[Footnote: From a paper read before the recent meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, New York, and reported in the Electrical World.]


The actions produced and producible by the agency of alternating currents of considerable energy are assuming greater importance in the electric arts. I mean, of course, by the term alternating currents, currents of electricity reversed at frequent intervals, so that a positive flow is succeeded by a negative flow, and that again by a positive flow, such reversals occurring many times in a second, so that the curve of current of electromotive force will, if plotted, be a wave line, the amplitude of which is the arithmetical sum of the positive and negative maxima of current or electromotive force, as the case may be, while a horizontal middle line joins the zero points of current or electromotive force.

Phenomena Of Alternating Currents 601 11a

FIG. 1

It is well known that such a current passing in a coil or conductor laid parallel with or in inductive relation to a second coil or conductor, will induce in the second conductor, if on open circuit, alternating electromotive forces, and that if its terminals be closed or joined, alternating currents of the same rhythm, period, or pitch, will circulate in the second conductor. This is the action occurring in any induction coil whose primary wire is traversed by alternating currents, and whose secondary wire is closed either upon itself directly or through a resistance. What I desire to draw attention to in the present paper are the mechanical actions of attraction and repulsion which will be exhibited between the two conductors, and the novel results which may be obtained by modifications in the relative dispositions of the two conductors.

Phenomena Of Alternating Currents 601 11b

FIG. 2.

In 1884, while preparing for the International Electrical Exhibition at Philadelphia, we had occasion to construct a large electro-magnet, the cores of which were about six inches in diameter and about twenty inches long. They were made of bundles of iron rod of about 5/16 inch diameter. When complete, the magnet was energized by the current of a dynamo giving continuous currents, and it exhibited the usual powerful magnetic effects. It was found also that a disk of sheet copper, of about 1/16 inch thickness and 10 inches in diameter, if dropped flat against a pole of the magnet, would settle down softly upon it, being retarded by the development of currents in the disk due to its movement in a strong magnetic field, and which currents were of opposite direction to those in the coils of the magnet. In fact, it was impossible to strike the magnet pole a sharp blow with the disk, even when the attempt was made by holding one edge of the disk in the hand and bringing it down forcibly toward the magnet.

In attempting to raise the disk quickly off the pole, a similar but opposite action of resistance to movement took place, showing the development of currents in the same direction to those in the coils of the magnet, and which currents, of course, would cause attraction as a result.

Phenomena Of Alternating Currents 601 11c

Fig. 3

The experiment was, however, varied, as in Fig. 1. The disk, D, was held over the magnet pole, as shown, and the current in the magnet coils cut off by shunting them. There was felt an attraction of the disk or a dip toward the pole. The current was then put on by opening the shunting switch, and a repulsive action or lift of the disk was felt. The actions just described are what would be expected in such a case, for when attraction took place, currents had been induced in the disk, D, in the same direction as those in the magnet coils beneath it, and when repulsion took place the induced current in the disk was of opposite character or direction to that in the coils.

Phenomena Of Alternating Currents 601 11d

Fig. 4

Now let us imagine the current in the magnet coils to be not only cut off, but reversed back and forth.

For the reasons just given, we will find that the disk, D, is attracted and repelled alternately; for, whenever the currents induced in it are of the same direction with those in the inducing or magnet coil, attraction will ensue, and when they are opposite in direction, repulsion will be produced. Moreover, the repulsion will be produced when the current in the magnet coil is rising to a maximum in either direction, and attraction will be the result when the current of either direction is falling to zero, since in the former case opposite currents are induced in the disk, D, in accordance with well known laws, and in the latter case currents of the same direction will exist in the disk, D, and the magnet coil. The disk might, of course, be replaced by a ring of copper or other good conductor, or by a closed coil of bare or insulated wire, or by a series of disks, rings or coils superposed, and the results would be the same. Thus far, indeed, we have nothing of a particularly novel character, and, doubtless, other experimenters have made very similar experiments and noted similar results to those described.

Phenomena Of Alternating Currents 601 12a

FIG. 5

The account just given of the effects produced by alternating currents, while true, is not the whole truth, and just here we may supplement it by the following statements:

An alternating current circuit or coil repels and attracts a closed circuit or coil placed in direct or magnetic inductive relation therewith; but the repulsive effect is in excess of the attractive effect.