordinarily constructed alternator, supplying the primary P of an induction coil, the secondary S of which charges the condensers or jars CC. The terminals of the secondary are connected to the inside coatings of the jars, the outer coatings being connected to the ends of the primary pp of a second induction coil. This primary pp has a small air gap ab.
The secondary s of this coil is provided with knobs or spheres KK of the proper size and set at a distance suitable for the experiment.
A long arc is established between the terminals AB of the first induction coil. MM are the mica plates.
Each time the arc is broken between A and B the jars are quickly charged and discharged through the primary pp, producing a snapping spark between the knobs KK. Upon the arc forming between A and B the potential falls, and the jars cannot be charged to such high potential as to break through the air gap ab until the arc is again broken by the draught.
In this manner sudden impulses, at long intervals, are produced in the primary pp, which in the secondary s give a corresponding number of impulses of great intensity. If the secondary knobs or spheres, KK, are of the proper size, the sparks show much resemblance to those of a Holtz machine.
But these two effects, which to the eye appear so very different, are only two of the many discharge phenomena. We only need to change the conditions of the test, and again we make other observations of interest.
When, instead of operating the induction coil as in the last two experiments, we operate it from a high frequency alternator, as in the next experiment, a systematic study of the phenomena is rendered much more easy. In such case, in varying the strength and frequency of the currents through the primary, we may observe five distinct forms of discharge, which I have described in my former paper on the subject[A] before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, May 20, 1891.
[Footnote A: See THE ELECTRICAL WORLD, July 11, 1891.]
It would take too much time, and it would lead us too far from the subject presented this evening, to reproduce all these forms, but it seems to me desirable to show you one of them. It is a brush discharge, which is interesting in more than one respect. Viewed from a near position it resembles much a jet of gas escaping under great pressure. We know that the phenomenon is due to the agitation of the molecules near the terminal, and we anticipate that some heat must be developed by the impact of the molecules against the terminal or against each other. Indeed, we find that the brush is hot, and only a little thought leads us to the conclusion that, could we but reach sufficiently high frequencies, we could produce a brush which would give intense light and heat, and which would resemble in every particular an ordinary flame, save, perhaps, that both phenomena might not be due to the same agent—save, perhaps, that chemical affinity might not be electrical in its nature.
As the production of heat and light is here due to the impact of the molecules, or atoms of air, or something else besides, and, as we can augment the energy simply by raising the potential, we might, even with frequencies obtained from a dynamo machine, intensify the action to such a degree as to bring the terminal to melting heat. But with such low frequencies we would have to deal always with something of the nature of an electric current. If I approach a conducting object to the brush, a thin little spark passes, yet, even with the frequencies used this evening, the tendency to spark is not very great. So, for instance, if I hold a metallic sphere at some distance above the terminal you may see the whole space between the terminal and sphere illuminated by the streams without the spark passing; and with the much higher frequencies obtainable by the disruptive discharge of a condenser, were it not for the sudden impulses, which are comparatively few in number, sparking would not occur even at very small distances. However, with incomparably higher frequencies, which we may yet find means to produce efficiently, and provided that electric impulses of such high frequencies could be transmitted through a conductor, the electrical characteristics of the brush discharge would completely vanish—no spark would pass, no shock would be felt—yet we would still have to deal with an electric phenomenon, but in the broad, modern interpretation of the word. In my first paper before referred to I have pointed out the curious properties of the brush, and described the best manner of producing it, but I have thought it worth while to endeavor to express myself more clearly in regard to this phenomenon, because of its absorbing interest.
When a coil is operated with currents of very high frequency, beautiful brush effects may be produced, even if the coil be of comparatively small dimensions. The experimenter may vary them in many ways, and, if it were nothing else, they afford a pleasing sight. What adds to their interest is that they may be produced with one single terminal as well as with two—in fact, often better with one than with two.
But of all the discharge phenomena observed, the most pleasing to the eye, and the most instructive, are those observed with a coil which is operated by means of the disruptive discharge of a condenser. The power of the brushes, the abundance of the sparks, when the conditions are patiently adjusted, is often amazing. With even a very small coil, if it be so well insulated as to stand a difference of potential of several thousand volts per turn, the sparks may be so abundant that the whole coil may appear a complete mass of fire.
Curiously enough the sparks, when the terminals of the coil are set at a considerable distance, seem to dart in every possible direction as though the terminals were perfectly independent of each other. As the sparks would soon destroy the insulation it is necessary to prevent them. This is best done by immersing the coil in a good liquid insulator, such as boiled-out oil. Immersion in a liquid may be considered almost an absolute necessity for the continued and successful working of such a coil.
It is of course out of the question, in an experimental lecture, with only a few minutes at disposal for the performance of each experiment, to show these discharge phenomena to advantage, as to produce each phenomenon at its best a very careful adjustment is required. But even if imperfectly produced, as they are likely to be this evening, they are sufficiently striking to interest an intelligent audience.
Before showing some of these curious effects I must, for the sake of completeness, give a short description of the coil and other apparatus used in the experiments with the disruptive discharge this evening.
It is contained in a box B (Fig. 3) of thick boards of hard wood, covered on the outside with zinc sheet Z, which is carefully soldered all around. It might be advisable, in a strictly scientific investigation, when accuracy is of great importance, to do away with the metal cover, as it might introduce many errors, principally on account of its complex action upon the coil, as a condenser of very small capacity and as an electrostatic and electromagnetic screen. When the coil is used for such experiments as are here contemplated, the employment of the metal cover offers some practical advantages, but these are not of sufficient importance to be dwelt upon.
The coil should be placed symmetrically to the metal cover, and the space between should, of course, not be too small, certainly not less than, say, five centimetres, but much more if possible; especially the two sides of the zinc box, which are at right angles to the axis of the coil, should be sufficiently remote from the latter, as otherwise they might impair its action and be a source of loss.
