Direct Current

When a current of electricity is generated by a cell, it is assumed to move along the wire in one direction, in a steady, continuous flow, and is called a direct current. This direct current is a natural one if generated by a cell.

Alternating Current

On the other hand, the natural current generated by a dynamo is alternating in its character - that is, it is not a direct, steady flow in one direction, but, instead, it flows for an instant in one direction, then in the other direction, and so on.

A direct-current dynamo such as we have shown in Chapter IV (Frictional, Voltaic Or Galvanic, And Electro-Magnetic Electricity), is much easier to explain, hence it is illustrated to show the third method used in generating an electric current.

It is a difficult matter to explain the principle and operation of alternating current machines, without becoming, in a measure, too technical for the purposes of this book, but it is important to know the fundamentals involved, so that the operation and uses of certain apparatus, like the choking coil, transformers, rectifiers and converters, may be explained.

The Magnetic Field

It has been stated that when a wire passes through the magnetic field of a magnet, so as to cut the lines of force flowing out from the end of a magnet, the wire will receive a charge of electricity.

Fig. 102. Cutting a Magnetic Field

To explain this, study Fig. 102, in which is a bar magnet (A). If we take a metal wire (B) and bend it in the form of a loop, as shown, and mount the ends on journal-bearing blocks, the wire may be rotated so that the loop will pass through the magnetic field. When this takes place, the wire receives a charge of electricity, which moves, say, in the direction of the darts, and will make a complete circuit if the ends of the looped wire are joined, as shown by the conductor (D).

Action Of The Magnetized Wire

You will remember, also that we have pointed out how, when a current passes over a wire, it has a magnetic field extending out around it at all points, so that while it is passing through the magnetic field of the magnet (A), it becomes, in a measure, a magnet of its own and tries to set up in business for itself as a generator of electricity. But when the loop leaves the magnetic field, the magnetic or electrical impulse in the wire also leaves it.

The Movement Of A Current In A Charged Wire

Your attention is directed, also, to another statement, heretofore made, namely, that when a current from a charged wire passes by induction to a wire across space, so as to charge it with an electric current, it moves along the charged wire in a direction opposite to that of the current in the charging wire.

Now, the darts show the direction in which the current moves while it is approaching and passing through the magnetic field. But the moment the loop is about to pass out of the magnetic field, the current in the loop surges back in the opposite direction, and when the loop has made a revolution and is again entering the magnetic field, it must again change the direction of flow in the current, and thus produce alternations in the flow thereof.

Let us illustrate this by showing the four positions of the revolving loop. In Fig. 103 the loop (B) is in the middle of the magnetic field, moving upwardly in the direction of the curved dart (A), and while in that position the voltage, or the electrical impulse, is the most intense. The current used flows in the direction of the darts (C) or to the left.

In Fig. 104, the loop (A) has gone beyond the influence of the magnetic field, and now the current in the loop tries to return, or reverse itself, as shown by the dart (D). It is a reaction that causes the current to die out, so that when the loop has reached the point farthest from the magnet, as shown in Fig. 105, there is no current in the loop, or, if there is any, it moves faintly in the direction of the dart (E).

Fig. 103-106. Illustrating Alternations