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War of Electric Currents in the USA

War of electric currents in the USA

The war of the currents is a term for the fight between the manufacturers of the two different feeding systems, alternating current and direct current in the United States.

In the late 1980s, George Westinghouse entered into fierce competition with Thomas Edison. This fight would go down in history as the "war of the currents", the war of the currents.

In 1878, Edison invented his improved version of the incandescent lamp, but he soon learned that an electrical distribution system was needed to power his incandescent lamps. On September 4, 1882, Edison turned on the world's first 100 kW power supply, supplying 110 customers at his Pearl Street station in Lower Manhattan with 110 voltsdirect current.

Westinghouse's interest in gas distribution and telephone systems also led him to take an interest in electric power distribution. He examined Edison's design, but saw that it was too inefficient to be widely used.

The reason was that Edison's power grid was based on a low DC voltage, causing high currents and therefore a lot of energy loss on the lines.

In Europe, technicians were already developing AC networks, enabling transformation of voltages for transport and transformation for use when necessary. Westinghouse saw the advantages over the Edison direct current system and decided to further develop the alternating current system.

First Alternating Current Systems in the United States

In 1886 Westinghouse and Stanley installed America's first AC power grid. USA In Great Barrington.

A generator powered by hydroelectric power, which produced 500 volts of power, supplied power to this network. The voltage was raised to 3,000 volts for transportation and locally lowered to 100 volts to power the electric lighting.

During the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, electricity and artificial light were fascinating new inventions. The exhibition, which would eventually attract 27 million visitors, opened with the presentation of a 2.5-meter-tall giant light bulb. It was located at the top of Edison's pavilion, which had its own direct current generator. It was also the only Edison lamp in the entire exhibition.

The 180,000 full-size lights that illuminated the rest of the vast site had been developed and supplied by the great industrial Westinghouse. These lamps were connected to alternators by inventor Nikola Tesla.

In one year, the Westinghouse company installed more than 30 AC lighting systems, but large-scale expansion was slowed by the lack of effective metering systems and an AC motor.

In 1888 Westinghouse developed a reliable kWh meter with his technician Oliver Shallenberger.

The AC motor was another problem, but Nikola Tesla solved it. Tesla had previously worked with the Edison General Electric Company, but could not get along with Edison.

After all sorts of wanderings and disappointments, Tesla contacted an engineer from the Western Union Telegraph Company, who recognized the brilliance of his ideas and made sure he had a laboratory and seed capital.

In just over a year, from April 1887 to May 1888, Tesla developed several AC motors, including its famous (multiphase) induction motor.

Another name is the three-phase asynchronous motor. In addition to three different systems: single-phase, two-phase and three-phase, to distribute electricity with alternating current power. Its induction motor (multiphase) was based on the principle of the rotating magnetic field, in this case generated by two or more alternating currents that are out of phase. 

With this invention, a one-time electric motor was obtained that was not only efficient, simple and cheap to build, but also could not be broken: the rotor with the bearings on which it rotates are the only moving parts and therefore , the only ones that can wear out .. 

All other electric motors of the time had to use inefficient sliding contacts (carbon brushes) and commutators ( inverters), all parts that could easily break and were worn. Furthermore, this type of motor was easy to build for higher horsepower and higher voltages and had a constant speed. Many contemporary electric motors are of this type. Small motors, such as electronic equipment, power tools, and toys, are still regularly equipped with slide contacts and switches.

Electrocution Hazard

Westinghouse's promotion of alternating current power systems led to a bitter confrontation with Edison and his direct current systems. Edison claimed that high alternating current voltage was very dangerous and tried to limit the voltage to 800 V in various states, but failed.

Westinghouse replied that the risks were manageable and did not outweigh the benefits of his system.

Electric Chair

The battle reached an absurd peak in 1887 when a group of New York state delegates asked Edison if electricity could be used as a method of execution. Although Edison didn't want to hear about this at first, he admitted. With a side note: "Then you have to use my competitor's current, because it is much more deadly." Edison hoped to knock out Westinghouse by associating AC power with death.

An engineer hired by Edison, Harold P. Brown, then held public demonstrations. Stray dogs, cats, horses, and even a circus elephant were slaughtered to demonstrate lethal alternating current. New York State was convinced and decided to use the method of execution.

Although Westinghouse refused to cooperate, Brown managed to order a Westinghouse alternator through a listing. On August 6, 1890, the murderer William Kemmler became the first person to be sentenced to the electric chair. Westinghouse hired the best attorney to defend him, who called the electrocution "cruel and inhuman punishment," which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The execution was a drama, because Kemmler died only in the second instance. Westinghouse's response to this was: "They should have used an ax." Despite this, the electric chair was introduced in many states in the USA. USA

Final Victory of Alternating Current

Despite all of Edison's attempts to discredit AC power, this ultimately failed, as it became increasingly apparent that the benefits outweighed its dangers.

The battle between direct current and alternating current ends with the victory of alternating current in the form of electricity transmission over the remarkable distance of 40 kilometers. The first effective alternating current power plant as the world knows it today was in operation at Niagara Falls in the United States on November 16, 1896. It was later called white coal.

With this 25 Hz alternating voltage, Buffalo became supplies.

Later they changed to 60 Hz as standard for the USA. USA Power was generated by Tesla alternators powered by Niagara Falls. The power was then transported to the industrial city of Buffalo, where the future of the power grid was sealed when the streetlights were lit there, one minute after midnight on November 16, 1897.

After the proven success of hydroelectric power plants at Niagara Falls, even General Electric, which originated from the Edison company, decided to build AC machines.

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Published: April 18, 2020
Last review: April 18, 2020