The coil consists of two spools of hard rubber RR, held apart at a distance of 10 centimetres by bolts c and nuts n, likewise of hard rubber. Each spool comprises a tube T of approximately 8 centimetres inside diameter, and 3 millimetres thick, upon which are screwed two flanges FF, 24 centimetres square, the space between the flanges being about 3 centimetres. The secondary, SS, of the best gutta percha-covered wire, has 26 layers, 10 turns in each, giving for each half a total of 260 turns. The two halves are wound oppositely and connected in series, the connection between both being made over the primary. This disposition, besides being convenient, has the advantage that when the coil is well balanced—that is, when both of its terminals T1 T1 are connected to bodies or devices of equal capacity—there is not much danger of breaking through to the primary, and the insulation between the primary and the secondary need not be thick. In using the coil it is advisable to attach to both terminals devices of nearly equal capacity, as, when the capacity of the terminals is not equal, sparks will be apt to pass to the primary. To avoid this, the middle point of the secondary may be connected to the primary, but this is not always practicable.
The primary PP is wound in two parts, and oppositely, upon a wooden spool W, and the four ends are led out of the oil through hard rubber tubes tt. The ends of the secondary T1 T1 are also led out of the oil through rubber tubes t1 t1 of great thickness. The primary and secondary layers are insulated by cotton cloth, the thickness of the insulation, of course, bearing some proportion to the difference of potential between the turns of the different layers. Each half of the primary has four layers, 24 turns in each, this giving a total of 96 turns. When both the parts are connected in series, this gives a ratio of conversion of about 1:2.7, and with the primaries in multiple, 1:5.4; but in operating with very rapidly alternating currents this ratio does not convey even an approximate idea of the ratio of the E.M.Fs. in the primary and secondary circuits. The coil is held in position in the oil on wooden supports, there being about 5 centimetres thickness of oil all round. Where the oil is not specially needed, the space is filled with pieces of wood, and for this purpose principally the wooden box B surrounding the whole is used.
The construction here shown is, of course, not the best on general principles, but I believe it is a good and convenient one for the production of effects in which an excessive potential and a very small current are needed.
In connection with the coil I use either the ordinary form of discharger or a modified form. In the former I have introduced two changes which secure some advantages, and which are obvious. If they are mentioned, it is only in the hope that some experimenter may find them of use.
One of the changes is that the adjustable knobs A and B (Fig. 4), of the discharger are held in jaws of brass, JJ, by spring pressure, this allowing of turning them successively into different positions, and so doing away with the tedious process of frequent polishing up.
The other change consists in the employment of a strong electromagnet NS, which is placed with its axis at right angles to the line joining the knobs A and B, and produces a strong magnetic field between them. The pole pieces of the magnet are movable and properly formed so as to protrude between the brass knobs, in order to make the field as intense as possible; but to prevent the discharge from jumping to the magnet the pole pieces are protected by a layer of mica, MM, of sufficient thickness. s1 s1 and s2 s2 are screws for fastening the wires. On each side one of the screws is for large and the other for small wires. LL are screws for fixing in position the rods RR, which support the knobs.
In another arrangement with the magnet I take the discharge between the rounded pole pieces themselves, which in such case are insulated and preferably provided with polished brass caps.
The employment of an intense magnetic field is of advantage principally when the induction coil or transformer which charges the condenser is operated by currents of very low frequency. In such a case the number of the fundamental discharges between the knobs may be so small as to render the currents produced in the secondary unsuitable for many experiments. The intense magnetic field then serves to blow out the arc between the knobs as soon as it is formed, and the fundamental discharges occur in quicker succession.
Instead of the magnet, a draught or blast of air may be employed with some advantage. In this case the arc is preferably established between the knobs AB, in Fig. 2 (the knobs ab being generally joined, or entirely done away with), as in this disposition the arc is long and unsteady, and is easily affected by the draught.
When a magnet is employed to break the arc, it is better to choose the connection indicated diagrammatically in Fig. 5, as in this case the currents forming the arc are much more powerful, and the magnetic field exercises a greater influence. The use of the magnet permits, however, of the arc being replaced by a vacuum tube, but I have encountered great difficulties in working with an exhausted tube.
The other form of discharger used in these and similar experiments is indicated in Figs. 6 and 7. It consists of a number of brass pieces cc (Fig. 6), each of which comprises a spherical middle portion m with an extension e below—which is merely used to fasten the piece in a lathe when polishing up the discharging surface—and a column above, which consists of a knurled flange f surmounted by a threaded stem l carrying a nut n, by means of which a wire is fastened to the column. The flange f conveniently serves for holding the brass piece when fastening the wire, and also for turning it in any position when it becomes necessary to present a fresh discharging surface. Two stout strips of hard rubber RR, with planed grooves gg (Fig. 7) to fit the middle portion of the pieces cc, serve to clamp the latter and hold them firmly in position by means of two bolts CC (of which only one is shown) passing through the ends of the strips.
In the use of this kind of discharger I have found three principal advantages over the ordinary form. First, the dielectric strength of a given total width of air space is greater when a great many small air gaps are used instead of one, which permits of working with a smaller length of air gap, and that means smaller loss and less deterioration of the metal; secondly by reason of splitting the arc up into smaller arcs, the polished surfaces are made to last much longer; and, thirdly, the apparatus affords some gauge in the experiments. I usually set the pieces by putting between them sheets of uniform thickness at a certain very small distance which is known from the experiments of Sir William Thomson to require a certain electromotive force to be bridged by the spark.
It should, of course, be remembered that the sparking distance is much diminished as the frequency is increased. By taking any number of spaces the experimenter has a rough idea of the electromotive force, and he finds it easier to repeat an experiment, as he has not the trouble of setting the knobs again and again. With this kind of discharger I have been able to maintain an oscillating motion without any spark being visible with the naked eye between the knobs, and they would not show a very appreciable rise in temperature. This form of discharge also lends itself to many arrangements of condensers and circuits which are often very convenient and time-saving. I have used it preferably in a disposition similar to that indicated in Fig. 2, when the currents forming the arc are small.
I may here mention that I have also used dischargers with single or multiple air gaps, in which the discharge surfaces were rotated with great speed. No particular advantage was, however, gained by this method, except in cases where the currents from the condenser were large and the keeping cool of the surfaces was necessary, and in cases when, the discharge not being oscillating of itself, the arc as soon as established was broken by the air current, thus starting the vibration at intervals in rapid succession. I have also used mechanical interrupters in many ways. To avoid the difficulties with frictional contacts, the preferred plan adopted was to establish the arc and rotate through it at great speed a rim of mica provided with many holes and fastened to a steel plate. It is understood, of course, that the employment of a magnet, air current, or other interrupter, produces no effect worth noticing, unless the self-induction, capacity and resistance are so related that there are oscillations set up upon each interruption.
I will now endeavor to show you some of the most noteworthy of these discharge phenomena.
I have stretched across the room two ordinary cotton covered wires, each about 7 metres in length. They are supported on insulating cords at a distance of about 30 centimetres. I attach now to each of the terminals of the coil one of the wires and set the coil in action. Upon turning the lights off in the room you see the wires strongly illuminated by the streams issuing abundantly from their whole surface in spite of the cotton covering, which may even be very thick. When the experiment is performed under good conditions, the light from the wires is sufficiently intense to allow distinguishing the objects in a room. To produce the best result it is, of course, necessary to adjust carefully the capacity of the jars, the arc between the knobs and the length of the wires. My experience is that calculation of the length of the wires leads, in such case, to no result whatever. The experimenter will do best to take the wires at the start very long, and then adjust by cutting off first long pieces, and then smaller and smaller ones as he approaches the right length.
A convenient way is to use an oil condenser of very small capacity, consisting of two small adjustable metal plates, in connection with this and similar experiments. In such case I take wires rather short and set at the beginning the condenser plates at maximum distance. If the streams for the wires increase by approach of the plates, the length of the wires is about right; if they diminish the wires are too long for that frequency and potential. When a condenser is used in connection with experiments with such a coil, it should be an oil condenser by all means, as in using an air condenser considerable energy might be wasted. The wires leading to the plates in the oil should be very thin, heavily coated with some insulating compound, and provided with a conducting covering—this preferably extending under the surface of the oil. The conducting cover should not be too near the terminals, or ends, of the wire, as a spark would be apt to jump from the wire to it. The conducting coating is used to diminish the air losses, in virtue of its action as an electrostatic screen. As to the size of the vessel containing the oil, and the size of the plates, the experimenter gains at once an idea from a rough trial. The size of the plates in oil is, however, calculable, as the dielectric losses are very small.
In the preceding experiment it is of considerable interest to know what relation the quantity of the light emitted bears to the frequency and potential of the electric impulses. My opinion is that the heat as well as light effects produced should be proportionate, under otherwise equal conditions of test, to the product of frequency and square of potential, but the experimental verification of the law, whatever it may be, would be exceedingly difficult. One thing is certain, at any rate, and that is, that in augmenting the potential and frequency we rapidly intensify the streams; and, though it may be very sanguine, it is surely not altogether hopeless to expect that we may succeed in producing a practical illuminant on these lines. We would then be simply using burners or flames, in which there would be no chemical process, no consumption of material, but merely a transfer of energy, and which would, in all probability emit more light and less heat than ordinary flames.
The luminous intensity of the streams is, of course, considerably increased when they are focused upon a small surface. This may be shown by the following experiment:
I attach to one of the terminals of the coil a wire w (Fig. 8), bent in a circle of about 30 centimetres in diameter, and to the other terminal I fasten a small brass sphere s, the surface of the wire being preferably equal to the surface of the sphere, and the centre of the latter being in a line at right angles to the plane of the wire circle and passing through its centre. When the discharge is established under proper conditions, a luminous hollow cone is formed, and in the dark one-half of the brass sphere is strongly illuminated, as shown in the cut.
By some artifice or other, it is easy to concentrate the streams upon small surfaces and to produce very strong light effects. Two thin wires may thus be rendered intensely luminous.
In order to intensify the streams the wires should be very thin and short; but as in this case their capacity would be generally too small for the coil—at least, for such a one as the present—it is necessary to augment the capacity to the required value, while, at the same time, the surface of the wires remains very small. This may be done in many ways.
Here, for instance, I have two plates, RR, of hard rubber (Fig. 9), upon which I have glued two very thin wires ww, so as to form a name. The wires may be bare or covered with the best insulation—it is immaterial for the success of the experiment. Well insulated wires, if anything, are preferable. On the back of each plate, indicated by the shaded portion, is a tinfoil coating tt. The plates are placed in line at a sufficient distance to prevent a spark passing from one to the other wire. The two tinfoil coatings I have joined by a conductor C, and the two wires I presently connect to the terminals of the coil. It is now easy, by varying the strength and frequency of the currents through the primary, to find a point at which, the capacity of the system is best suited to the conditions, and the wires become so strongly luminous that, when the light in the room is turned off the name formed by them appears in brilliant letters.
It is perhaps preferable to perform this experiment with a coil operated from an alternator of high frequency, as then, owing to the harmonic rise and fall, the streams are very uniform, though they are less abundant then when produced with such a coil as the present. This experiment, however, may be performed with low frequencies, but much less satisfactorily.
When two wires, attached to the terminals of the coil, are set at the proper distance, the streams between them may be so intense as to produce a continuous luminous sheet. To show this phenomenon I have here two circles, C and c (Fig. 10), of rather stout wire, one being about 80 centimetres and the other 30 centimetres in diameter. To each of the terminals of the coil I attach one of the circles. The supporting wires are so bent that the circles may be placed in the same plane, coinciding as nearly as possible. When the light in the room is turned off and the coil set to work, you see the whole space between the wires uniformly filled with streams, forming a luminous disc, which could be seen from a considerable distance, such is the intensity of the streams. The outer circle could have been much larger than the present one; in fact, with this coil I have used much larger circles, and I have been able to produce a strongly luminous sheet, covering an area of more than one square metre, which is a remarkable effect with this very small coil. To avoid uncertainty, the circle has been taken smaller, and the area is now about 0.43 square metre.
The frequency of the vibration, and the quickness of succession of the sparks between the knobs, affect to a marked degree the appearance of the streams. When the frequency is very low, the air gives way in more or less the same manner, as by a steady difference of potential, and the streams consist of distinct threads, generally mingled with thin sparks, which probably correspond to the successive discharges occurring between the knobs. But when the frequency is extremely high, and the arc of the discharge produces a very loud but smooth sound—showing both that oscillation takes place and that the sparks succeed each other with great rapidity—then the luminous streams formed are perfectly uniform. To reach this result very small coils and jars of small capacity should be used. I take two tubes of thick Bohemian glass, about 5 centimetres in diameter and 20 centimetres long. In each of the tubes I slip a primary of very thick copper wire. On the top of each tube I wind a secondary of much thinner gutta-percha covered wire. The two secondaries I connect in series, the primaries preferably in multiple arc. The tubes are then placed in a large glass vessel, at a distance of 10 to 15 centimetres from each other, on insulating supports, and the vessel is filled with boiled out oil, the oil reaching about an inch above the tubes. The free ends of the secondary are lifted out of the oil and placed parallel to each other at a distance of about 10 centimetres. The ends which are scraped should be dipped in the oil. Two four-pint jars joined in series may be used to discharge through the primary. When the necessary adjustments in the length and distance of the wires above the oil and in the arc of discharge are made, a luminous sheet is produced between the wires which is perfectly smooth and textureless, like the ordinary discharge through a moderately exhausted tube.
I have purposely dwelt upon this apparently insignificant experiment. In trials of this kind the experimenter arrives at the startling conclusion that, to pass ordinary luminous discharges through gases, no particular degree of exhaustion is needed, but that the gas may be at ordinary or even greater pressure. To accomplish this, a very high frequency is essential; a high potential is likewise required, but this is a merely incidental necessity. These experiments teach us that, in endeavoring to discover novel methods of producing light by the agitation of atoms, or molecules, of a gas, we need not limit our research to the vacuum tube, but may look forward quite seriously to the possibility of obtaining the light effects without the use of any vessel whatever, with air at ordinary pressure.
Such discharges of very high frequency, which render luminous the air at ordinary pressures, we have probably often occasion to witness in Nature. I have no doubt that if, as many believe, the aurora borealis is produced by sudden cosmic disturbances, such as eruptions at the sun's surface, which set the electrostatic charge of the earth in an extremely rapid vibration, the red glow observed is not confined to the upper rarefied strata of the air, but the discharge traverses, by reason of its very high frequency, also the dense atmosphere in the form of a glow, such as we ordinarily produce in a slightly exhausted tube. If the frequency were very low, or even more so, if the charge were not at all vibrating, the dense air would break down as in a lightning discharge. Indications of such breaking down of the lower dense strata of the air have been repeatedly observed at the occurrence of this marvelous phenomenon; but if it does occur, it can only be attributed to the fundamental disturbances, which are few in number, for the vibration produced by them would be far too rapid to allow a disruptive break. It is the original and irregular impulses which affect the instruments; the superimposed vibrations probably pass unnoticed.
When an ordinary low frequency discharge is passed through moderately rarefied air, the air assumes a purplish hue. If by some means or other we increase the intensity of the molecular, or atomic, vibration, the gas changes to a white color. A similar change occurs at ordinary pressures with electric impulses of very high frequency. If the molecules of the air around a wire are moderately agitated, the brush formed is reddish or violet; if the vibration is rendered sufficiently intense, the streams become white. We may accomplish this in various ways. In the experiment before shown with the two wires across the room, I have endeavored to secure the result by pushing to a high value both the frequency and potential: in the experiment with the thin wires glued on the rubber plate I have concentrated the action upon a very small surface—in other words, I have worked with a great electric density.
A most curious form of discharge is observed with such a coil when the frequency and potential are pushed to the extreme limit. To perform the experiment, every part of the coil should be heavily insulated, and only two small spheres—or, better still, two sharp-edged metal discs (dd, Fig. 11) of no more than a few centimetres in diameter—should be exposed to the air. The coil here used is immersed in oil, and the ends of the secondary reaching out of the oil are covered with an air-tight cover of hard rubber of great thickness. All cracks, if there are any, should be carefully stopped up, so that the brush discharge cannot form anywhere except on the small spheres or plates which are exposed to the air. In this case, since there are no large plates or other bodies of capacity attached to the terminals, the coil is capable of an extremely rapid vibration. The potential may be raised by increasing, as far as the experimenter judges proper, the rate of change of the primary current. With a coil not widely differing from the present, it is best to connect the two primaries in multiple arc; but if the secondary should have a much greater number of turns the primaries should preferably be used in series, as otherwise the vibration might be too fast for the secondary. It occurs under these conditions that misty white streams break forth from the edges of the discs and spread out phantom-like into space. With this coil, when fairly well produced, they are about 25 to 30 centimetres long. When the hand is held against them no sensation is produced, and a spark, causing a shock, jumps from the terminal only upon the hand being brought much nearer. If the oscillation of the primary current is rendered intermittent by some means or other, there is a corresponding throbbing of the streams, and now the hand or other conducting object may be brought in still greater proximity to the terminal without a spark being caused to jump.
Among the many beautiful phenomena which may be produced with such a coil I have here selected only those which appear to possess some features of novelty, and lead us to some conclusions of interest. One will not find it at all difficult to produce in the laboratory, by means of it, many other phenomena which appeal to the eye even more than these here shown, but present no particular feature of novelty.
Early experimenters describe the display of sparks produced by an ordinary large induction coil upon an insulating plate separating the terminals. Quite recently Siemens performed some experiments in which fine effects were obtained, which were seen by many with interest. No doubt large coils, even if operated with currents of low frequencies, are capable of producing beautiful effects. But the largest coil ever made could not, by far, equal the magnificent display of streams and sparks obtained from such a disruptive discharge coil when properly adjusted. To give an idea, a coil such as the present one will cover easily a plate of 1 metre in diameter completely with the streams. The best way to perform such experiments is to take a very thin rubber or a glass plate and glue on one side of it a narrow ring of tinfoil of very large diameter, and on the other a circular washer, the centre of the latter coinciding with that of the ring, and the surfaces of both being preferably equal, so as to keep the coil well balanced. The washer and ring should be connected to the terminals by heavily insulated thin wires. It is easy in observing the effect of the capacity to produce a sheet of uniform streams, or a fine network of thin silvery threads, or a mass of loud brilliant sparks, which completely cover the plate.
