Age Of Electricity

Monday, March 1, 1897
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Cassier's Magazine March 1897 THE AGE OF ELECTRICITY By Nikola Tesla. HE commemoration of the recent introduction into the city of Buf- falo of electric power from Ni- agara Falls was made the occasion of a banquet, held at the Ellicott Club, at Buffalo, on january x2, 1897, the hosts being the Niagara Falls Power and Con- duit Company, and the distinguished guests the men, principally, to whose business and engineering talents the world owes the remarkable Niagara un- dertaking so recently brought to suc- cessful completion. Probably none among these has been more honoured than Mr. Nikola Tesla, whose electrical researches and practical accomplish- l 7 I file" , l r - 'viv 1 eg' :Ti . .,Q,, .. _ /-` % /ca-fa, ,Aura ments have been the tall; of the world, and whose polyphase alternating cur- rent system was the one eventually 373 adopted in the work at Biagara Falls. After the banquet, in responding to the toast, “ Electricity," Mr. Tesla spoke at length of the various sciences, with special reference, naturally to elec- tricity, and from his remarks the ap- pended extracts have been made, pictur- ing in a graphic and striking manner the dependence upon power of the develop- ment and wealth of cities, the success of nations, the progress of the whole hu- man race, in fact, as he himself put it. -*THE EDITOR. For more than half a century the steam engine has served the innumerable wants of man. The work it was called to perform was of such variety, and the conditions in each case were so different that, of necessity, a great many types of engines resulted. In the vast major- ity of cases the problem put before the engineer was not, as it should have been, the broad one of converting the greatest possible amount of heat energy into mechanical power, but it was rather the specific problem of obtaining the me- chanical pO\\'€I‘ in such form as to be best suitable for general use. As the reciprocating motion of the piston was not convenient for practical purposes, except in very few instances, the piston was connected to a crank, and thus rotating motion was obtained, which was more suitable and preferabIe,though it involved numerous disadvantages in- cident to the crude and wasteful means employed. ~ But until quite recently there were at the disposal of the engi- neer. for the transformation and trans- mission of the motion of the piston, no better means than rigid mechanical con- nections. The past few years have brought

THE AGE OF Ramsay, and the splendid pioneerwork of Professor Dewar in the Field of low temperature research. The fact that the United States have contributed a very liberal share to this prodigious progress must afford to all of us great satisfaction. While honouring the workers in other countries and all those who, by profes- sion or inclination, are devoting them- selves to strictly scientific pursuits, Americans have particular reasons to mention with gratitude the names of those who have so much contributed to this marvelous development of electrical industry in the United States. Bell, who, by his admir- able invention enabling us to transmit speech to great distances, has profound- ly affected our commercial and social relations, and even our very mode of life; Edison, who, had he not done any- thing else beyond his early work in in- candescent lighting, would have proved himself one of the greatest benefactors ofthe age; Westinghouse, the founder of the commercial alternating system; Brush, the great pioneer of arc lighting; Thomson, who gave us the first practi- cal welding machine, and who, with keen sense, contributed very materially to the development of a number of sci- entific and industrial branches; Weston, who once led the world in dynamo de- sign, and now leads in the construction -of electric instruments; Sprague, who, with rare energy, mastered the problem and insured the success of practical elec- trical railroading; Acheson, Hall, Will- son and others, who are creating new and revolutionising industries here un- der our very eyes at Niagara. Nor is the work of these gifted men nearly finished at this hour. Much more is still to'come, for, fortunately, most- of them are still full of enthusiasm and vigour. All of these men and many more are untiringly at work investigat- ing new regions and opening up unsus- pected and promising Fields. Weekly, if not daily, we learn through the jour- nals of a new advance into some unex- plored region, where at every step suc- cess beckons friendly, and leads the toilet; on to hard and harder tasks. ELECTRICITK 381 But among all these many depart- ments of research, these many branches of industry, new and old, which are be- ing rapidly expanded, there is one dom- inating all others in importance-one which is of the greatest significance for the comfort and welfare, not to say for the existence, of mankind, and that is the electrical transmission of power. And in this most important of all fields long afterwards, when time will have placed the events in their proper per- spective, and assigned men to their de- served places, the great event we are commemorating to-day will stand out as designating a new and glorious epoch in the history of humanity-an epoch grander than that marked by the advent of the steam enigne. We have many a monument of past ages; we have the palaces and pyra- mids, the temples of the Greek and the cathedrals of Christendom. In them is exemplified the power of men, the great- ness of nations, the love of art and re- ligious devotion. But that monument at Niagara has something of its own, more in accord with our present thoughts and tendencies. It is a monu- ment worthy of our scientific age, a true monument of enlightenment and of peace. It signifies the subjugation ot natural forces to the service of man, the discontinuance of barbarous methods, the relieving of millions from want and suffering. No matter what we attempt to do, no matter to what fields we turn our efforts, we are_ dependent on power. Our economists may propose more eco- nomical systems of administration and utilisation of resources, our legislators may make wiser laws and treaties, it matters little; that kind of help can be only temporary, If we want to reduce poverty and misery, if we want to give to every deserving individual what is needed for a safe: existence of an intelli- gent being, we want to provide more machinery, more power. Power is our mainstay, the primary source of our many-sided energies. With sufficient power’ at our disposal we can satisfy most of our wants and offer a guaranty for safe and comfortable existence to

