One of the great problems has been the transmission of the current to great distances. By using a high voltage it may be sent hundreds of miles, but to use a current of that character in the cars, or shops, or homes, would be exceedingly dangerous.
To meet this requirement transformers have been devised, which will take a current of very high voltage, and deliver a current of low tension, and capable of being used anywhere with the ordinary motors.
This is an electrical device made up of a core or cores of thin sheet metal, around which is wound sets of insulated wires, one set being designed to receive the high voltage, and the other set to put out the low voltage, as described in a former chapter
These may be made where the original output is a very high voltage, so that they will be stepped down, first from one voltage to a lower, and then from that to the next lower stage. This is called the "Step down" transformer, and is now used over the entire world, where large voltages are generated.
The most important development of electricity in the direction of heat is its use in furnaces. As before stated, an intense heat is capable of being generated by the electric current, so that it becomes the great agent to use for the treatment of refractory material.
In furnaces of this kind the electric arc is the mechanical form used to produce the great heat, the only difference being in the size of the apparatus. The electric furnace is simply an immense form of arc light, capable of taking a high voltage, and such an arc is enclosed within a suitable oven of refractory material, which still further conserves the heat.
The next step is to use the high heat thus capable of being produced, to fuse metals so that they may be welded together. It is a difficult matter to unite two large pieces of metal by the forging method, because the highest heat is required, owing to their bulk, and in addition immense hammers, weighing tons, must be employed.
Electric welding offers a simple and easy method of accomplishing the result, and in the doing of which it avoids the oxidizing action of the forging heat. Instead of heating the pieces to be welded in a forge, as is now done, the ends to be united are simply brought into contact, and the current is sent through the ends until they are in a soft condition, after which the parts are pressed together and united by the simple merging of the plastic condition in which they are reduced by the high electric heat.
This form of welding makes the most perfect joint, and requires no hammering, as the mass of the metal flows from one part or end to the other; the unity is a perfect one, and the advantage is that the metals can be kept in a semi-fluid state for a considerable time, thus assuring a perfect admixture of the two parts.
With the ordinary form of welding it is necessary to drive the heated parts together without any delay, and at the least cooling must be reheated, or the joint will not be perfect.
The smallest kinds of electric heating apparatus are now being made, so that small articles, sheet metal, small rods, and like parts can be united with the greatest facility.