Since I have advanced the idea of the conversion by means of the disruptive discharge, in my paper before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers at the beginning of the past year, the interest excited in it has been considerable. It affords us a means for producing any potentials by the aid of inexpensive coils operated from ordinary systems of distribution, and—what is perhaps more appreciated—it enables us to convert currents of any frequency into currents of any other lower or higher frequency. But its chief value will perhaps be found in the help which it will afford us in the investigations of the phenomena of phosphorescence, which a disruptive discharge coil is capable of exciting in innumerable cases where ordinary coils, even the largest, would utterly fail.
Considering its probable uses for many practical purposes, and its possible introduction into laboratories for scientific research, a few additional remarks as to the construction of such a coil will perhaps not be found superfluous.
It is, of course, absolutely necessary to employ in such a coil wires provided with the best insulation.
Good coils may be produced by employing wires covered with several layers of cotton, boiling the coil a long time in pure wax, and cooling under moderate pressure. The advantage of such a coil is that it can be easily handled, but it cannot probably give as satisfactory results as a coil immersed in pure oil. Besides, it seems that the presence of a large body of wax affects the coil disadvantageously, whereas this does not seem to be the case with oil. Perhaps it is because the dielectric losses in the liquid are smaller.
I have tried at first silk and cotton covered wires with oil immersion, but I have been gradually led to use gutta-percha covered wires, which proved most satisfactory. Gutta-percha insulation adds, of course, to the capacity of the coil, and this, especially if the coil be large, is a great disadvantage when extreme frequencies are desired; but on the other hand, gutta-percha will withstand much more than an equal thickness of oil, and this advantage should be secured at any price. Once the coil has been immersed, it should never be taken out of the oil for more than a few hours, else the gutta-percha will crack up and the coil will not be worth half as much as before. Gutta-percha is probably slowly attacked by the oil, but after an immersion of eight to nine months I have found no ill effects.
I have obtained in commerce two kinds of gutta-percha wire: in one the insulation sticks tightly to the metal, in the other it does not. Unless a special method is followed to expel all air, it is much safer to use the first kind. I wind the coil within an oil tank so that all interstices are filled up with the oil. Between the layers I use cloth boiled out thoroughly in oil, calculating the thickness according to the difference of potential between the turns. There seems not to be a very great difference whatever kind of oil is used; I use paraffine or linseed oil.
To exclude more perfectly the air, an excellent way to proceed, and easily practicable with small coils, is the following: Construct a box of hard wood of very thick boards which have been for a long time boiled in oil. The boards should be so joined as to safely withstand the external air pressure. The coil being placed and fastened in position within the box, the latter is closed with a strong lid, and covered with closely fitting metal sheets, the joints of which are soldered very carefully. On the top two small holes are drilled, passing through the metal sheet and the wood, and in these holes two small glass tubes are inserted and the joints made air-tight. One of the tubes is connected to a vacuum pump, and the other with a vessel containing a sufficient quantity of boiled-out oil. The latter tube has a very small hole at the bottom, and is provided with a stopcock. When a fairly good vacuum has been obtained, the stopcock is opened and the oil slowly fed in. Proceeding in this manner, it is impossible that any big bubbles, which are the principal danger, should remain between the turns. The air is most completely excluded, probably better than by boiling out, which, however, when gutta-percha coated wires are used, is not practicable.
For the primaries I use ordinary line wire with a thick cotton coating. Strands of very thin insulated wires properly interlaced would, of course, be the best to employ for the primaries, but they are not to be had.
In an experimental coil the size of the wires is not of great importance. In the coil here used the primary is No. 12 and the secondary No. 24 Brown & Sharpe gauge wire; but the sections may be varied considerably. It would only imply different adjustments; the results aimed at would not be materially affected.
I have dwelt at some length upon the various forms of brush discharge because, in studying them, we not only observe phenomena which please our eye, but also afford us food for thought, and lead us to conclusions of practical importance. In the use of alternating currents of very high tension, too much precaution cannot be taken to prevent the brush discharge. In a main conveying such currents, in an induction coil or transformer, or in a condenser, the brush discharge is a source of great danger to the insulation. In a condenser especially the gaseous matter must be most carefully expelled, for in it the charged surfaces are near each other, and if the potentials are high, just as sure as a weight will fall if let go, so the insulation will give way if a single gaseous bubble of some size be present, whereas, if all gaseous matter were carefully excluded, the condenser would safely withstand a much higher difference of potential. A main conveying alternating currents of very high tension may be injured merely by a blow hole or small crack in the insulation, the more so as a blowhole is apt to contain gas at low pressure; and as it appears almost impossible to completely obviate such little imperfections, I am led to believe that in our future distribution of electrical energy by currents of very high tension liquid insulation will be used. The cost is a great drawback, but if we employ an oil as an insulator the distribution of electrical energy with something like 100,000 volts, and even more, become, at least with higher frequencies, so easy that they could be hardly called engineering feats. With oil insulation and alternate current motors transmissions of power can be effected with safety and upon an industrial basis at distances of as much as a thousand miles.
A peculiar property of oils, and liquid insulation in general, when subjected to rapidly changing electric stresses, is to disperse any gaseous bubbles which may be present, and diffuse them through its mass, generally long before any injurious break can occur. This feature may be easily observed with an ordinary induction coil by taking the primary out, plugging up the end of the tube upon which the secondary is wound, and filling it with some fairly transparent insulator, such as paraffine oil. A primary of a diameter something like six millimetres smaller than the inside of the tube may be inserted in the oil. When the coil is set to work one may see, looking from the top through the oil, many luminous points—air bubbles which are caught by inserting the primary, and which are rendered luminous in consequence of the violent bombardment. The occluded air, by its impact against the oil, heats it; the oil begins to circulate, carrying some of the air along with it, until the bubbles are dispersed and the luminous points disappear. In this manner, unless large bubbles are occluded in such way that circulation is rendered impossible, a damaging break is averted, the only effect being a moderate warming up of the oil. If, instead of the liquid, a solid insulation, no matter how thick, were used, a breaking through and injury of the apparatus would be inevitable.