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386 CASS[ER’S In the great enterprise at Niagara we see not only a bold engineering and commercial feat, but far more, a giant stride in the right direction as indicated both by exact science and philanthropy. Its success is a signal for the utilisation of water powers all over the world, and its infiuence upon industrial develop- ment is incalculable. We must all re- joice in the great achievement and con- gratulate the intrepid pioneers who have joined their efforts and means to bring it about. It is a pleasure to learn of the friendly attitude of the citizens of MA GA ZINE. Buffalo and of the encouragement given to the enterprise by the Canadian au- thorities. We shall hope that other cities, like Rochester on this side and Hamilton and Toronto in Canada, will soon follow Buffa1o’s lead, This fortu- nate city herself is to be congratulated., With resources now unequaled, -with commercial facilities and advantages such as few cities in the world possess, and with the enthusiasm and progressive spirit of its citizens, it is sure to become one of the greatest industrial centres of theglobe.

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THE AGE 01' forcibly to the attention of the builder the electric motor, with its ideal feat- ures. Here was a mode of transmitting mechanical motion, simpler by far, and also much more economical. Had this mode been perfected earlier, there can be no doubt that the majority of the manydifferent types of engines would not exist, for just as soon as an engine was coupled with an electric generator a type was produced capable of almost universal use. From this moment on there was no necessity to endeavour to perfect engines of special designs capa- ble of doing special kinds of work. The engineer’s task became now to concen- trate all his efforts upon one type, to perfect one kind of engine-the best, the universal, the engine ofthe imme- diate future; namely, the one which is best suitable for the generation of elec- tricity. 1; The first efforts in this direction gave a strong impetus to the development of the reciprocating high-speed engine, and also to the turbine, which latter was a type of engine of very limited prac- tical usefulness, but became, to a certain extent, valuable in connection with the electic generator and motor. Still, even the former engine, though improved in many particulars, is not radically changed, and even now has the same objectionable features and limitations. To do away with these as much as pos- sible, a new type ot' engine is being per- fected in which more favourable condi- tions for economy are maintained, which expands the working fluid with utmost rapidity and loses little heat on the walls, an engine stripped ot' all usual regulating mechanism-packings, oilers and other appendages-and forming part of an electric generator; and in this type, I may say, I have implicit faith, The gas or explosive engine has been likewise profoundly affected by the com- mercial introduction of electric light and power, particularly in quite recent years. The engineer is turning his energies more and more in this direction, being attracted by the prospect of obtaining a higher thermodynamic efficiency. Much larger engines are now being built, the ELECTRICITY 379 construction is constantly improved, and a novel type of engine, best suitable for the generation of electricity, is be- ing rapidly evolved. There are many other lines of manu- facture and industry in which the inHu- ence of electrical development has been even more powerfully felt,-for in- stance, the manufacture ofa great variety of articles of metal, and especially of chemical products. The welding of metals by electricity, though involving a wasteful process, has, nevertheless, been accepted as a legitimate art, while the manufacture of metal sheet, seam- less tubes and the like affords promise of much improvement. We are coming gradually, but surely, to the fusion of bodies and reduction ot' all kinds of ores-even ofiron ores-by the use of electricity, and in each of these departments great realisations are probable. Again, the economical con- version of ordinary currents of supply into high-frequency currents opens up new possibilities, such as the combina- tion ofthe atmospheric nitrogen and the production of its compounds; for instance, ammonia and nitric acid, and their salts, by novel processes. The high-frequency currents also bring us to the realisation of a more economical system of lighting; namely, by means of phosphorescent bulbs or tubes, and enable us to produce with these appliances light of practically any candle power. Following other devel- opments in purely electrical lines, we have all rejoiced in observing the rapid strides made, which, in quite recent years, have been beyond our most san- guine expectations. To enumerate the many advances re- corded is a subject for the reviewer, but I cannot pass without mentioning the beautiful discoveries of Lenard and Roentgen, particularly the latter, which have found such a powerful response throughout the scientific world that they have made us forget, for a. time, the great achievement of Linde in Germany, who has effected the liquefaction of air on an industrial scale by a process of continuous cooling; the discovery of argon by Lord Raleigh and Professor

