It should be remarked that when such a motor with a closed secondary is used, it is not at all easy to obtain rotation with excessive frequencies, as the secondary cuts off almost completely the lines of the primary—and this, of course, the more, the higher the frequency—and allows the passage of but a minute current. In such a case, unless the secondary is closed through a condenser, it is almost essential, in order to produce rotation, to make the primary and secondary coils overlap each other more or less.
But there is an additional feature of interest about this motor, namely, it is not necessary to have even a single connection between the motor and generator, except, perhaps, through the ground: for not only is an insulated plate capable of giving off energy into space, but it is likewise capable of deriving it from an alternating electrostatic field, though in the latter case the available energy is much smaller. In this instance one of the motor terminals is connected to the insulated plate or body located within the alternating electrostatic field, and the other terminal preferably to the ground.
It is quite possible, however, that such "no-wire" motors, as they might be called, could be operated by conduction through the rarefied air at considerable distances. Alternate currents, especially of high frequencies, pass with astonishing freedom through even slightly rarefied gases. The upper strata of the air are rarefied. To reach a number of miles out into space requires the overcoming of difficulties of a merely mechanical nature. There is no doubt that with the enormous potentials obtainable by the use of high frequencies and oil insulation luminous discharges might be passed through many miles of rarefied air, and that, by thus directing the energy of many hundreds or thousands of horse-power, motors or lamps might be operated at considerable distances from stationary sources. But such schemes are mentioned merely as possibilities. We shall have no need to transmit power in this way. We shall have no need to transmit power at all. Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point of the universe. This idea is not novel. Men have been led to it long ago by instinct or reason. It has been expressed in many ways, and in many places, in the history of old and new. We find it in the delightful myth of Antheus, who derives power from the earth; we find it among the subtile speculations of one of your splendid mathematicians, and in many hints and statements of thinkers of the present time. Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy static or kinetic? If static our hopes are in vain; if kinetic—and this we know it is, for certain—then it is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature. Of all, living or dead, Crookes came nearest to doing it. His radiometer will turn in the light of day and in the darkness of the night; it will turn everywhere where there is heat, and heat is everywhere. But, unfortunately, this beautiful little machine, while it goes down to posterity as the most interesting, must likewise be put on record as the most inefficient machine ever invented!
The preceding experiment is only one of many equally interesting experiments which may be performed by the use of only one wire with alternate currents of high potential and frequency. We may connect an insulated line to a source of such currents, we may pass an inappreciable current over the line, and on any point of the same we are able to obtain a heavy current, capable of fusing a thick copper wire. Or we may, by the help of some artifice, decompose a solution in any electrolytic cell by connecting only one pole of the cell to the line or source of energy. Or we may, by attaching to the line, or only bringing into its vicinity, light up an incandescent lamp, an exhausted tube, or a phosphorescent bulb.
However impracticable this plan of working may appear in many cases, it certainly seems practicable, and even recommendable, in the production of light. A perfected lamp would require but little energy, and if wires were used at all we ought to be able to supply that energy without a return wire.
It is now a fact that a body may be rendered incandescent or phosphorescent by bringing it either in single contact or merely in the vicinity of a source of electric impulses of the proper character, and that in this manner a quantity of light sufficient to afford a practical illuminant may be produced. It is, therefore, to say the least, worth while to attempt to determine the best conditions and to invent the best appliances for attaining this object.
Some experiences have already been gained in this direction, and I will dwell on them briefly, in the hope that they might prove useful.
The heating of a conducting body inclosed in a bulb, and connected to a source of rapidly alternating electric impulses, is dependent on so many things of a different nature, that it would be difficult to give a generally applicable rule under which the maximum heating occurs. As regards the size of the vessel, I have lately found that at ordinary or only slightly differing atmospheric pressures, when air is a good insulator, and hence practically the same amount of energy by a certain potential and frequency is given off from the body, whether the bulb be small or large, the body is brought to a higher temperature if inclosed in a small bulb, because of the better confinement of heat in this case.
At lower pressures, when air becomes more or less conducting, or if the air be sufficiently warmed as to become conducting, the body is rendered more intensely incandescent in a large bulb, obviously because, under otherwise equal conditions of test, more energy may be given off from the body when the bulb is large.
At very high degrees of exhaustion, when the matter in the bulb becomes "radiant," a large bulb has still an advantage, but a comparatively slight one, over the small bulb.
Finally, at excessively high degrees of exhaustion, which cannot be reached except by the employment of special means, there seems to be, beyond a certain and rather small size of vessel, no perceptible difference in the heating.
These observations were the result of a number of experiments, of which one, showing the effect of the size of the bulb at a high degree of exhaustion, may be described and shown here, as it presents a feature of interest. Three spherical bulbs of 2 inches, 3 inches and 4 inches diameter were taken, and in the centre of each was mounted an equal length of an ordinary incandescent lamp filament of uniform thickness. In each bulb the piece of filament was fastened to the leading-in wire of platinum, contained in a glass stem sealed in the bulb; care being taken, of course, to make everything as nearly alike as possible. On each glass stem in the inside of the bulb was slipped a highly polished tube made of aluminium sheet, which fitted the stem and was held on it by spring pressure. The function of this aluminium tube will be explained subsequently. In each bulb an equal length of filament protruded above the metal tube. It is sufficient to say now that under these conditions equal lengths of filament of the same thickness—in other words, bodies of equal bulk—were brought to incandescence. The three bulbs were sealed to a glass tube, which was connected to a Sprengel pump. When a high vacuum had been reached, the glass tube carrying the bulbs was sealed off. A current was then turned on successively on each bulb, and it was found that the filaments came to about the same brightness, and, if anything, the smallest bulb, which was placed midway between the two larger ones, may have been slightly brighter. This result was expected, for when either of the bulbs was connected to the coil the luminosity spread through the other two, hence the three bulbs constituted really one vessel. When all the three bulbs were connected in multiple arc to the coil, in the largest of them the filament glowed brightest, in the next smaller it was a little less bright, and in the smallest it only came to redness. The bulbs were then sealed off and separately tried. The brightness of the filaments was now such as would have been expected on the supposition that the energy given off was proportionate to the surface of the bulb, this surface in each case representing one of the coatings of a condenser. Accordingly, time was less difference between the largest and the middle sized than between the latter and the smallest bulb.
An interesting observation was made in this experiment. The three bulbs were suspended from a straight bare wire connected to a terminal of the coil, the largest bulb being placed at the end of the wire, at some distance from it the smallest bulb, and an equal distance from the latter the middle-sized one. The carbons glowed then in both the larger bulbs about as expected, but the smallest did not get its share by far. This observation led me to exchange the position of the bulbs, and I then observed that whichever of the bulbs was in the middle it was by far less bright than it was in any other position. This mystifying result was, of course, found to be due to the electrostatic action between the bulbs. When they were placed at a considerable distance, or when they were attached to the corners of an equilateral triangle of copper wire, they glowed about in the order determined by their surfaces.
As to the shape of the vessel, it is also of some importance, especially at high degrees of exhaustion. Of all the possible constructions, it seems that a spherical globe with the refractory body mounted in its centre is the best to employ. In experience it has been demonstrated that in such a globe a refractory body of a given bulk is more easily brought to incandescence than when otherwise shaped bulbs are used. There is also an advantage in giving to the incandescent body the shape of a sphere, for self-evident reasons. In any case the body should be mounted in the centre, where the atoms rebounding from the glass collide. This object is best attained in the spherical bulb; but it is also attained in a cylindrical vessel with one or two straight filaments coinciding with its axis, and possibly also in parabolical or spherical bulbs with the refractory body or bodies placed in the focus or foci of the same; though the latter is not probable, as the electrified atoms should in all cases rebound normally from the surface they strike, unless the speed were excessive, in which case they would probably follow the general law of reflection. No matter what shape the vessel may have, if the exhaustion be low, a filament mounted in the globe is brought to the same degree of incandescence in all parts; but if the exhaustion be high and the bulb be spherical or pear-shaped, as usual, focal points form and the filament is heated to a higher degree at or near such points.
To illustrate the effect, I have here two small bulbs which are alike, only one is exhausted to a low and the other to a very high degree. When connected to the coil, the filament in the former glows uniformly throughout all its length; whereas in the latter, that portion of the filament which is in the centre of the bulb glows far more intensely than the rest. A curious point is that the phenomenon occurs even if two filaments are mounted in a bulb, each being connected to one terminal of the coil, and, what is still more curious, if they be very near together, provided the vacuum be very high. I noted in experiments with such bulbs that the filaments would give way usually at a certain point, and in the first trials I attributed it to a defect in the carbon. But when the phenomenon occurred many times in succession I recognized its real cause.
In order to bring a refractory body inclosed in a bulb to incandescence, it is desirable, on account of economy, that all the energy supplied to the bulb from the source should reach without loss the body to be heated; from there, and from nowhere else, it should be radiated. It is, of course, out of the question to reach this theoretical result, but it is possible by a proper construction of the illuminating device to approximate it more or less.
For many reasons, the refractory body is placed in the centre of the bulb, and it is usually supported on a glass stem containing the leading-in wire. As the potential of this wire is alternated, the rarefied gas surrounding the stem is acted upon inductively, and the glass stem is violently bombarded and heated. In this manner by far the greater portion of the energy supplied to the bulb—especially when exceedingly high frequencies are used—may be lost for the purpose contemplated. To obviate this loss, or at least to reduce it to a minimum, I usually screen the rarefied gas surrounding the stem from the inductive action of the leading-in wire by providing the stem with a tube or coating of conducting material. It seems beyond doubt that the best among metals to employ for this purpose is aluminium, on account of its many remarkable properties. Its only fault is that it is easily fusible, and, therefore, its distance from the incandescing body should be properly estimated. Usually, a thin tube, of a diameter somewhat smaller than that of the glass stem, is made of the finest aluminium sheet, and slipped on the stem. The tube is conveniently prepared by wrapping around a rod fastened in a lathe a piece of aluminium sheet of the proper size, grasping the sheet firmly with clean chamois leather or blotting paper, and spinning the rod very fast. The sheet is wound tightly around the rod, and a highly polished tube of one or three layers of the sheet is obtained. When slipped on the stem, the pressure is generally sufficient to prevent it from slipping off, but, for safety, the lower edge of the sheet may be turned inside. The upper inside corner of the sheet—that is, the one which is nearest to the refractory incandescent body—should be cut out diagonally, as it often happens that, in consequence of the intense heat, this corner turns toward the inside and comes very near to, or in contact with, the wire, or filament, supporting the refractory body. The greater part of the energy supplied to the bulb is then used up in heating the metal tube, and the bulb is rendered useless for the purpose. The aluminium sheet should project above the glass stem more or less—one inch or so—or else, if the glass be too close to the incandescing body, it may be strongly heated and become more or less conducting, whereupon it may be ruptured, or may, by its conductivity, establish a good electrical connection between the metal tube and the leading-in wire, in which case, again, most of the energy will be lost in heating the former. Perhaps the best way is to make the top of the glass tube, for about an inch, of a much smaller diameter. To still further reduce the danger arising from the heating of the glass stem, and also with the view of preventing an electrical connection between the metal tube and the electrode, I preferably wrap the stem with several layers of thin mica, which extends at least as far as the metal tube. In some bulbs I have also used an outside insulating cover.
The preceding remarks are only made to aid the experimenter in the first trials, for the difficulties which he encounters he may soon find means to overcome in his own way.
To illustrate the effect of the screen, and the advantage of using it, I have here two bulbs of the same size, with their stems, leading-in wires and incandescent lamp filaments tied to the latter, as nearly alike as possible. The stem of one bulb is provided with an aluminium tube, the stem of the other has none. Originally the two bulbs were joined by a tube which was connected to a Sprengel pump. When a high vacuum had been reached, first the connecting tube, and then the bulbs, were sealed off; they are therefore of the same degree of exhaustion. When they are separately connected to the coil giving a certain potential, the carbon filament in the bulb provided with the aluminium screen is rendered highly incandescent, while the filament in the other bulb may, with the same potential, not even come to redness, although in reality the latter bulb takes generally more energy than the former. When they are both connected together to the terminal, the difference is even more apparent, showing the importance of the screening. The metal tube placed on the stem containing the leading-in wire performs really two distinct functions: First: it acts more or less as an electrostatic screen, thus economizing the energy supplied to the bulb; and, second, to whatever extent it may fail to act electrostatically, it acts mechanically, preventing the bombardment, and consequently intense heating and possible deterioration of the slender support of the refractory incandescent body, or of the glass stem containing the leading-in wire. I say slender support, for it is evident that in order to confine the heat more completely to the incandescing body its support should be very thin, so as to carry away the smallest possible amount of heat by conduction. Of all the supports used I have found an ordinary incandescent lamp filament to be the best, principally because among conductors it can withstand the highest degrees of heat.
The effectiveness of the metal tube as an electrostatic screen depends largely on the degree of exhaustion.
At excessively high degrees of exhaustion—which are reached by using great care and special means in connection with the Sprengel pump—when the matter in the globe is in the ultra-radiant state, it acts most perfectly. The shadow of the upper edge of the tube is then sharply defined upon the bulb.
At a somewhat lower degree of exhaustion, which is about the ordinary "non-striking" vacuum, and generally as long as the matter moves predominantly in straight lines, the screen still does well. In elucidation of the preceding remark it is necessary to state that what is a "non-striking" vacuum for a coil operated, as ordinarily, by impulses, or currents, of low-frequency, is not, by far, so when the coil is operated by currents of very high frequency. In such case the discharge may pass with great freedom through the rarefied gas through which a low-frequency discharge may not pass, even though the potential be much higher. At ordinary atmospheric pressures just the reverse rule holds good: the higher the frequency, the less the spark discharge is able to jump between the terminals, especially if they are knobs or spheres of some size.
Finally, at very low degrees of exhaustion, when the gas is well conducting, the metal tube not only does not act as an electrostatic screen, but even is a drawback, aiding to a considerable extent the dissipation of the energy laterally from the leading-in wire. This, of course, is to be expected. In this case, namely, the metal tube is in good electrical connection with the leading-in wire, and most of the bombardment is directed upon the tube. As long as the electrical connection is not good, the conducting tube is always of some advantage, for although it may not greatly economize energy, still it protects the support of the refractory button, and is a means for concentrating more energy upon the same.
To whatever extent the aluminium tube performs the function of a screen, its usefulness is therefore limited to very high degrees of exhaustion when it is insulated from the electrode—that is, when the gas as a whole is non-conducting, and the molecules, or atoms, act as independent carriers of electric charges.
In addition to acting as a more or less effective screen, in the true meaning of the word, the conducting tube or coating may also act, by reason of its conductivity, as a sort of equalizer or dampener of the bombardment against the stem. To be explicit, I assume the action as follows: Suppose a rhythmical bombardment to occur against the conducting tube by reason of its imperfect action as a screen, it certainly must happen that some molecules, or atoms, strike the tube sooner than others. Those which come first in contact with it give up their superfluous charge, and the tube is electrified, the electrification instantly spreading over its surface. But this must diminish the energy lost in the bombardment for two reasons: first, the charge given up by the atoms spreads over a great area, and hence the electric density at any point is small, and the atoms are repelled with less energy than they would be if they would strike against a good insulator: secondly, as the tube is electrified by the atoms which first come in contact with it, the progress of the following atoms against the tube is more or less checked by the repulsion which the electrified tube must exert upon the similarly electrified atoms. This repulsion may perhaps be sufficient to prevent a large portion of the atoms from striking the tube, but at any rate it must diminish the energy of their impact. It is clear that when the exhaustion is very low, and the rarefied gas well conducting, neither of the above effects can occur, and, on the other hand, the fewer the atoms, with the greater freedom they move; in other words, the higher the degree of exhaustion, up to a limit, the more telling will be both the effects.
