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.
Casting a retrospective glance at the four methods of transmission of power which have been examined, it would appear that transmission by ropes forms a class by itself, while the three other methods combine into a natural group, because they possess a character in common of the greatest importance. It may be said that all three involve a temporary transformation of the mechanical power to be utilized into potential energy. Also in each of these methods the efficiency of transmission is the product of three factors or partial efficiencies, which correspond exactly--namely, first, the efficiency of the instrument which converts the actual energy of the prime mover into potential energy; second, the efficiency of the instrument which reconverts this potential energy into actual energy, that is, into motion, and delivers it up in this shape for the actual operations which accomplish industrial work; third, the efficiency of the intermediate agency which serves for the conveyance of potential energy from the first instrument to the second.
This last factor has just been given for transmission by electricity. It is the exact correlative of the efficiency of the pipe in the case of compressed air or of pressure water. It is as useful in the case of electric transmission, as of any other method, to be able, in studying the system, to estimate beforehand what results it is able to furnish, and for this purpose it is necessary to calculate exactly the factors which compose the efficiency.
In order to obtain this desirable knowledge, the author considers that the three following points should form the aim of experimentalists: First, the determination of the efficiency, K, of the principal kinds of magneto-electric, or dynamo-electric machines working as generators; second, the determination of the efficiency, K, of the same machines working as motors; third, the determination of the law according to which the magnetism of the cores of these machines varies with the intensity of the current. The author is of opinion that experiments made with these objects in view would be more useful than those conducted for determining the general efficiency of transmission, for the latter give results only available under precisely similar conditions. However, it is clear that they have their value and must not be neglected.
There are, moreover, many other questions requiring to be elucidated by experiment, especially as regards the arrangement of the conducting wires: but it is needless to dwell further upon this subject, which has been ably treated by many English men of science--for instance, Dr. Siemens and Professor Ayrton. Nevertheless, for further information the author would refer to the able articles published at Paris, by M. Mascart, in the Journal de Physique, in 1877 and 1878. The author would gladly have concluded this paper with a comparison of the efficiencies of the four systems which have been examined, or what amounts to the same thing--with a comparison of the losses of power which they occasion. Unfortunately, such a comparison has never been made experimentally, because hitherto the opportunity of doing it in a demonstrative manner has been wanting, for the transmission of power to a distance belongs rather to the future than to the present time. Transmission by electricity is still in its infancy; it has only been applied on a small scale and experimentally.
Of the three other systems, transmission by means of ropes is the only one that has been employed for general industrial purposes, while compressed air and water under pressure have been applied only to special purposes, and their use has been due much more to their special suitableness for these purposes than from any considerations relative to loss of power. Thus the effective work of the compressed air used in driving the tunnels through the Alps, assuming its determination to be possible, was undoubtedly very low; nevertheless, in the present state of our appliances it is the only process by which such operations can be accomplished. The author believes that transmission by ropes furnishes the highest proportion of useful work, but that as regards a wide distribution of the transmitted power the other two methods, by air and water, might merit a preference.