Electro Tuning Forks And Their Uses

On a former occasion I described an instrument to which, in 1873, I gave the name Electro-Tuning Fork, and which is nothing else than a tuning fork whose motion is kept up electrically in such a way as to last indefinitely, provided that the elements of the pile are renewed gradually, and that from time to time the metallic contact is changed, which causes, at every oscillation, the current to pass from the pile into the magnet, which keeps up the vibration.

We reproduce herewith, in Fig. 1, a cut showing in projection one of the simplest forms of the apparatus.

Fig. 1. Constant Vibrator

If we imagine the platinum or steel style, s, of the figure to be done away with, as well as the platinized plate, I, and its communication with the negative pole of the pile, P, we shall have the ordinary instrument kept in operation electrically by the aid of the electro-magnet, E, the style, s, the interrupting plate, I, and the pile.

If we preserve the parts above mentioned, the instrument will possess the property of having vibrations of a constant amplitude if sufficient energy be kept up in the pile. In fact, when the amplitude is sufficiently great to cause the style, s, to touch the plate, I, it will be seen that at such a moment the current no longer passes through the electromagnet, and the vibration is no longer maintained. The amplitude cannot exceed an extent which shall permit the style, s, to touch I.

Under such conditions, the duration of the vibrations remains exactly constant, as does also the vibratory intensity of the entire instrument. The measurement of time, then, by an instrument of this kind is, indeed, as perfect as it could well be.

This complication in the arrangement of the apparatus has no importance as regards those tuning forks the number of whose vibrations exceeds a hundred per second, for in such a case these are given an amplitude of a few millimeters only; but it would be of importance with regard to instruments whose number of vibrations is very small, and to which it might be desirable to give great amplitude; for then, as I have long ago shown, the duration of the oscillation would depend a little on the amplitude, but a very little, it is true.

I shall not refer now to the applications of these instruments in chronography, but will rather point out first the applications in which they are destined to produce an effective power.

For this purpose it is necessary to make them pretty massive. The number of the vibrations depends upon such massiveness, and it is necessity to know the relation which exists between these two quantities in order to be able to construct an instrument under determinate conditions. I made in former years such a research with regard to tuning forks of prismatic form, that is to say, of a constant rectangular section continuing even into the bent portion where the parallel branches are united by a semicylinder, at the middle of which is the wrought iron rod as well as the branches. The thickness of the instrument is the dimension parallel to the vibrations; its width is the dimension which is perpendicular to them, and its length is reckoned from the extremity of the branches up to the middle of the curved portion.

It is found that the number of vibrations is independent of the width, proportional to the thickness, and very nearly inverse ratio of the square of the length, provided the latter exceeds ten centimeters.

If we represent the length by l, the thickness by e, and the number of vibrations by n, we shall have the following formula:

n = k × (e / l2)

in which k is a constant quantity whose value depends upon the nature of the metal of which the tuning fork is made.

This constant varies very little from steel to malleable cast iron, and it may be taken as equal to 818270.

Thus, then, we have a means of constructing a tuning fork in which two of the three quantities, n, e, l, are given in advance. Experience proves that no errors are committed exceeding one or two per cent.

It is seen from this that there is a means of increasing the mass of the instrument without changing anything in the thickness, the length or, consequently, the number of vibrations, and this is by increasing the breadth.

It is in this way that I have succeeded in having long massive tuning forks made of malleable iron, giving no more than 12 to 15 vibrations per second, and vibrating with perfect regularity. Fig. 2, annexed, shows one of these instruments of about 55 centimeters length, whose breadth, E, is from 5 to 6 centimeters, and which makes about fifteen double vibrations per second only.

Fig. 2. The Electrical Tuning fork FIG. 2. - THE ELECTRICAL TUNING FORK.

This number might be still further reduced, but at the expense of our being led to exaggerate the longitudinal dimensions of the apparatus in such a way as to make it inconvenient. The object may be attained more simply by loading the branches with slides supporting leaden weights, M, of 500 grammes each. By fixing these slides at different points on the branches, the number of vibrations can be made to vary from simple to double, and even triple. Thus, by fixing them at the extremity of the branches the number of the vibrations is reduced to 5 or 6.

There will be seen in the figure the electro-magnet which keeps up the vibration. This is formed of three simple electro-magnets, whose bobbins have a resistance of no more than 10 ohms, and which are united in series. The interrupting plate, P, against which the style, s, rests at each vibration, is capable of a forward movement, or one of recoil, by the aid of a screw, V, and of an eccentric movement which is produced by a small handle, m, and during which its plane remains invariable. This arrangement permits the point of contact of the style and plate to be varied without changing the precision with which the contact takes place, and all the points of the plate to be slowly used in succession before replacing it. The motion is produced by means of a relatively weak pile, whose poles are connected to the terminals, A and A'. Three Callaud elements of triple surface, renewed one after the other every month at the most, are sufficient to keep up the vibrations continuously, day and night, without interruption, and that too even when the instrument is employed in producing a small mechanical power, as we shall see further on.