What I have just said may afford an explanation of the phenomenon observed by Prof. Crookes, namely, that a discharge through a bulb is established with much greater facility when an insulator than when a conductor is present in the same. In my opinion, the conductor acts as a dampener of the motion of the atoms in the two ways pointed out; hence, to cause a visible discharge to pass through the bulb, a much higher potential is needed if a conductor, especially of much surface, be present.
For the sake of clearness of some of the remarks before made, I must now refer to Figs. 18, 19 and 20, which illustrate various arrangements with a type of bulb most generally used.
Fig. 18 is a section through a spherical bulb L, with the glass stem s, containing the leading-in wire w; which has a lamp filament l fastened to it, serving to support the refractory button m in the centre. M is a sheet of thin mica wound in several layers around the stem s, and a is the aluminium tube.
Fig. 19 illustrates such a bulb in a somewhat more advanced stage of perfection. A metallic tube S is fastened by means of some cement to the neck of the tube. In the tube is screwed a plug P, of insulating material, in the centre of which is fastened a metallic terminal t, for the connection to the leading-in wire w. This terminal must be well insulated from the metal tube S, therefore, if the cement used is conducting—and most generally it is sufficiently so—the space between the plug P and the neck of the bulb should be filled with some good insulating material, as mica powder.
Fig. 20 shows a bulb made for experimental purposes. In this bulb the aluminium tube is provided with an external connection, which serves to investigate the effect of the tube under various conditions. It is referred to chiefly to suggest a line of experiment followed.
Since the bombardment against the stem containing the leading-in wire is due to the inductive action of the latter upon the rarefied gas, it is of advantage to reduce this action as far as practicable by employing a very thin wire, surrounded by a very thick insulation of glass or other material, and by making the wire passing through the rarefied gas as short as practicable. To combine these features I employ a large tube T (Fig. 21), which protrudes into the bulb to some distance, and carries on the top a very short glass stem s, into which is sealed the leading-in wire w, and I protect the top of the glass stem against the heat by a small, aluminium tube a and a layer of mica underneath the same, as usual. The wire w, passing through the large tube to the outside of the bulb, should be well insulated—with a glass tube, for instance—and the space between ought to be filled out with some excellent insulator. Among many insulating powders I have tried, I have found that mica powder is the best to employ. If this precaution is not taken, the tube T, protruding into the bulb, will surely be cracked in consequence of the heating by the brushes which are apt to form in the upper part of the tube, near the exhausted globe, especially if the vacuum be excellent, and therefore the potential necessary to operate the lamp very high.
Fig. 22 illustrates a similar arrangement, with a large tube T protruding in to the part of the bulb containing the refractors button m. In this case the wire leading from the outside into the bulb is omitted, the energy required being supplied through condenser coatings CC. The insulating packing P should in this construction be tightly fitting to the glass, and rather wide, or otherwise the discharge might avoid passing through the wire w, which connects the inside condenser coating to the incandescent button m. The molecular bombardment against the glass stem in the bulb is a source of great trouble. As illustration I will cite a phenomenon only too frequently and unwillingly observed. A bulb, preferably a large one, may be taken, and a good conducting body, such as a piece of carbon, may be mounted in it upon a platinum wire sealed in the glass stem. The bulb may be exhausted to a fairly high degree, nearly to the point when phosphorescence begins to appear.
When the bulb is connected with the coil, the piece of carbon, if small, may become highly incandescent at first, but its brightness immediately diminishes, and then the discharge may break through the glass somewhere in the middle of the stem, in the form of bright sparks, in spite of the fact that the platinum wire is in good electrical connection with the rarefied gas through the piece of carbon or metal at the top. The first sparks are singularly bright, recalling those drawn from a clear surface of mercury. But, as they heat the glass rapidly, they, of course, lose their brightness, and cease when the glass at the ruptured place becomes incandescent, or generally sufficiently hot to conduct. When observed for the first time the phenomenon must appear very curious, and shows in a striking manner how radically different alternate currents, or impulses, of high frequency behave, as compared with steady currents, or currents of low frequency. With such currents—namely, the latter—the phenomenon would of course not occur. When frequencies such as are obtained by mechanical means are used, I think that the rupture of the glass is more or less the consequence of the bombardment, which warms it up and impairs its insulating power; but with frequencies obtainable with condensers I have no doubt that the glass may give way without previous heating. Although this appears most singular at first, it is in reality what we might expect to occur. The energy supplied to the wire leading into the bulb is given off partly by direct action through the carbon button, and partly by inductive action through the glass surrounding the wire. The case is thus analogous to that in which a condenser shunted by a conductor of low resistance is connected to a source of alternating currents. As long as the frequencies are low, the conductor gets the most, and the condenser is perfectly safe: but when the frequency becomes excessive, the role of the conductor may become quite insignificant. In the latter case the difference of potential at the terminals of the condenser may become so great as to rupture the dielectric, notwithstanding the fact that the terminals are joined by a conductor of low resistance.
It is, of course, not necessary, when it is desired to produce the incandescence of a body inclosed in a bulb by means of these currents, that the body should be a conductor, for even a perfect non-conductor may be quite as readily heated. For this purpose it is sufficient to surround a conducting electrode with a non-conducting material, as, for instance, in the bulb described before in Fig. 21, in which a thin incandescent lamp filament is coated with a non-conductor, and supports a button of the same material on the top. At the start the bombardment goes on by inductive action through the non-conductor, until the same is sufficiently heated to become conducting, when the bombardment continues in the ordinary way.
A different arrangement used in some of the bulbs constructed is illustrated in Fig. 23. In this instance a non-conductor m is mounted in a piece of common arc light carbon so as to project some small distance above the latter. The carbon piece is connected to the leading-in wire passing through a glass stem, which is wrapped with several layers of mica. An aluminium tube a is employed as usual for screening. It is so arranged that it reaches very nearly as high as the carbon and only the non-conductor m projects a little above it. The bombardment goes at first against the upper surface of carbon, the lower parts being protected by the aluminium tube. As soon, however, as the non-conductor m is heated it is rendered good conducting, and then it becomes the centre of the bombardment, being most exposed to the same.
I have also constructed during these experiments many such single-wire bulbs with or without internal electrode, in which the radiant matter was projected against, or focused upon, the body to be rendered incandescent. Fig. 24 illustrates one of the bulbs used. It consists of a spherical globe L, provided with a long neck n, on the top, for increasing the action in some cases by the application of an external conducting coating. The globe L is blown out on the bottom into a very small bulb b, which serves to hold it firmly in a socket S of insulating material into which it is cemented. A fine lamp filament f, supported on a wire w, passes through the centre of the globe L. The filament is rendered incandescent in the middle portion, where the bombardment proceeding from the lower inside surface of the globe is most intense. The lower portion of the globe, as far as the socket S reaches, is rendered conducting, either by a tinfoil coating or otherwise, and the external electrode is connected to a terminal of the coil.
The arrangement diagrammatically indicated in Fig. 24 was found to be an inferior one when it was desired to render incandescent a filament or button supported in the centre of the globe, but it was convenient when the object was to excite phosphorescence.
In many experiments in which bodies of a different kind were mounted in the bulb as, for instance, indicated in Fig. 23, some observations of interest were made.
It was found, among other things, that in such cases, no matter where the bombardment began, just as soon as a high temperature was reached there was generally one of the bodies which seemed to take most of the bombardment upon itself, the other, or others, being thereby relieved. This quality appeared to depend principally on the point of fusion, and on the facility with which the body was "evaporated," or, generally speaking, disintegrated—meaning by the latter term not only the throwing off of atoms, but likewise of larger lumps. The observation made was in accordance with generally accepted notions. In a highly exhausted bulb electricity is carried off from the electrode by independent carriers, which are partly the atoms, or molecules, of the residual atmosphere, and partly the atoms, molecules, or lumps thrown off from the electrode. If the electrode is composed of bodies of different character, and if one of these is more easily disintegrated than the others, most of the electricity supplied is carried off from that body, which is then brought to a higher temperature than the others, and this the more, as upon an increase of the temperature the body is still more easily disintegrated.
It seems to me quite probable that a similar process takes place in the bulb even with a homogeneous electrode, and I think it to be the principal cause of the disintegration. There is bound to be some irregularity, even if the surface is highly polished, which, of course, is impossible with most of the refractory bodies employed as electrodes. Assume that a point of the electrode gets hotter, instantly most of the discharge passes through that point, and a minute patch is probably fused and evaporated. It is now possible that in consequence of the violent disintegration the spot attacked sinks in temperature, or that a counter force is created, as in an arc; at any rate, the local tearing off meets with the limitations incident to the experiment, whereupon the same process occurs on another place. To the eye the electrode appears uniformly brilliant, but there are upon it points constantly shifting and wandering around, of a temperature far above the mean, and this materially hastens the process of deterioration. That some such thing occurs, at least when the electrode is at a lower temperature, sufficient experimental evidence can be obtained in the following manner: Exhaust a bulb to a very high degree, so that with a fairly high potential the discharge cannot pass—that is, not a luminous one, for a weak invisible discharge occurs always, in all probability. Now raise slowly and carefully the potential, leaving the primary current on no more than for an instant. At a certain point, two, three, or half a dozen phosphorescent spots will appear on the globe. These places of the glass are evidently more violently bombarded than others, this being due to the unevenly distributed electric density, necessitated, of course, by sharp projections, or, generally speaking, irregularities of the electrode. But the luminous patches are constantly changing in position, which is especially well observable if one manages to produce very few, and this indicates that the configuration of the electrode is rapidly changing.
From experiences of this kind I am led to infer that, in order to be most durable, the refractory button in the bulb should be in the form of a sphere with a highly polished surface. Such a small sphere could be manufactured from a diamond or some other crystal, but a better way would be to fuse, by the employment of extreme degrees of temperature, some oxide—as, for instance, zirconia—into a small drop, and then keep it in the bulb at a temperature somewhat below its point of fusion.
Interesting and useful results can no doubt be reached in the direction of extreme degrees of heat. How can such high temperatures be arrived at? How are the highest degrees of heat reached in nature? By the impact of stars, by high speeds and collisions. In a collision any rate of heat generation may be attained. In a chemical process we are limited. When oxygen and hydrogen combine, they fall, metaphorically speaking, from a definite height. We cannot go very far with a blast, nor by confining heat in a furnace, but in an exhausted bulb we can concentrate any amount of energy upon a minute button. Leaving practicability out of consideration, this, then, would be the means which, in my opinion, would enable us to reach the highest temperature. But a great difficulty when proceeding in this way is encountered, namely, in most cases the body is carried off before it can fuse and form a drop. This difficulty exists principally with an oxide such as zirconia, because it cannot be compressed in so hard a cake that it would not be carried off quickly. I endeavored repeatedly to fuse zirconia, placing it in a cup or arc light carbon as indicated in Fig. 23. It glowed with a most intense light, and the stream of the particles projected out of the carbon cup was of a vivid white: but whether it was compressed in a cake or made into a paste with carbon, it was carried off before it could be fused. The carbon cup containing the zirconia had to be mounted very low in the neck of a large bulb, as the heating of the glass by the projected particles of the oxide was so rapid that in the first trial the bulb was cracked almost in an instant when the current was turned on. The heating of the glass by the projected particles was found to be always greater when the carbon cup contained a body which was rapidly carried off—I presume because in such cases, with the same potential, higher speeds were reached, and also because, per unit of time, more matter was projected—that is, more particles would strike the glass.
The before mentioned difficulty did not exist, however, when the body mounted in the carbon cup offered great resistance to deterioration. For instance, when an oxide was first fused in an oxygen blast and then mounted in the bulb, it melted very readily into a drop.
Generally during the process of fusion magnificent light effects were noted, of which it would be difficult to give an adequate idea. Fig. 23 is intended to illustrate the effect observed with a ruby drop. At first one may see a narrow funnel of white light projected against the top of the globe, where it produces an irregularly outlined phosphorescent patch. When the point of the ruby fuses the phosphorescence becomes very powerful; but as the atoms are projected with much greater speed from the surface of the drop, soon the glass gets hot and "tired," and now only the outer edge of the patch glows. In this manner an intensely phosphorescent, sharply defined line, l, corresponding to the outline of the drop, is produced, which spreads slowly over the globe as the drop gets larger. When the mass begins to boil, small bubbles and cavities are formed, which cause dark colored spots to sweep across the globe. The bulb may be turned downward without fear of the drop falling off, as the mass possesses considerable viscosity.
I may mention here another feature of some interest, which I believe to have noted in the course of these experiments, though the observations do not amount to a certitude. It appeared that under the molecular impact caused by the rapidly alternating potential the body was fused and maintained in that state at a lower temperature in a highly exhausted bulb than was the case at normal pressure and application of heat in the ordinary way—that is, at least, judging from the quantity of the light emitted. One of the experiments performed may be mentioned here by way of illustration. A small piece of pumice stone was stuck on a platinum wire, and first melted to it in a gas burner. The wire was next placed between two pieces of charcoal and a burner applied so as to produce an intense heat, sufficient to melt down the pumice stone into a small glass-like button. The platinum wire had to be taken of sufficient thickness to prevent its melting in the fire. While in the charcoal fire, or when held in a burner to get a better idea of the degree of heat, the button glowed with great brilliancy. The wire with the button was then mounted in a bulb, and upon exhausting the same to a high degree, the current was turned on slowly so as to prevent the cracking of the button. The button was heated to the point of fusion, and when it melted it did not, apparently, glow with the same brilliancy as before, and this would indicate a lower temperature. Leaving out of consideration the observer's possible, and even probable, error, the question is, can a body under these conditions be brought from a solid to a liquid state with evolution of less light?
When the potential of a body is rapidly alternated it is certain that the structure is jarred. When the potential is very high, although the vibrations may be few—say 20,000 per second—the effect upon the structure may be considerable. Suppose, for example, that a ruby is melted into a drop by a steady application of energy. When it forms a drop it will emit visible and invisible waves, which will be in a definite ratio, and to the eye the drop will appear to be of a certain brilliancy. Next, suppose we diminish to any degree we choose the energy steadily supplied, and, instead, supply energy which rises and falls according to a certain law. Now, when the drop is formed, there will be emitted from it three different kinds of vibrations—the ordinary visible, and two kinds of invisible waves: that is, the ordinary dark waves of all lengths, and, in addition, waves of a well defined character. The latter would not exist by a steady supply of the energy; still they help to jar and loosen the structure. If this really be the case, then the ruby drop will emit relatively less visible and more invisible waves than before. Thus it would seem that when a platinum wire, for instance, is fused by currents alternating with extreme rapidity, it emits at the point of fusion less light and more invisible radiation than it does when melted by a steady current, though the total energy used up in the process of fusion is the same in both cases. Or, to cite another example, a lamp filament is not capable of withstanding as long with currents of extreme frequency as it does with steady currents, assuming that it be worked at the same luminous intensity. This means that for rapidly alternating currents the filament should be shorter and thicker. The higher the frequency—that is, the greater the departure from the steady flow—the worse it would be for the filament. But if the truth of this remark were demonstrated, it would be erroneous to conclude that such a refractory button as used in these bulbs would be deteriorated quicker by currents of extremely high frequency than by steady or low frequency currents. From experience I may say that just the opposite holds good: the button withstands the bombardment better with currents of very high frequency. But this is due to the fact that a high frequency discharge passes through a rarefied gas with much greater freedom than a steady or low frequency discharge, and this will say that with the former we can work with a lower potential or with a less violent impact. As long, then, as the gas is of no consequence, a steady or low frequency current is better; but as soon as the action of the gas is desired and important, high frequencies are preferable.
In the course of these experiments a great many trials were made with all kinds of carbon buttons. Electrodes made of ordinary carbon buttons were decidedly more durable when the buttons were obtained by the application of enormous pressure. Electrodes prepared by depositing carbon in well known ways did not show up well; they blackened the globe very quickly. From many experiences I conclude that lamp filaments obtained in this manner can be advantageously used only with low potentials and low frequency currents. Some kinds of carbon withstand so well that, in order to bring them to the point of fusion, it is necessary to employ very small buttons. In this case the observation is rendered very difficult on account of the intense heat produced. Nevertheless there can be no doubt that all kinds of carbon are fused under the molecular bombardment, but the liquid state must be one of great instability. Of all the bodies tried there were two which withstood best—diamond and carborundum. These two showed up about equally, but the latter was preferable, for many reasons. As it is more than likely that this body is not yet generally known, I will venture to call your attention to it.
It has been recently produced by Mr. E.G. Acheson, of Monongahela City, Pa., U.S.A. It is intended to replace ordinary diamond powder for polishing precious stones, etc., and I have been informed that it accomplishes this object quite successfully. I do not know why the name "carborundum" has been given to it, unless there is something in the process of its manufacture which justifies this selection. Through the kindness of the inventor, I obtained a short while ago some samples which I desired to test in regard to their qualities of phosphorescence and capability of withstanding high degrees of heat.
Carborundum can be obtained in two forms—in the form of "crystals" and of powder. The former appear to the naked eye dark colored, but are very brilliant; the latter is of nearly the same color as ordinary diamond powder, but very much finer. When viewed under a microscope the samples of crystals given to me did not appear to have any definite form, but rather resembled pieces of broken up egg coal of fine quality. The majority were opaque, but there were some which were transparent and colored. The crystals are a kind of carbon containing some impurities; they are extremely hard, and withstand for a long time even an oxygen blast. When the blast is directed against them they at first form a cake of some compactness, probably in consequence of the fusion of impurities they contain. The mass withstands for a very long time the blast without further fusion; but a slow carrying off, or burning, occurs, and, finally, a small quantity of a glass-like residue is left, which, I suppose, is melted alumina. When compressed strongly they conduct very well, but not as well as ordinary carbon. The powder, which is obtained from the crystals in some way, is practically non-conducting. It affords a magnificent polishing material for stones.
The time has been too short to make a satisfactory study of the properties of this product, but enough experience has been gained in a few weeks I have experimented upon it to say that it does possess some remarkable properties in many respects. It withstands excessively high degrees of heat, it is little deteriorated by molecular bombardment, and it does not blacken the globe as ordinary carbon does. The only difficulty which I have found in its use in connection with these experiments was to find some binding material which would resist the heat and the effect of the bombardment as successfully as carborundum itself does.
I have here a number of bulbs which I have provided with buttons of carborundum. To make such a button of carborundum crystals I proceed in the following manner: I take an ordinary lamp filament and dip its point in tar, or some other thick substance or paint which may be readily carbonized. I next pass the point of the filament through the crystals, and then hold it vertically over a hot plate. The tar softens and forms a drop on the point of the filament, the crystals adhering to the surface of the drop. By regulating the distance from the plate the tar is slowly dried out and the button becomes solid. I then once more dip the button in tar and hold it again over a plate until the tar is evaporated, leaving only a hard mass which firmly binds the crystals. When a larger button is required I repeat the process several times, and I generally also cover the filament a certain distance below the button with crystals. The button being mounted in a bulb, when a good vacuum has been reached, first a weak and then a strong discharge is passed through the bulb to carbonize the tar and expel all gases, and later it is brought to a very intense incandescence.
When the powder is used I have found it best to proceed as follows: I make a thick paint of carborundum and tar, and pass a lamp filament through the paint. Taking then most of the paint off by rubbing the filament against a piece of chamois leather, I hold it over a hot plate until the tar evaporates and the coating becomes firm. I repeat this process as many times as it is necessary to obtain a certain thickness of coating. On the point of the coated filament I form a button in the same manner.
There is no doubt that such a button—properly prepared under great pressure—of carborundum, especially of powder of the best quality, will withstand the effect of the bombardment fully as well as anything we know. The difficulty is that the binding material gives way, and the carborundum is slowly thrown off after some time. As it does not seem to blacken the globe in the least, it might be found useful for coating the filaments of ordinary incandescent lamps, and I think that it is even possible to produce thin threads or sticks of carborundum which will replace the ordinary filaments in an incandescent lamp. A carborundum coating seems to be more durable than other coatings, not only because the carborundum can withstand high degrees of heat, but also because it seems to unite with the carbon better than any other material I have tried. A coating of zirconia or any other oxide, for instance, is far more quickly destroyed. I prepared buttons of diamond dust in the same manner as of carborundum, and these came in durability nearest to those prepared of carborundum, but the binding paste gave way much more quickly in the diamond buttons: this, however, I attributed to the size and irregularity of the grains of the diamond.
It was of interest to find whether carborundum possesses the quality of phosphorescence. One is, of course, prepared to encounter two difficulties: first, as regards the rough product, the "crystals," they are good conducting, and it is a fact that conductors do not phosphoresce; second, the powder, being exceedingly fine, would not be apt to exhibit very prominently this quality, since we know that when crystals, even such as diamond or ruby, are finely powdered, they lose the property of phosphorescence to a considerable degree.
The question presents itself here, can a conductor phosphoresce? What is there in such a body as a metal, for instance, that would deprive it of the quality of phosphorescence, unless it is that property which characterizes it as a conductor? for it is a fact that most of the phosphorescent bodies lose that quality when they are sufficiently heated to become more or less conducting. Then, if a metal be in a large measure, or perhaps entirely, deprived of that property, it should be capable of phosphorescence. Therefore it is quite possible that at some extremely high frequency, when behaving practically as a non-conductor, a metal or any other conductor might exhibit the quality of phosphorescence, even though it be entirely incapable of phosphorescing under the impact of a low-frequency discharge. There is, however, another possible way how a conductor might at least appear to phosphoresce.
Considerable doubt still exists as to what really is phosphorescence, and as to whether the various phenomena comprised under this head are due to the same causes. Suppose that in an exhausted bulb, under the molecular impact, the surface of a piece of metal or other conductor is rendered strongly luminous, but at the same time it is found that it remains comparatively cool, would not this luminosity be called phosphorescence? Now such a result, theoretically at least, is possible, for it is a mere question of potential or speed. Assume the potential of the electrode, and consequently the speed of the projected atoms, to be sufficiently high, the surface of the metal piece against which the atoms are projected would be rendered highly incandescent, since the process of heat generation would be incomparably faster than that of radiating or conducting away from the surface of the collision. In the eye of the observer a single impact of the atoms would cause an instantaneous flash, but if the impacts were repeated with sufficient rapidity they would produce a continuous impression upon his retina. To him then the surface of the metal would appear continuously incandescent and of constant luminous intensity, while in reality the light would be either intermittent or at least changing periodically in intensity. The metal piece would rise in temperature until equilibrium was attained—that is until the energy continuously radiated would equal that intermittently supplied. But the supplied energy might under such conditions not be sufficient to bring the body to any more than a very moderate mean temperature, especially if the frequency of the atomic impacts be very low—just enough that the fluctuation of the intensity of the light emitted could not be detected by the eye. The body would now, owing to the manner in which the energy is supplied, emit a strong light, and yet be at a comparatively very low mean temperature. How could the observer call the luminosity thus produced? Even if the analysis of the light would teach him something definite, still he would probably rank it under the phenomena of phosphorescence. It is conceivable that in such a way both conducting and non-conducting bodies may be maintained at a certain luminous intensity, but the energy required would very greatly vary with the nature and properties of the bodies.
These and some foregoing remarks of a speculative nature were made merely to bring out curious features of alternate currents or electric impulses. By their help we may cause a body to emit more light, while at a certain mean temperature, than it would emit if brought to that temperature by a steady supply; and, again, we may bring a body to the point of fusion, and cause it to emit less light than when fused by the application of energy in ordinary ways. It all depends on how we supply the energy, and what kind of vibrations we set up: in one case the vibrations are more, in the other less, adapted to affect our sense of vision.
Some effects, which I had not observed before, obtained with carborundum in the first trials, I attributed to phosphorescence, but in subsequent experiments it appeared that it was devoid of that quality. The crystals possess a noteworthy feature. In a bulb provided with a single electrode in the shape of a small circular metal disc, for instance, at a certain degree of exhaustion the electrode is covered with a milky film, which is separated by a dark space from the glow filling the bulb. When the metal disc is covered with carborundum crystals, the film is far more intense, and snow-white. This I found later to be merely an effect of the bright surface of the crystals, for when an aluminium electrode was highly polished it exhibited more or less the same phenomenon. I made a number of experiments with the samples of crystals obtained, principally because it would have been of special interest to find that they are capable of phosphorescence, on account of their being conducting. I could not produce phosphorescence distinctly, but I must remark that a decisive opinion cannot be formed until other experimenters have gone over the same ground.
The powder behaved in some experiments as though it contained alumina, but it did not exhibit with sufficient distinctness the red of the latter. Its dead color brightens considerably under the molecular impact, but I am now convinced it does not phosphoresce. Still, the tests with the powder are not conclusive, because powdered carborundum probably does not behave like a phosphorescent sulphide, for example, which could be finely powdered without impairing the phosphorescence, but rather like powdered ruby or diamond, and therefore it would be necessary, in order to make a decisive test, to obtain it in a large lump and polish up the surface.
If the carborundum proves useful in connection with these and similar experiments, its chief value will be found in the production of coatings, thin conductors, buttons, or other electrodes capable of withstanding extremely high degrees of heat.
The production of a small electrode capable of withstanding enormous temperatures I regard as of the greatest importance in the manufacture of light. It would enable us to obtain, by means of currents of very high frequencies, certainly 20 times, if not more, the quantity of light which is obtained in the present incandescent lamp by the same expenditure of energy. This estimate may appear to many exaggerated, but in reality I think it is far from being so. As this statement might be misunderstood I think it necessary to expose clearly the problem with which in this line of work we are confronted, and the manner in which, in my opinion, a solution will be arrived at.
Any one who begins a study of the problem will be apt to think that what is wanted in a lamp with an electrode is a very high degree of incandescence of the electrode. There he will be mistaken. The high incandescence of the button is a necessary evil, but what is really wanted is the high incandescence of the gas surrounding the button. In other words, the problem in such a lamp is to bring a mass of gas to the highest possible incandescence. The higher the incandescence, the quicker the mean vibration, the greater is the economy of the light production. But to maintain a mass of gas at a high degree of incandescence in a glass vessel, it will always be necessary to keep the incandescent mass away from the glass; that is, to confine it as much as possible to the central portion of the globe.
In one of the experiments this evening a brush was produced at the end of a wire. This brush was a flame, a source of heat and light. It did not emit much perceptible heat, nor did it glow with an intense light; but is it the less a flame because it does not scorch my hand? Is it the less a flame because it does not hurt my eye by its brilliancy? The problem is precisely to produce in the bulb such a flame, much smaller in size, but incomparably more powerful. Were there means at hand for producing electric impulses of a sufficiently high frequency, and for transmitting them, the bulb could be done away with, unless it were used to protect the electrode, or to economize the energy by confining the heat. But as such means are not at disposal, it becomes necessary to place the terminal in a bulb and rarefy the air in the same. This is done merely to enable the apparatus to perform the work which it is not capable of performing at ordinary air pressure. In the bulb we are able to intensify the action to any degree—so far that the brush emits a powerful light.
The intensity of the light emitted depends principally on the frequency and potential of the impulses, and on the electric density of the surface of the electrode. It is of the greatest importance to employ the smallest possible button, in order to push the density very far. Under the violent impact of the molecules of the gas surrounding it, the small electrode is of course brought to an extremely high temperature, but around it is a mass of highly incandescent gas, a flame photosphere, many hundred times the volume of the electrode. With a diamond, carborundum or zirconia button the photosphere can be as much as one thousand times the volume of the button. Without much reflecting one would think that in pushing so far the incandescence of the electrode it would be instantly volatilized. But after a careful consideration he would find that, theoretically, it should not occur, and in this fact—which, however, is experimentally demonstrated—lies principally the future value of such a lamp.
At first, when the bombardment begins, most of the work is performed on the surface of the button, but when a highly conducting photosphere is formed the button is comparatively relieved. The higher the incandescence of the photosphere the more it approaches in conductivity to that of the electrode, and the more, therefore, the solid and the gas form one conducting body. The consequence is that the further is forced the incandescence the more work, comparatively, is performed on the gas, and the less on the electrode. The formation of a powerful photosphere is consequently the very means for protecting the electrode. This protection, of course, is a relative one, and it should not be thought that by pushing the incandescence higher the electrode is actually less deteriorated. Still, theoretically, with extreme frequencies, this result must be reached, but probably at a temperature too high for most of the refractory bodies known. Given, then, an electrode which can withstand to a very high limit the effect of the bombardment and outward strain, it would be safe no matter how much it is forced beyond that limit. In an incandescent lamp quite different considerations apply. There the gas is not at all concerned: the whole of the work is performed on the filament; and the life of the lamp diminishes so rapidly with the increase of the degree of incandescence that economical reasons compel us to work it at a low incandescence. But if an incandescent lamp is operated with currents of very high frequency, the action of the gas cannot be neglected, and the rules for the most economical working must be considerably modified.
In order to bring such a lamp with one or two electrodes to a great perfection, it is necessary to employ impulses of very high frequency. The high frequency secures, among others, two chief advantages, which have a most important bearing upon the economy of the light production. First, the deterioration of the electrode is reduced by reason of the fact that we employ a great many small impacts, instead of a few violent ones, which shatter quickly the structure; secondly, the formation of a large photosphere is facilitated.
In order to reduce the deterioration of the electrode to the minimum, it is desirable that the vibration be harmonic, for any suddenness hastens the process of destruction. An electrode lasts much longer when kept at incandescence by currents, or impulses, obtained from a high-frequency alternator, which rise and fall more or less harmonically, than by impulses obtained from a disruptive discharge coil. In the latter case there is no doubt that most of the damage is done by the fundamental sudden discharges.
