Nikola Tesla Articles
A New System of Alternate Current Motors and Transformers
Read before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, May 16.
In the presence of the existing diversity of opinion regarding the relative merits of the alternate and continuous current systems, great importance is attached to the question whether alternate currents can be successfully utilised in the operation of motors. The transformers, with their numerous advantages, have afforded us a relatively perfect system of distribution, and although, as in all branches of the art, many improvements are desirable, comparatively little remains to be done in this direction. The transmission of power, on the contrary, has been almost entirely confined to the use of continuous currents, and notwithstanding that many efforts have been made to utilise alternate currents for this purpose, they have, up to the present, at least, as far as known, failed to give the result desired. Of the various motors adapted to be used on alternate current circuits the following have been mentioned :— 1. A series motor with subdivided field. 2. An alternate current generator having its field excited by continuous currents. 3. Elihu Thomson’s motor. 4. A combined alternate and continuous current motor. Two more motors of this kind have suggested themselves to me. 1. A motor with one of its circuits in series with a transformer and the other in the secondary of the transformer. 2. A motor having its armature circuit connected to the generator and the field coils closed upon themselves. These, however, I mention only incidentally.The subject which I now have the pleasure of bringing to your notice is a novel system of electric distribution and transmission of power by means of alternate currents, affording peculiar advantages, particularly in the way of motors, which I am confident will at once establish the superior adaptability of these currents to the transmission of power, and will show that many results heretofore unattainable can be reached by their use; results which are very much desired in the practical operation of such systems, and which cannot be accomplished by means of continuous currents.Before going into a detailed description of this system, I think it necessary to make a few remarks with reference to certain conditions existing in continuous current generators and motors, which, although generally known, are frequently disregarded.
In our dynamo machines, it is well known, we generate alternate currents which we direct by means of a commutator, a complicated device and, it may be justly said, the source of most of the troubles experienced in the operation of the machines. Now, the currents so directed cannot be utilised in the motor, but they must — again by means of a similar unreliable device — be reconverted into their original state of alternate currents. The function of the commutator is entirely external, and in no way does it affect the external working of the machines. In reality, therefore, all machines are alternate current machines, the currents appearing as continuous only in the external circuit during their transit from generator to motor. In view simply of this fact, alternate currents would commend themselves as a more direct application of electrical energy, and the employment of continuous currents would only be justified if we had dynamos which would primarily generate, and motors which would be directly actuated by such currents.
Fig. 4 shows the coils c c in a still more advanced position, the armature having completed three-eighths of one revolution. At that moment the coil c still generates a current of the same direction as before, but of less strength, producing the comparatively weaker poles n s, in Fig. 4a. The current in the coil c is of the same strength, but of opposite direction. Its effect is, therefore, to produce upon the ring the poles n1 and s1 as indicated, and a polarity N S results, the poles now being shifted three-eighths of the periphery of the ring.
This rotation or whirling of the poles manifests itself in a series of curious phenomena. If a delicately pivoted disc of steel or other magnetic metal, Fig. 9, is approached to the ring, it is set in rapid rotation, the direction of rotation varying with the position of the disc. For instance, noting the direction outside of the ring, it will be found that inside the ring it turns in an opposite direction, while it is unaffected if placed in a position symmetrical to the ring.
Obviously, the rotation of the poles produces corresponding inductive effects, and may be utilised to generate currents in a closed conductor placed within the influence of the poles. For this purpose it is convenient to wind a ring with two sets of superimposed coils, forming respectively the primary and secondary circuits. In order to secure the most economical results the magnetic circuit should be completely closed, as shown in Fig. 10, and with this object in view the construction may be modified at will.
* By an error of engraver, Figs. 11, 12, and 13 cannot be given. Fortunately Fig. 11 and 12 are simple trigonometrical diagrams which the leader can easily construct from the text — Ed. E.E.
Assuming the magnetising effect of each set of coils in the transformer to be proportional to the current — which may be admitted for weak degrees of magnetisation — then x = K c and y = K c¹, where K is constant and c and c¹ the current in both sets of coils respectively. Supposing further, the field of the generator to be uniform, we have for constant speed c¹ = K¹ sin. a, and c = K¹ sin. (90° + a) = K¹ cos. a, where K¹ is a constant. See Fig. 12.
x = K c = K K¹ cos. a;
y = K c¹ = K K¹ sin. a, and
K K¹ = r.
That is, for a uniform field the disposition of the two coils at right angles will secure the theoretical result, and the intensity of the shifting poles will be constant. But from r² = x² + y² it follows that for y = 0, r = x; it follows that the joint magnetising effect of both sets of coils should be equal to the effect of one set when at its maximum action. In transformers, and in a certain class of motors, the fluctuation of the poles is not of great importance; but in another class of these motors it is desirable to obtain the theoretical result.