382 CASSIER 'S /IIA CAZINE. ` ' _l,l‘li` _.lil _ _ " ` " --, ‘_ '-' ~;`; V ' 'lhlfig i 'Q ’f"‘ Q.. .i , . ` ja la-. . , _ _ = V _‘ ' " 1 I ,/ ~ `“e- \/ c _ _ , \ W`," _ » i §;j 5 \_ § 5 _ , _:- »~- `~\ _ or ' f '2!';@;§» 1 "* e e -of `» 'il i'f"?’*Y 1 _ ,.` er ‘ ,_ _ gi.; 1 f __ _.s _,fl Q' ' ’9-‘ V ’ is 25; ' .fs 1§$3;;'_;- j ~ _ ‘~t,|;,._ Ay nur muses Moron, nun.-r is isso. all, except perhaps to those who are the greatest criminals of all-the voluntarily idle. The development and wealth of a city, the success of a nation, the prog- ress of the whole human race, is regu- lated bythe power available. Think of the victorious march of the British E Apart from the qualities of the race, which have been of great moment, they owe the conquest of the world to-coal. For with coal they produce their iron; coal furnishes them light and heat; coal drives the wheels ot' their immense man- ufacturing establishments, and coal pro- pels their conquering Heets. But the stores are being more and more ex- hausted, the labour is getting dearer and dearer, and the demand is continu- ously increasing. It must be clear to every one that soon some new source of power supply must be opened up, or that at least the present methods must be materially im- proved. A great deal is expected from a more economical utilisation of the stored energy of the carbon in a battery; but while the attainment of such a re- sult would be hailed as a great achieve- ment, it would not be as much of an advance towards the ultimate and per- manent method of obtaining power as

THE AGE OF transformers or otherwise would be a serious and unavoidable drawback. Furthermore, the regulating appliances and other accessories which would have to be provided would probably make the plant fully as much, if not more, com- plicated than the present. \Ve might, of course, place the batteries at or near the coal mine, and from there transmit the energy to distant points in the form of high-tension alternating currents ob- tained from rotating transformers, but even in this most favourable case the process would be a barbarous one, cer- tainly more so than the present, as it would still involve the consumption of material, \vhile, at the same time, it would restrict the engineer and me- chanic in the exercise of their beautiful art. As to the energy supply in small isolated places, as dwellings, I have placed my confidence in the develop- ment of a light storage battery, involv- ing the use of chemicals manufactured by cheap water power, such as some carbide of oxygen-hydrogen cell. But we shall not satisfy ourselves sim- ply with improving steam and explosive engines or inventing new batteries; we have something much better to work for, a greater task to fulfill, \fVe have to evolve means for obtaining energy from stores \vhich are forever inexhaust- ible, to perfect methods which do not imply consumption and waste of any material whatever. ` Upon this great possibility, upon this great problem, the practical solution of which means so much for humanity, I have myself con- centrated my efforts for a number of years, and a few happy ideas which came to me have inspired me to attempt the most difficult, and given me strength and courage in adversity. Nearly six years ago my confidence had become strong enough to prompt me to an expression of hope in the ulti- mate solution of this all-dominating problem. I have made progress since, and have passed the stage of mere con- viction such as is derived from a dili- gent study of known facts, conclusions and calculations. I now feel sure that the realisation of that idea is not far off. But precisely for this reason I feel im- 5‘4 ELECTRIC./TK 385 pelled to point out here an important fact, which I hope will be remembered. Having examined for a long time the possibilities of the development I refer to, namely, that of the operation of en- gines on any point of the earth by the energy of the medium, I find that even under the theoretically best conditions such a method of obtaining power can- not equal in economy, simplicity and many other features the present method, involving a conversion of the mechanical energy of running water into electrical energy and the transmission of the lat- ter in the form of currents of very high tension to great distances. Provided, therefore, that we can avail ourselves of currents of sufficiently high tension, a waterfall affords us the most advantage- ous means of getting power from the sun sufficient for all our wants, and this recognition has impressed me strongly with the future importance of the water power, not so much because of its com- mercial value, though it may be very great, but chiefly because of its bearing upon our safety and welfare. I am glad to say that also in this lat- ter direction my edorts have not been unsuccessful, for I have devised means which will allow us the use in power transmission of electro-motive forces much higher than those practicable with ordinary apparatus. In fact, progress in this field has given me fresh hope that I shall see the fulfillment of one of my fondest dreams; namely, the trans- mission of power from station to station without the employment of any connect- ing wire. Still, whatever method of transmission be ultimately adopted, nearness to the source of power will re- main an important advantage. Some of the ideas I have expressed rnay appear to many hardly realisable; nevertheless, they are the result of long continued thought and work. With ideas it is as with dizzy heights. At nrst they cause you discomfort and you are anxious to get down, distrustful of your own powers; but soon the remote- ness of the turmoil of life and the inspir- ing infiuence of the altitude calm your blood; your step gets firm and sure and you begin to look-for dizzier heights.