One of the elements of loss in such a lamp is the bombardment of the globe. As the potential is very high, the molecules are projected with great speed; they strike the glass, and usually excite a strong phosphorescence. The effect produced is very pretty, but for economical reasons it would be perhaps preferable to prevent, or at least reduce to the minimum, the bombardment against the globe, as in such case it is, as a rule, not the object to excite phosphorescence, and as some loss of energy results from the bombardment. This loss in the bulb is principally dependent on the potential of the impulses and on the electric density on the surface of the electrode. In employing very high frequencies the loss of energy by the bombardment is greatly reduced, for, first, the potential needed to perform a given amount of work is much smaller; and, secondly, by producing a highly conducting photosphere around the electrode, the same result is obtained as though the electrode were much larger, which is equivalent to a smaller electric density. But be it by the diminution of the maximum potential or of the density, the gain is effected in the same manner, namely, by avoiding violent shocks, which strain the glass much beyond its limit of elasticity. If the frequency could be brought high enough, the loss due to the imperfect elasticity of the glass would be entirely negligible. The loss due to bombardment of the globe may, however, be reduced by using two electrodes instead of one. In such case each of the electrodes may be connected to one of the terminals; or else, if it is preferable to use only one wire, one electrode may be connected to one terminal and the other to the ground or to an insulated body of some surface, as, for instance, a shade on the lamp. In the latter case, unless some judgment is used, one of the electrodes might glow more intensely than the other.
But on the whole I find it preferable when using such high frequencies to employ only one electrode and one connecting wire. I am convinced that the illuminating device of the near future will not require for its operation more than one lead, and, at any rate, it will have no leading-in wire, since the energy required can be as well transmitted through the glass. In experimental bulbs the leading-in wire is most generally used on account of convenience, as in employing condenser coatings in the manner indicated in Fig. 22, for example, there is some difficulty in fitting the parts, but these difficulties would not exist if a great many bulbs were manufactured; otherwise the energy can be conveyed through the glass as well as through a wire, and with these high frequencies the losses are very small. Such illuminating devices will necessarily involve the use of very high potentials, and this, in the eyes of practical men, might be an objectionable feature. Yet, in reality, high potentials are not objectionable—certainly not in the least as far as the safety of the devices is concerned.
There are two ways of rendering an electric appliance safe. One is to use low potentials, the other is to determine the dimensions of the apparatus so that it is safe no matter how high a potential is used. Of the two the latter seems to me the better way, for then the safety is absolute, unaffected by any possible combination of circumstances which might render even a low-potential appliance dangerous to life and property. But the practical conditions require not only the judicious determination of the dimensions of the apparatus; they likewise necessitate the employment of energy of the proper kind. It is easy, for instance, to construct a transformer capable of giving, when operated from an ordinary alternate current machine of low tension, say 50,000 volts, which might be required to light a highly exhausted phosphorescent tube, so that, in spite of the high potential, it is perfectly safe, the shock from it producing no inconvenience. Still, such a transformer would be expensive, and in itself inefficient; and, besides, what energy was obtained from it would not be economically used for the production of light. The economy demands the employment of energy in the form of extremely rapid vibrations. The problem of producing light has been likened to that of maintaining a certain high-pitch note by means of a bell. It should be said a barely audible note; and even these words would not express it, so wonderful is the sensitiveness of the eye. We may deliver powerful blows at long intervals, waste a good deal of energy, and still not get what we want; or we may keep up the note by delivering frequent gentle taps, and get nearer to the object sought by the expenditure of much less energy. In the production of light, as far as the illuminating device is concerned, there can be only one rule—that is, to use as high frequencies as can be obtained; but the means for the production and conveyance of impulses of such character impose, at present at least, great limitations. Once it is decided to use very high frequencies, the return wire becomes unnecessary, and all the appliances are simplified. By the use of obvious means the same result is obtained as though the return wire were used. It is sufficient for this purpose to bring in contact with the bulb, or merely in the vicinity of the same, an insulated body of some surface. The surface need, of course, be the smaller, the higher the frequency and potential used, and necessarily, also, the higher the economy of the lamp or other device.
This plan of working has been resorted to on several occasions this evening. So, for instance, when the incandescence of a button was produced by grasping the bulb with the hand, the body of the experimenter merely served to intensify the action. The bulb used was similar to that illustrated in Fig. 19, and the coil was excited to a small potential, not sufficient to bring the button to incandescence when the bulb was hanging from the wire; and incidentally, in order to perform the experiment in a more suitable manner, the button was taken so large that a perceptible time had to elapse before, upon grasping the bulb, it could be rendered incandescent. The contact with the bulb was, of course, quite unnecessary. It is easy, by using a rather large bulb with an exceedingly small electrode, to adjust the conditions so that the latter is brought to bright incandescence by the mere approach of the experimenter within a few feet of the bulb, and that the incandescence subsides upon his receding.
In another experiment, when phosphorescence was excited, a similar bulb was used. Here again, originally, the potential was not sufficient to excite phosphorescence until the action was intensified—in this case, however, to present a different feature, by touching the socket with a metallic object held in the hand. The electrode in the bulb was a carbon button so large that it could not be brought to incandescence, and thereby spoil the effect produced by phosphorescence.
Again, in another of the early experiments, a bulb was used as illustrated in Fig. 12. In this instance, by touching the bulb with one or two fingers, one or two shadows of the stem inside were projected against the glass, the touch of the finger producing the same result as the application of an external negative electrode under ordinary circumstances.
In all these experiments the action was intensified by augmenting the capacity at the end of the lead connected to the terminal. As a rule, it is not necessary to resort to such means, and would be quite unnecessary with still higher frequencies; but when it is desired, the bulb, or tube, can be easily adapted to the purpose.
In Fig. 24, for example, an experimental bulb L is shown, which is provided with a neck n on the top for the application of an external tinfoil coating, which may be connected to a body of larger surface. Such a lamp as illustrated in Fig. 25 may also be lighted by connecting the tinfoil coating on the neck n to the terminal, and the leading-in wire w to an insulated plate. If the bulb stands in a socket upright, as shown in the cut, a shade of conducting material may be slipped in the neck n, and the action thus magnified.
A more perfected arrangement used in some of these bulbs is illustrated in Fig. 26. In this case the construction of the bulb is as shown and described before, when reference was made to Fig. 19. A zinc sheet Z, with a tubular extension T, is slipped over the metallic socket S. The bulb hangs downward from the terminal t, the zinc sheet Z, performing the double office of intensifier and reflector. The reflector is separated from the terminal t by an extension of the insulating plug P.
A similar disposition with a phosphorescent tube is illustrated in Fig. 27. The tube T is prepared from two short tubes of a different diameter, which are sealed on the ends. On the lower end is placed an outside conducting coating C, which connects to the wire w. The wire has a hook on the upper end for suspension, and passes through the centre of the inside tube, which is filled with some good and tightly packed insulator. On the outside of the upper end of the tube T is another conducting coating C_1 upon which is slipped a metallic reflector Z, which should be separated by a thick insulation from the end of wire w.
The economical use of such a reflector or intensifier would require that all energy supplied to an air condenser should be recoverable, or, in other words, that there should not be any losses, neither in the gaseous medium nor through its action elsewhere. This is far from being so, but, fortunately, the losses may be reduced to anything desired. A few remarks are necessary on this subject, in order to make the experiences gathered in the course of these investigations perfectly clear.
