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MAGNETIC EFFECT OF AN ELECTRIC CURRENT
The invention of the voltaic cell in 1800 gave electrical experimenters a source of a constant flow of current. Seven years later the Danish scientist and experimenter Oersted, decided to establish the relation between a flow of current and a magnetic needle. It took him at least 13 years more to find out that a compass needle is deflected when brought near a wire through which the electric current flows. At last, during a lecture he adjusted, by chance, the wire parallel to the needle. Then, both he and his class saw that when the current was turned on, the needle deflected almost at right angles towards the conductor. As soon as the direction of the current was reversed, the direction the needle pointed in was reversed too.
Oersted also pointed out that provided the wire were adjusted below the needle, the deflection was reversed.
The above-mentioned phenomenon highly interested Ampere who repeated the experiment and added a number of valuable observations and statements. He began his research under the influence of Oersted's discovery and carried it on throughout the rest of his life.
Everyone knows Ampere's rule thanks to which the direction of the magnetic effect of the current can always be found. Ampere established and proved that magnetic effects could be produced without any magnets by means of electricity alone. He turned his attention to the behaviour of the electric current in a single straight conductor and in a conductor that is formed into a coil, i.e. a solenoid.
When a wire conducting a current is formed intoa coilof several turns, the amount of magnetism is greatly increased.
It is not difficult to understand that the greater the number of turns of wire, the greater is the m.m.f. (that is the magnetomotive force) produced within the coil by any constant amount of current flowing through it. In addition, when doubling the current, we double the magnetism generated in the coil.
A solenoid has two poles which attract and repel the poles of other magnets. While suspended, it takes up a north and a south direction exactly like the compass needle. A core of iron becomes strongly magnetized if placed within the solenoid while the current is flowing.
INTERESTING FACTS ON ELECTRICITY AND ELECTRONICS
ELECTRICITY MAY BE DANGEROUS
Many people have had strong shocks from the electric wires in a house. The wires seldom carry current at a higher voltage than 220, and a person who touches a bare wire or terminal may suffer no harm if the skin is dry. But if the hand is wet, he may be killed. Water is known to be a good conductor of electricity and provides an easy path for the current from the wire to the body. One of the main wires carrying the current is connected to earth, and if a person touches the other one with a wet hand, a heavy current will flow through his body to earth and so to the others. The body forms part of an electric circuit.
When dealing with wires and fuses carrying an electric current, it is best to wear rubber gloves. Rubber is a good insulator and will not let the current pass to the skin. If no rubber gloves can be found in the house, dry cloth gloves are better than nothing. Never touch a bare wire with the wet hand, and never, in any situation, touch a water pipe and an electric wire at the same time.
People use electricity in their homes every day but sometimes forget that it is a form of power and may be dangerous. At the other end of the wire there are great generators driven by turbines turning at high speed. One should remember that the power they generate is enormous. It can burn and kill, but it will serve well if it is used wisely.
They say that about a hundred years ago, power was never carried far away from its source. Later on, the range of transmission was expanded to a few miles. And now, in a comparatively short period of time, electrical engineering has achieved so much that it is quite possible, at will, to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy and transmit the latter over hundreds of kilometres and more in any direction required. Then in a suitable locality the electric energy can be reconverted into mechanical energy whenever it is desirable. It is not difficult to understand that the above process has been made possible owing to generators, transformers and motors as well as to other necessary electrical equipment. In this connection one cannot but mention the growth of electric power generation in this country. The longest transmission line in pre-revolutionary Russia was that connecting the Klasson power-station with Moscow. It is said to have been 70 km long, while the present Volgograd–Moscow high-tension transmission line is over 1000 kilometres long. (The reader is asked to note that the English terms "high-tension" and "high-voltage" are interchangeable.)
It goes without saying that as soon as the electric energy is produced at the power-station, it is to be transmitted over wires to the substation and then to the consumer. However, the longer the wire, the greater is its resistance to current flow. On the other hand, the higher the offered resistance, the greater are the heating losses in electric wires. One can reduce these undesirable losses in two ways, namely, one can reduce either the resistance or the current. It is easy for us to see how we can reduce resistance: it is necessary to make use of a better conducting material and as thick wires as possible. However, such wires are calculated to require too much material and, hence, they will be too expensive. Can the current be reduced? Yes, it is quite possible to reduce the current in the transmission system by employing transformers. In effect, the waste of useful energy has been greatly decreased due to high-voltage lines. It is well known that high voltage means low current, low current in its turn results in reduced heating losses in electrical wires. It is dangerous, however, to use power at very high voltages for anything but transmission and distribution. For that reason, the voltage is always reduced again before the power is made use of.
Water power was used to drive machinery long before Polzunov and James Watt harnessed steam to meet man's needs for useful power.
Modern hydroelectric power-stations use water power to turn the machines which generate electricity. The water power may be obtained from small dams in rivers or from enormous sources of water power like those to be found in Russia. However, most of our electricity, that is about 86 per cent, still comes from steam power-stations.
In some other countries, such as Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, more electric energy is produced from water power than from steam. They have been developing large hydroelectric power-stations for the past forty years, or so, because they lack a sufficient fuel supply. The tendency, nowadays, even for countries that have large coal resources is to utilize their water power in order to conserve their resources of coal. As a matter of fact, almost one half of the total electric supply of the world comes from water power.
The locality of a hydroelectric power plant depends on natural conditions. The hydroelectric power plant may be located either at the dam or at a considerable distance below. That depends on the desirability of using the head supply at the dam itself or the desirability of getting a greater head. In the latter case, water is conducted through pipes or open channels to a point farther downstream where the natural conditions make a greater head possible.
The design of machines for using water power greatly depends on the nature of the available water supply. In some cases great quantities of water can be taken from a large river with only a few feet head. In other cases, instead of a few feet, we may have a head of several thousands of feet. In general, power may be developed from water by action of its pressure, of its velocity, or by a combination of both.
A hydraulic turbine and a generator are the main equipment in a hydroelectric power-station. Hydraulic turbines are the key machines converting the energy of flowing water into mechanical energy. Such turbines have the following principal parts: a runner composed of radial blades mounted on a rotating shaft and a steel casing which houses the runner. There are two types of water turbines, namely, the reaction turbine and the impulse turbine. The reaction turbine is the one for low heads and a small flow. Modified forms of the above turbine are used for medium heads up to 500–600 ft, the shaft being horizontal for the larger heads. High heads, above 500 ft, employ the impulse type turbine.
Hydropower engineering is developing mainly by constructing high capacity stations integrated into river systems known as cascades. Such cascades are already in operation on the Dnieper, the Volga and the Angara.
NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
The heart of the nuclear power plant is the reactor which contains the nuclear fuel. The fuel usually consists of hundreds of uranium pellets placed in long thin cartridges of stainless steel. The whole fuel cell consists of hundreds of these cartridges. The fuel is situated in a reactor vessel filled with a fluid. The fuel heats the fluid and the super-hot fluid goes to a heat exchanger i.e. steam generator, where the hot fluid converts water to steam in the heat exchanger. The fluid is highly radioactive, but it should never come into contact with the water that is converted into steam. Then this steam operates steam turbines in exactly the same way as in the coal or oil fired power-plant.
A nuclear reactor has several advantages over power-plants that use coal or natural gas. The latter produce considerable air pollution, releasing combusted gases into atmosphere, whereas a nuclear power plant gives off almost no air pollutants. As to nuclear fuel, it is far cleaner than any other fuel for operating a heat engine. Furthermore, our reserves of coal, oil and gas are decreasing so nuclear fuel is to replace them.
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