The exclusion of gaseous matter from any apparatus in which the dielectric is subjected to more or less rapidly changing electric forces is, however, not only desirable in order to avoid a possible injury of the apparatus, but also on account of economy. In a condenser, for instance, as long as only a solid or only a liquid dielectric is used, the loss is small; but if a gas under ordinary or small pressure be present the loss may be very great. Whatever the nature of the force acting in the dielectric may be, it seems that in a solid or liquid the molecular displacement produced by the force is small; hence the product of force and displacement is insignificant, unless the force be very great; but in a gas the displacement, and therefore this product, is considerable; the molecules are free to move, they reach high speeds, and the energy of their impact is lost in heat or otherwise. If the gas be strongly compressed, the displacement due to the force is made smaller, and the losses are reduced.
In most of the succeeding experiments I prefer, chiefly on account of the regular and positive action, to employ the alternator before referred to. This is one of the several machines constructed by me for the purposes of these investigations. It has 384 pole projections, and is capable of giving currents of a frequency of about 10,000 per second. This machine has been illustrated and briefly described in my first paper before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, May 20, 1891, to which I have already referred. A more detailed description, sufficient to enable any engineer to build a similar machine, will be found in several electrical journals of that period.
The induction coils operated from the machine are rather small, containing from 5,000 to 15,000 turns in the secondary. They are immersed in boiled-out linseed oil, contained in wooden boxes covered with zinc sheet.
I have found it advantageous to reverse the usual position of the wires, and to wind, in these coils, the primaries on the top; this allowing the use of a much bigger primary, which, of course, reduces the danger of overheating and increases the output of the coil. I make the primary on each side at least one centimetre shorter than the secondary, to prevent the breaking through on the ends, which would surely occur unless the insulation on the top of the secondary be very thick, and this, of course, would be disadvantageous.
When the primary is made movable, which is necessary in some experiments, and many times convenient for the purposes of adjustment, I cover the secondary with wax, and turn it off in a lathe to a diameter slightly smaller than the inside of the primary coil. The latter I provide with a handle reaching out of the oil, which serves to shift it in any position along the secondary.
I will now venture to make, in regard to the general manipulation of induction coils, a few observations bearing upon points which have not been fully appreciated in earlier experiments with such coils, and are even now often overlooked.
The secondary of the coil possesses usually such a high self-induction that the current through the wire is inappreciable, and may be so even when the terminals are joined by a conductor of small resistance. If capacity is added to the terminals, the self-induction is counteracted, and a stronger current is made to flow through the secondary, though its terminals are insulated from each other. To one entirely unacquainted with the properties of alternating currents nothing will look more puzzling. This feature was illustrated in the experiment performed at the beginning with the top plates of wire gauze attached to the terminals and the rubber plate. When the plates of wire gauze were close together, and a small arc passed between them, the arc prevented a strong current from passing through the secondary, because it did away with the capacity on the terminals; when the rubber plate was inserted between, the capacity of the condenser formed counteracted the self-induction of the secondary, a stronger current passed now, the coil performed more work, and the discharge was by far more powerful.
The first thing, then, in operating the induction coil is to combine capacity with the secondary to overcome the self-induction. If the frequencies and potentials are very high gaseous matter should be carefully kept away from the charged surfaces. If Leyden jars are used, they should be immersed in oil, as otherwise considerable dissipation may occur if the jars are greatly strained. When high frequencies are used, it is of equal importance to combine a condenser with the primary. One may use a condenser connected to the ends of the primary or to the terminals of the alternator, but the latter is not to be recommended, as the machine might be injured. The best way is undoubtedly to use the condenser in series with the primary and with the alternator, and to adjust its capacity so as to annul the self-induction of both the latter. The condenser should be adjustable by very small steps, and for a finer adjustment a small oil condenser with movable plates may be used conveniently.
I think it best at this juncture to bring before you a phenomenon, observed by me some time ago, which to the purely scientific investigator may perhaps appear more interesting than any of the results which I have the privilege to present to you this evening.
It may be quite properly ranked among the brush phenomena—in fact, it is a brush, formed at, or near, a single terminal in high vacuum.
In bulbs provided with a conducting terminal, though it be of aluminium, the brush has but an ephemeral existence, and cannot, unfortunately, be indefinitely preserved in its most sensitive state, even in a bulb devoid of any conducting electrode. In studying the phenomenon, by all means a bulb having no leading-in wire should be used. I have found it best to use bulbs constructed as indicated in Figs. 12 and 13.
In Fig. 12 the bulb comprises an incandescent lamp globe L, in the neck of which is sealed a barometer tube b, the end of which is blown out to form a small sphere s. This sphere should be sealed as closely as possible in the centre of the large globe. Before sealing, a thin tube t, of aluminium sheet, may be slipped in the barometer tube, but it is not important to employ it.
The small hollow sphere s is filled with some conducting powder, and a wire w is cemented in the neck for the purpose of connecting the conducting powder with the generator.
The construction shown in Fig. 13 was chosen in order to remove from the brush any conducting body which might possibly affect it. The bulb consists in this case of a lamp globe L, which has a neck n, provided with a tube b and small sphere s, sealed to it, so that two entirely independent compartments are formed, as indicated in the drawing. When the bulb is in use, the neck n is provided with a tinfoil coating, which is connected to the generator and acts inductively upon the moderately rarefied and highly conducting gas inclosed in the neck. From there the current passes through the tube b into the small sphere s to act by induction upon the gas contained in the globe L.
It is of advantage to make the tube t very thick, the hole through it very small, and to blow the sphere s very thin. It is of the greatest importance that the sphere s be placed in the centre of the globe L.