Suppose a small helix with many well insulated turns, as in experiment Fig. 17, has one of its ends connected to one of the terminals of the induction coil, and the other to a metal plate, or, for the sake of simplicity, a sphere, insulated in space. When the coil is set to work, the potential of the sphere is alternated, and the small helix now behaves as though its free end were connected to the other terminal of the induction coil. If an iron rod be held within the small helix it is quickly brought to a high temperature, indicating the passage of a strong current through the helix. How does the insulated sphere act in this case? It can be a condenser, storing and returning the energy supplied to it, or it can be a mere sink of energy, and the conditions of the experiment determine whether it is more one or the other. The sphere being charged to a high potential, it acts inductively upon the surrounding air, or whatever gaseous medium there might be. The molecules, or atoms, which are near the sphere are of course more attracted, and move through a greater distance than the farther ones. When the nearest molecules strike the sphere they are repelled, and collisions occur at all distances within the inductive action of the sphere. It is now clear that, if the potential be steady, but little loss of energy can be caused in this way, for the molecules which are nearest to the sphere, having had an additional charge imparted to them by contact, are not attracted until they have parted, if not with all, at least with most of the additional charge, which can be accomplished only after a great many collisions. From the fact that with a steady potential there is but little loss in dry air, one must come to such a conclusion. When the potential of the sphere, instead of being steady, is alternating, the conditions are entirely different. In this case a rhythmical bombardment occurs, no matter whether the molecules after coming in contact with the sphere lose the imparted charge or not; what is more, if the charge is not lost, the impacts are only the more violent. Still if the frequency of the impulses be very small, the loss caused by the impacts and collisions would not be serious unless the potential were excessive. But when extremely high frequencies and more or less high potentials are used, the loss may be very great. The total energy lost per unit of time is proportionate to the product of the number of impacts per second, or the frequency and the energy lost in each impact. But the energy of an impact must be proportionate to the square of the electric density of the sphere, since the charge imparted to the molecule is proportionate to that density. I conclude from this that the total energy lost must be proportionate to the product of the frequency and the square of the electric density; but this law needs experimental confirmation. Assuming the preceding considerations to be true, then, by rapidly alternating the potential of a body immersed in an insulating gaseous medium, any amount of energy may be dissipated into space. Most of that energy then, I believe, is not dissipated in the form of long ether waves, propagated to considerable distance, as is thought most generally, but is consumed—in the case of an insulated sphere, for example—in impact and collisional losses—that is, heat vibrations—on the surface and in the vicinity of the sphere. To reduce the dissipation it is necessary to work with a small electric density—the smaller the higher the frequency.
But since, on the assumption before made, the loss is diminished with the square of the density, and since currents of very high frequencies involve considerable waste when transmitted through conductors, it follows that, on the whole, it is better to employ one wire than two. Therefore, if motors, lamps, or devices of any kind are perfected, capable of being advantageously operated by currents of extremely high frequency, economical reasons will make it advisable to use only one wire, especially if the distances are great.
When energy is absorbed in a condenser the same behaves as though its capacity were increased. Absorption always exists more or less, but generally it is small and of no consequence as long as the frequencies are not very great. In using extremely high frequencies, and, necessarily in such case, also high potentials, the absorption—or, what is here meant more particularly by this term, the loss of energy due to the presence of a gaseous medium—is an important factor to be considered, as the energy absorbed in the air condenser may be any fraction of the supplied energy. This would seem to make it very difficult to tell from the measured or computed capacity of an air condenser its actual capacity or vibration period, especially if the condenser is of very small surface and is charged to a very high potential. As many important results are dependent upon the correctness of the estimation of the vibration period, this subject demands the most careful scrutiny of other investigators. To reduce the probable error as much as possible in experiments of the kind alluded to, it is advisable to use spheres or plates of large surface, so as to make the density exceedingly small. Otherwise, when it is practicable, an oil condenser should be used in preference. In oil or other liquid dielectrics there are seemingly no such losses as in gaseous media. It being impossible to exclude entirely the gas in condensers with solid dielectrics, such condensers should be immersed in oil, for economical reasons if nothing else; they can then be strained to the utmost and will remain cool. In Leyden jars the loss due to air is comparatively small, as the tinfoil coatings are large, close together, and the charged surfaces not directly exposed; but when the potentials are very high, the loss may be more or less considerable at, or near, the upper edge of the foil, where the air is principally acted upon. If the jar be immersed in boiled-out oil, it will be capable of performing four times the amount of work which it can for any length of time when used in the ordinary way, and the loss will be inappreciable.
It should not be thought that the loss in heat in an air condenser is necessarily associated with the formation of visible streams or brushes. If a small electrode, inclosed in an unexhausted bulb, is connected to one of the terminals of the coil, streams can be seen to issue from the electrode and the air in the bulb is heated; if, instead of a small electrode, a large sphere is inclosed in the bulb, no streams are observed, still the air is heated.
Nor should it be thought that the temperature of an air condenser would give even an approximate idea of the loss in heat incurred, as in such case heat must be given off much more quickly, since there is, in addition to the ordinary radiation, a very active carrying away of heat by independent carriers going on, and since not only the apparatus, but the air at some distance from it is heated in consequence of the collisions which must occur.
Owing to this, in experiments with such a coil, a rise of temperature can be distinctly observed only when the body connected to the coil is very small. But with apparatus on a larger scale, even a body of considerable bulk would be heated, as, for instance, the body of a person; and I think that skilled physicians might make observations of utility in such experiments, which, if the apparatus were judiciously designed, would not present the slightest danger.
A question of some interest, principally to meteorologists, presents itself here. How does the earth behave? The earth is an air condenser, but is it a perfect or a very imperfect one—a mere sink of energy? There can be little doubt that to such small disturbance as might be caused in an experiment the earth behaves as an almost perfect condenser. But it might be different when its charge is set in vibration by some sudden disturbance occurring in the heavens. In such case, as before stated, probably only little of the energy of the vibrations set up would be lost into space in the form of long ether radiations, but most of the energy, I think, would spend itself in molecular impacts and collisions, and pass off into space in the form of short heat, and possibly light, waves. As both the frequency of the vibrations of the charge and the potential are in all probability excessive, the energy converted into heat may be considerable. Since the density must be unevenly distributed, either in consequence of the irregularity of the earth's surface, or on account of the condition of the atmosphere in various places, the effect produced would accordingly vary from place to place. Considerable variations in the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere may in this manner be caused at any point of the surface of the earth. The variations may be gradual or very sudden, according to the nature of the general disturbance, and may produce rain and storms, or locally modify the weather in any way.
From the remarks before made one may see what an important factor of loss the air in the neighborhood of a charged surface becomes when the electric density is great and the frequency of the impulses excessive. But the action as explained implies that the air is insulating—that is, that it is composed of independent carriers immersed in an insulating medium. This is the case only when the air is at something like ordinary or greater, or at extremely small, pressure. When the air is slightly rarefied and conducting, then true conduction losses occur also. In such case, of course, considerable energy may be dissipated into space even with a steady potential, or with impulses of low frequency, if the density is very great.
When the gas is at very low pressure, an electrode is heated more because higher speeds can be reached. If the gas around the electrode is strongly compressed, the displacements, and consequently the speeds, are very small, and the heating is insignificant. But if in such case the frequency could be sufficiently increased, the electrode would be brought to a high temperature as well as if the gas were at very low pressure; in fact, exhausting the bulb is only necessary because we cannot produce (and possibly not convey) currents of the required frequency.
Returning to the subject of electrode lamps, it is obviously of advantage in such a lamp to confine as much as possible the heat to the electrode by preventing the circulation of the gas in the bulb. If a very small bulb be taken, it would confine the heat better than a large one, but it might not be of sufficient capacity to be operated from the coil, or, if so, the glass might get too hot. A simple way to improve in this direction is to employ a globe of the required size, but to place a small bulb, the diameter of which is properly estimated, over the refractory button contained in the globe. This arrangement is illustrated in Fig. 28.
The globe L has in this case a large neck n, allowing the small bulb b to slip through. Otherwise the construction is the same as shown in Fig. 18, for example. The small bulb is conveniently supported upon the stem s, carrying the refractory button m. It is separated from the aluminium tube a by several layers of mica M, in order to prevent the cracking of the neck by the rapid heating of the aluminium tube upon a sudden turning on of the current. The inside bulb should be as small as possible when it is desired to obtain light only by incandescence of the electrode. If it is desired to produce phosphorescence, the bulb should be larger, else it would be apt to get too hot, and the phosphorescence would cease. In this arrangement usually only the small bulb shows phosphorescence, as there is practically no bombardment against the outer globe. In some of these bulbs constructed as illustrated in Fig. 28 the small tube was coated with phosphorescent paint, and beautiful effects were obtained. Instead of making the inside bulb large, in order to avoid undue heating, it answers the purpose to make the electrode m larger. In this case the bombardment is weakened by reason of the smaller electric density.