THE AGE OF some engineers seem to believe. By reason both of economy and convenience we are driven to the general adoption of a system of energystlpply from cen- tral stations, and for such purposes the beauties of the mechanical generation of electricity cannot be exaggerated. The advantages ,of this universally accepted method are certainly so great that the probability of replacing the engine dyna- ELECTRICITYY 383 be assured, as its use would entail many inconveniences and drawbacks, \‘ery likely the carbon could not be burned in its natural form as in a boiler, but would have to be specially prepared to secure uniformity in the current genera- tion. A great many cells would be needed to make up the electro~_ motive force usually required. The process of cleaning and renewal. the 4 ~ , I ` i 16 g: i _ _ i t ` ”¥ `€£Pi 1 . ' - ,.»»"€`°Q"“' ' 1 -in _ , _ _ ,»" s ,.i- ~ “ . . ~‘ \ ‘VI T?\\~ `f 7 ` _ - . \f;i:-‘-MJLL f ~ . - » _»_,,, , »1\-§.~;~;.., ~_ lr ~ _ j _- ,_; : ;'~‘3{:' '? "" are ~- ' . » Q age... .1 ¥=t f . 5 11" _ _ _ _§_ ._ __ __ . ‘f 1. ~“‘ ~'Ua , rr 1 ._ v 4 ‘ E. ' ; ‘ Q Wigan; ; p 1 , , .ff ‘ ffwg - W §` ‘:.;.;f`i ' i f f kai /,/ fi; ,af ~ si vs ‘ Z 1°"’ii”1 " I /__A1 ~1_.‘;) 1' `2 ,1;, \, §_ 3 ' ///<>, ~..- 3' .Xt ' ~*"\.\J.*/>7“"" v! #fl xr? sg; r* ~~<_ ". . lg 5;/' W _ ` __ _ "\._ , `. _ - ' ~ ` " w . ~. ,~ \\ » same! \- - <~, \e,_ ` :_,~ ~;_f ,_ i ' _ " ,,». $1 fa., ~ ;rn_; 'T ' _ 1 __ _ > a , » ,i` 'i' _ ,_;_~ _ -___;;x_ .__:,.. __ _ _ gg,-_?__¥_ »_ _ <;-7\~.,__f_~ ~ / 1_ . ‘ ,'¢3i‘§i~~~ - _ ` A Monexza 'rssxa Moron As Mane Br rm; wzsrrncaouss'nuc AND MFG. cu mos by batteries is, in my opinion, a remote one, the more so as the high- pressure steam engine and gas engine give promise of a considerably more economical thermodynamic conversion. Even if we had this day such an economical coal battery, its introduction in central stations would by no means handling of nasty Huids and gases and the great space necessary for so many batteries wouid make it difficult, if not commercially unprofitable, to operate such a plant in a city or densely popu- lated district. Again, if the station be erected in the outskirts, the conversion by rotating