Figs. 14, 15 and 16 indicate different forms, or stages, of the brush. Fig. 14 shows the brush as it first appears in a bulb provided with a conducting terminal; but, as in such a bulb it very soon disappears—often after a few minutes—I will confine myself to the description of the phenomenon as seen in a bulb without conducting electrode. It is observed under the following conditions:
When the globe L (Figs. 12 and 13) is exhausted to a very high degree, generally the bulb is not excited upon connecting the wire w (Fig. 12) or the tinfoil coating of the bulb (Fig. 13) to the terminal of the induction coil. To excite it, it is usually sufficient to grasp the globe L with the hand. An intense phosphorescence then spreads at first over the globe, but soon gives place to a white, misty light. Shortly afterward one may notice that the luminosity is unevenly distributed in the globe, and after passing the current for some time the bulb appears as in Fig. 15. From this stage the phenomenon will gradually pass to that indicated in Fig. 16, after some minutes, hours, days or weeks, according as the bulb is worked. Warming the bulb or increasing the potential hastens the transit.
When the brush assumes the form indicated in Fig. 16, it maybe brought to a state of extreme sensitiveness to electrostatic and magnetic influence. The bulb hanging straight down from a wire, and all objects being remote from it, the approach of the observer at a few paces from the bulb will cause the brush to fly to the opposite side, and if he walks around the bulb it will always keep on the opposite side. It may begin to spin around the terminal long before it reaches that sensitive stage. When it begins to turn around principally, but also before, it is affected by a magnet, and at a certain stage it is susceptible to magnetic influence to an astonishing degree. A small permanent magnet, with its poles at a distance of no more than two centimetres, will affect it visibly at a distance of two metres, slowing down or accelerating the rotation according to how it is held relatively to the brush. I think I have observed that at the stage when it is most sensitive to magnetic, it is not most sensitive to electrostatic, influence. My explanation is, that the electrostatic attraction between the brush and the glass of the bulb, which retards the rotation, grows much quicker than the magnetic influence when the intensity of the stream is increased.
When the bulb hangs with the globe L down, the rotation is always clockwise. In the southern hemisphere it would occur in the opposite direction and on the equator the brush should not turn at all. The rotation may be reversed by a magnet kept at some distance. The brush rotates best, seemingly, when it is at right angles to the lines of force of the earth. It very likely rotates, when at its maximum speed, in synchronism with the alternations, say 10,000 times a second. The rotation can be slowed down or accelerated by the approach or receding of the observer, or any conducting body, but it cannot be reversed by putting the bulb in any position. When it is in the state of the highest sensitiveness and the potential or frequency be varied the sensitiveness is rapidly diminished. Changing either of these but little will generally stop the rotation. The sensitiveness is likewise affected by the variations of temperature. To attain great sensitiveness it is necessary to have the small sphere s in the centre of the globe L, as otherwise the electrostatic action of the glass of the globe will tend to stop the rotation. The sphere s should be small and of uniform thickness; any dissymmetry of course has the effect to diminish the sensitiveness.
The fact that the brush rotates in a definite direction in a permanent magnetic field seems to show that in alternating currents of very high frequency the positive and negative impulses are not equal, but that one always preponderates over the other.
Of course, this rotation in one direction may be due to the action of two elements of the same current upon each other, or to the action of the field produced by one of the elements upon the other, as in a series motor, without necessarily one impulse being stronger than the other. The fact that the brush turns, as far as I could observe, in any position, would speak for this view. In such case it would turn at any point of the earth's surface. But, on the other hand, it is then hard to explain why a permanent magnet should reverse the rotation, and one must assume the preponderance of impulses of one kind.
As to the causes of the formation of the brush or stream, I think it is due to the electrostatic action of the globe and the dissymmetry of the parts. If the small bulb s and the globe L were perfect concentric spheres, and the glass throughout of the same thickness and quality, I think the brush would not form, as the tendency to pass would be equal on all sides. That the formation of the stream is due to an irregularity is apparent from the fact that it has the tendency to remain in one position, and rotation occurs most generally only when it is brought out of this position by electrostatic or magnetic influence. When in an extremely sensitive state it rests in one position, most curious experiments may be performed with it. For instance, the experimenter may, by selecting a proper position, approach the hand at a certain considerable distance to the bulb, and he may cause the brush to pass off by merely stiffening the muscles of the arm. When it begins to rotate slowly, and the hands are held at a proper distance, it is impossible to make even the slightest motion without producing a visible effect upon the brush. A metal plate connected to the other terminal of the coil affects it at a great distance, slowing down the rotation often to one turn a second.
I am firmly convinced that such a brush, when we learn how to produce it properly, will prove a valuable aid in the investigation of the nature of the forces acting in an electrostatic or magnetic field. If there is any motion which is measurable going on in the space, such a brush ought to reveal it. It is, so to speak, a beam of light, frictionless, devoid of inertia.
I think that it may find practical applications in telegraphy. With such a brush it would be possible to send dispatches across the Atlantic, for instance, with any speed, since its sensitiveness may be so great that the slightest changes will affect it. If it were possible to make the stream more intense and very narrow, its deflections could be easily photographed.
I have been interested to find whether there is a rotation of the stream itself, or whether there is simply a stress traveling around in the bulb. For this purpose I mounted a light mica fan so that its vanes were in the path of the brush. If the stream itself was rotating the fan would be spun around. I could produce no distinct rotation of the fan, although I tried the experiment repeatedly; but as the fan exerted a noticeable influence on the stream, and the apparent rotation of the latter was, in this case, never quite satisfactory, the experiment did not appear to be conclusive.
I have been unable to produce the phenomenon with the disruptive discharge coil, although every other of these phenomena can be well produced by it—many, in fact, much better than with coils operated from an alternator.
It may be possible to produce the brush by impulses of one direction, or even by a steady potential, in which case it would be still more sensitive to magnetic influence.
In operating an induction coil with rapidly alternating currents, we realize with astonishment, for the first time, the great importance of the relation of capacity, self-induction and frequency as regards the general result. The effects of capacity are the most striking, for in these experiments, since the self-induction and frequency both are high, the critical capacity is very small, and need be but slightly varied to produce a very considerable change. The experimenter may bring his body in contact with the terminals of the secondary of the coil, or attach to one or both terminals insulated bodies of very small bulk, such as bulbs, and he may produce a considerable rise or fall of potential, and greatly affect the flow of the current through the primary. In the experiment before shown, in which a brush appears at a wire attached to one terminal, and the wire is vibrated when the experimenter brings his insulated body in contact with the other terminal of the coil, the sudden rise of potential was made evident.
