By Professor SILVANUS P. THOMPSON, D.Sc., B.A., M.I.E.E.

III. Researches Of Professor Hughes


His object was to find out the best form of electromagnet, the best distance between the poles, and the best form of armature for the rapid work required in Hughes' printing telegraphs. One word about Hughes' magnets. This diagram (Fig. 51) shows the form of the well known Hughes' electromagnet. I feel almost ashamed to say those words "well known," because on the Continent everybody knows what you mean by a Hughes' electromagnet. In England scarcely anyone knows what you mean. Englishmen do not even know that Professor Hughes has invented a special form of electromagnet. Hughes' special form is this: A permanent steel magnet, generally a compound one, having soft iron pole pieces, and a couple of coils on the pole pieces only. As I have to speak of Hughes' special contrivance among the mechanisms that will occupy our attention later on, I only now refer to this magnet in one particular. If you wish a magnet to work rapidly, you will secure the most rapid action, not when the coils are distributed all along, but when they are heaped up near, not necessarily entirely on, the poles. Hughes made a number of researches to find out what the right length and thickness of these pole pieces should be.

It was found an advantage not to use too thin pole pieces, otherwise the magnetism from the permanent magnet did not pass through the iron without considerable reluctance, being choked by insufficiency of section: also not to use too thick pieces, otherwise they presented too much surface for leakage across from one to the other. Eventually a particular length was settled upon, in proportion about six times the diameter, or rather longer. In the further researches that Hughes made he used a magnet of shorter form, not shown here, more like those employed in relays, and with an armature from 2 to 3 millimeters thick, 1 centimeter wide and 5 centimeters long. The poles were turned over at the top toward one another. Hughes tried whether there was any advantage in making those poles approach one another, and whether there was any advantage in having as long an armature as 5 centimeters. He tried all the different kinds, and plotted out the results of observations in curves, which could be compared and studied. His object was to ascertain the conditions which would give the strongest pull, not with a steady current, but with such currents as were required for operating his printing telegraph instruments; currents which lasted but one to twenty hundredths of a second.

He found it was decidedly an advantage to shorten the length of the armature, so that it did not protrude far over the poles. In fact, he got a sufficient magnetic circuit to secure all the attractive power that he needed, without allowing as much chance of leakage as there would have been had the armature extended a longer distance over the poles. He also tried various forms of armature having very various cross sections.

Position And Form Of Armature

In one of Du Moncel's papers on electromagnets2 you will also find a discussion on armatures, and the best forms for working in different positions. Among other things in Du Moncel you will find this paradox: that whereas using a horseshoe magnet with fat poles, and a flat piece of soft iron for armature, it sticks on far tighter when put on edgeways; on the other hand, if you are going to work at a distance, across air, the attraction is far greater when it is set flatways. I explained the advantage of narrowing the surfaces of contact by the law of traction, B², coming in. Why should we have for action at a distance the greater advantage from placing the armature flatway to the poles? It is simply that you thereby reduce the reluctance offered by the air gap to the flow of the magnetic lines. Du Moncel also tried the difference between round armatures and flat ones, and found that a cylindrical armature was only attracted about half as strongly as a prismatic armature having the same surface when at the same distance. Let us examine this fact in the light of the magnetic circuit. The poles are flat. You have at a certain distance away a round armature; there is a certain distance between its nearest side and the polar surfaces. If you have at the same distance away a flat armature having the same surface, and, therefore, about the same tendency to leak, why do you get a greater pull in this case than in that? I think it is clear that if they are at the same distance away, giving the same range of motion, there is a greater magnetic reluctance in the case of the round armature, although there is the same periphery, because, though the nearest part of the surface is at the prescribed distance, the rest of the under surface is farther away; so that the gain found in substituting an armature with a flat surface is a gain resulting from the diminution in the resistance offered by the air gap.

Pole Pieces On Horseshoe Magnets

Another of Du Moncel's researches3 relates to the effect of polar projections or shoes - movable pole pieces, if you like - upon a horseshoe electromagnet. The core of this magnet was of round iron 4 centimeters in diameter, and the parallel limbs were 10 centimeters long and 6 centimeters apart. The shoes consisted of two flat pieces of iron slotted out at one end, so that they could be slid along over the poles and brought nearer together. The attraction exerted on a flat armature across air gaps 2 millimeters thick was measured by counterpoising. Exciting this electromagnet with a certain battery, it was found that the attraction was greatest when the shoes were pushed to about 15 millimeters, or about one-quarter of the interpolar distance, apart. The numbers were as follows: