This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
Faraday's great discovery was, in fact, that when the pole of a magnet is moved into, or moved out of, a coil of wire, the motion produces, while it lasts, currents of electricity in the coil. Such currents are known as "induced currents;" and the action is called magneto-electric "induction." The momentary current produced by plunging the magnet pole into the wire coil or circuit is found to be in the opposite direction to that in which a current must be sent if it were desired to attract the magnet pole into the coil. If the reader will look back to Fig. 10 he will see that a north magnet pole is being attracted in from behind into a circuit round which, as he views it, the current flows in an opposite sense to that in which the hands of a clock move round. Now, compare this figure with Fig. 12, which represents the generation of a momentary induced current by the act of moving the north pole, N, toward a wire ring, which is in this case connected with a little detecter galvanometer, G. The momentary current flows round the circuit (as seen by the spectator from the front) in the same sense as the movement of the hands of a clock. The induced current which results from the motion is found, then, to be in a direction exactly opposed to that of the current that would itself produce the same movement of the magnet pole. If the north pole, instead of being moved toward or into the circuit, were moved away from the circuit, this motion will also induce a transient current to flow round the wire, but this time the current will be in the same sense as that in Fig. 10, in the opposite sense to that in Fig. 12. Pulling the magnet pole away sets up a current in the reverse direction to that set up by pushing the pole nearer. In both cases the currents only last while the motion lasts.
Now in the first article it was pointed out that the lines of force of the magnet indicate not only the direction, but the strength of the magnetic forces. The stronger the pole of the magnet is, the greater will be the number of lines of force that radiate from its poles. The strength of the current that flows round a circuit is also proportional to the number of lines of force which are thereby caused to pass (as in Fig. 9) through the circuit. The stronger the current, the more numerous the lines of force that thread themselves through the circuit. When a magnet is moved near a circuit near it, it is found that any alteration in the number of lines of force that cross the circuit is accompanied by the production of a current. Referring once more to Fig. 10, we will call the direction of the current round the circuit in that figure the positive direction; and to define this direction we may remark that if we were to view the circuit from such a point as to look along the lines of force in their own direction, the direction of the current round the circuit will appear to be the same as that of the hands of a clock moving round a dial. If the magnet, N S, be now drawn away from the circuit so that fewer of its lines of force passed through the circuit, experiment shows the result that the current flowing in circuit will be for the moment increased in strength, the increase in strength being proportional to the rate of decrease in the number of lines of force. So, on the other hand, if the magnet were pushed up toward the circuit, the current in the circuit would be momentarily reduced in strength, the decrease in strength in the current being proportional to the rate of increase in the number of lines of force.
Similar considerations apply to the case of the simple circuit and the magnet shown in Fig. 12. In this circuit there is no current flowing so long as the magnet is at rest; but if the magnet be moved up toward the circuit so as to increase the number of lines of force that pass through the circuit, there will be a momentary "inverse" current induced in the circuit and it will flow in the negative direction. While if the magnet were moved away the decrease in the number of lines of force would result in a transient "direct" current, or one flowing in the positive direction.
It would be possible to deduce these results from an abstract consideration of the matter from the point of view of the principle of conservation of energy. But we prefer to reserve this point until a general notion of the action of dynamo-electric machines has been given.
The following principles or generalized statements follow as a matter of the very simplest consequence from the foregoing considerations:
(a) To induce a current in a coil of wire by means of a magnet there must be relative motion between coil and magnet.
(b) Approach of a magnet to a coil or of a coil to a magnet induces currents in the opposite direction to that induced by recession.
(c) The stronger the magnet the stronger will be the induced currents in the coils.
(d) The more rapid the motion the stronger will be the momentary current induced in the coils (but the time it lasts will, of course, be shorter).
(e) The greater the number of turns in the coil the stronger will be the total current induced in it by the movement of the magnet.
These points are of vital importance in the action of dynamo electric generators. It remains, however, yet to be shown how these transient and momentary induction currents can be so directed and manipulated as to be made to combine into a steady and continuous supply. To bring a magnet pole up toward a coil of wire is a process which can only last a very limited time; and its recession from the coil also cannot furnish a continuous current since it is a process of limited duration. In the earliest machines in which the principle of magneto-electric induction was applied, the currents produced were of this momentary kind, alternating in direction. Coils of wire fixed to a rotating axis were moved past the pole of a magnet. While the coil was approaching the lines of force were increasing, and a momentary inverse current was set up, which was immediately succeeded by a momentary direct current as the coil receded from the pole. Such machines on a small scale are still to be found in opticians' shops for the purpose of giving people shocks. On a large scale alternate current machines are still employed for certain purposes in electric lighting, as, for example, for use with the Jablochkoff candle. Large alternate-current machines have been devised by Wilde, Gramme, Siemens, De Meritens, and others.--Engineering.