I may show you the behavior of the coil in another manner which possesses a feature of some interest. I have here a little light fan of aluminium sheet, fastened to a needle and arranged to rotate freely in a metal piece screwed to one of the terminals of the coil. When the coil is set to work, the molecules of the air are rhythmically attracted and repelled. As the force with which they are repelled is greater than that with which they are attracted, it results that there is a repulsion exerted on the surfaces of the fan. If the fan were made simply of a metal sheet, the repulsion would be equal on the opposite sides, and would produce no effect. But if one of the opposing surfaces is screened, or if, generally speaking, the bombardment on this side is weakened in some way or other, there remains the repulsion exerted upon the other, and the fan is set in rotation. The screening is best effected by fastening upon one of the opposing sides of the fan insulated conducting coatings, or, if the fan is made in the shape of an ordinary propeller screw, by fastening on one side, and close to it, an insulated metal plate. The static screen may, however, be omitted, and simply a thickness of insulating material fastened to one of the sides of the fan.
To show the behavior of the coil, the fan may be placed upon the terminal and it will readily rotate when the coil is operated by currents of very high frequency. With a steady potential, of course, and even with alternating currents of very low frequency, it would not turn, because of the very slow exchange of air and, consequently, smaller bombardment; but in the latter case it might turn if the potential were excessive. With a pin wheel, quite the opposite rule holds good; it rotates best with a steady potential, and the effort is the smaller the higher the frequency. Now, it is very easy to adjust the conditions so that the potential is normally not sufficient to turn the fan, but that by connecting the other terminal of the coil with an insulated body it rises to a much greater value, so as to rotate the fan, and it is likewise possible to stop the rotation by connecting to the terminal a body of different size, thereby diminishing the potential.
Instead of using the fan in this experiment, we may use the "electric" radiometer with similar effect. But in this case it will be found that the vanes will rotate only at high exhaustion or at ordinary pressures; they will not rotate at moderate pressures, when the air is highly conducting. This curious observation was made conjointly by Professor Crookes and myself. I attribute the result to the high conductivity of the air, the molecules of which then do not act as independent carriers of electric charges, but act all together as a single conducting body. In such case, of course, if there is any repulsion at all of the molecules from the vanes, it must be very small. It is possible, however, that the result is in part due to the fact that the greater part of the discharge passes from the leading-in wire through the highly conducting gas, instead of passing off from the conducting vanes.
In trying the preceding experiment with the electric radiometer the potential should not exceed a certain limit, as then the electrostatic attraction between the vanes and the glass of the bulb may be so great as to stop the rotation.
A most curious feature of alternate currents of high frequencies and potentials is that they enable us to perform many experiments by the use of one wire only. In many respects this feature is of great interest.
In a type of alternate current motor invented by me some years ago I produced rotation by inducing, by means of a single alternating current passed through a motor circuit, in the mass or other circuits of the motor, secondary currents, which, jointly with the primary or inducing current, created a moving field of force. A simple but crude form of such a motor is obtained by winding upon an iron core a primary, and close to it a secondary coil, joining the ends of the latter and placing a freely movable metal disc within the influence of the field produced by both. The iron core is employed for obvious reasons, but it is not essential to the operation. To improve the motor, the iron core is made to encircle the armature. Again to improve, the secondary coil is made to overlap partly the primary, so that it cannot free itself from a strong inductive action of the latter, repel its lines as it may. Once more to improve, the proper difference of phase is obtained between the primary and secondary currents by a condenser, self-induction, resistance or equivalent windings.
I had discovered, however, that rotation is produced by means of a single coil and core; my explanation of the phenomenon, and leading thought in trying the experiment, being that there must be a true time lag in the magnetization of the core. I remember the pleasure I had when, in the writings of Professor Ayrton, which came later to my hand, I found the idea of the time lag advocated. Whether there is a true time lag, or whether the retardation is due to eddy currents circulating in minute paths, must remain an open question, but the fact is that a coil wound upon an iron core and traversed by an alternating current creates a moving field of force, capable of setting an armature in rotation. It is of some interest, in conjunction with the historical Arago experiment, to mention that in lag or phase motors I have produced rotation in the opposite direction to the moving field, which means that in that experiment the magnet may not rotate, or may even rotate in the opposite direction to the moving disc. Here, then, is a motor (diagrammatically illustrated in Fig. 17), comprising a coil and iron core, and a freely movable copper disc in proximity to the latter.
To demonstrate a novel and interesting feature, I have, for a reason which I will explain, selected this type of motor. When the ends of the coil are connected to the terminals of an alternator the disc is set in rotation. But it is not this experiment, now well known, which I desire to perform. What I wish to show you is that this motor rotates with one single connection between it and the generator; that is to say, one terminal of the motor is connected to one terminal of the generator—in this case the secondary of a high-tension induction coil—the other terminals of motor and generator being insulated in space. To produce rotation it is generally (but not absolutely) necessary to connect the free end of the motor coil to an insulated body of some size. The experimenter's body is more than sufficient. If he touches the free terminal with an object held in the hand, a current passes through the coil and the copper disc is set in rotation. If an exhausted tube is put in series with the coil, the tube lights brilliantly, showing the passage of a strong current. Instead of the experimenter's body, a small metal sheet suspended on a cord may be used with the same result. In this case the plate acts as a condenser in series with the coil. It counteracts the self-induction of the latter and allows a strong current to pass. In such a combination, the greater the self-induction of the coil the smaller need be the plate, and this means that a lower frequency, or eventually a lower potential, is required to operate the motor. A single coil wound upon a core has a high self-induction; for this reason principally, this type of motor was chosen to perform the experiment. Were a secondary closed coil wound upon the core, it would tend to diminish the self-induction, and then it would be necessary to employ a much higher frequency and potential. Neither would be advisable, for a higher potential would endanger the insulation of the small primary coil, and a higher frequency would result in a materially diminished torque.