These motors may be operated in three different ways: 1. By the alternate currents of the source only. 2. By a combined action of these and of induced currents. 3. By the joint action of alternate and continuous currents.
The simplest form of a synchronous motor is obtained by winding a laminated ring provided with pole projections with four coils, and connecting the same in the manner before indicated. An iron disc, having a segment cutaway on each side, may be used as an armature. Such a motor is shown in Fig. 9. The disc being arranged to rotate freely within the ring in close proximity to the projections, it is evident that as the poles are shifted it will, owing to its tendency to place itself in such a position as to embrace the greatest number of the lines of force, closely follow the movement of the poles, and its motion will be synchronous with that of the armature of the generator — that is, in the peculiar disposition shown in Fig. 9, in which the armature produces by one revolution two current impulses in each of the circuits. It is evident that if, by one revolution of the armature, a greater number of impulses is produced, the speed of the motor will be correspondingly increased. Considering that the attraction exerted upon the disc is greatest when the same is in close proximity to the poles, it follows that such a motor will maintain exactly the same speed at all loads within the limits of its capacity.
To facilitate the starting, the disc may be provided with a coil closed upon itself. The advantage secured by such a coil is evident. On the start, the currents sets up in the coil strongly energise the disc and increase the attraction exerted upon the same by the ring, and currents are generated in the coil as long as the speed of the armature is inferior to that of the poles. Considerable work may be performed by such a motor even if the speed be below normal. The intensity of the poles being constant, no currents will be generated in the coil when the motor is turning at its normal speed.
Instead of closing the coil upon itself, its ends may be connected to two insulated sliding rings, and a continuous current supplied to these from a suitable generator. The proper way to start such a motor is to close the coil upon itself until the normal speed is reached, or nearly so, and then turn on the continuous current. If the disc be very strongly energised by a continuous current, the motor may not be able to start, but if it be weakly energised, or generally so that the magnetising effect of the ring is preponderating, it will start and reach the normal speed. Such a motor will maintain absolutely the same speed at all loads. It has also been found that if the motive power of the generator is not excessive, by checking the motor the speed of the generator is diminished in synchronism with that of the motor. It is characteristic of this form of motor that it cannot be reversed by reversing the continuous current through the coil.
The synchronism of these motors may be demonstrated experimentally in a variety of ways. For this purpose it is best to employ a motor consisting of a stationary field magnet and an armature arranged to rotate within the same, as indicated in Fig. 13. In this case the shifting of the poles of the armature produces a rotation of the latter in the opposite direction. It results therefrom that when the normal speed is reached, the poles of the armature assume fixed position relatively to the field magnet and the same is magnetised by induction, exhibiting a distinct pole on each of the pole pieces. If a piece of soft iron is approached to the field-magnet, it will at the start be attracted with a rapid vibrating motion produced by the reversals of polarity of the magnet; but as the speed of the armature increases the vibrations become less and less frequent, and finally entirely cease. Then the iron is weakly but permanently attracted, showing that the synchronism is reached and the field-magnet energised by induction.
The disc may also be used for the experiment. If held quite close to the armature, it will turn as long as the speed of rotation of the poles exceeds that of the armature; but when the normal speed is reached, or very nearly so, it ceases to rotate and is permanently attracted.
A crude but illustrative experiment is made with an incandescent lamp. Placing the lamp in circuit with the continuous current generator, and in series with the magnet-coil, rapid fluctuations are observed in the light in consequence of the induced currents set up in the coil at the start; the speed increasing, the fluctuations occur at longer intervals, until they entirely disappear, showing that the motor has attained its normal speed.
A telephone receiver affords a most sensitive instrument; when connected to any circuit in the motor the synchronism may be easily detected on the disappearance of the induced currents.
In motors of the synchronous type it is desirable to maintain the quantity of the shifting magnetism constant, especially if the magnets are not properly subdivided.
To obtain a rotary effort in these motors was the subject of long thought. In order to secure this result, it was necessary to make such a disposition that while the poles of one element of the motor are shifted by the alternate currents of the source, the poles produced upon the other elements should always be maintained in the proper relation to the former, irrespective of the speed of the motor. Such a condition exists in a continuous current motor; but in a synchronous motor, such as described, this condition is fulfilled only when the speed is normal.
The object has been attained by placing within the ring a properly subdivided cylindrical iron core wound with several independent coils closed upon themselves. Two coils at right angles are sufficient, as in Fig. 14, but a greater number may be advantageously employed. It results from this disposition that when the poles of the ring are shifted, currents are generated in the closed armature coils. These currents are the most intense at or near the points of the greatest density of the lines of force, and their effect is to produce poles upon the armature at right angles to those of the ring, at least theoretically so; and since this action is entirely independent of the speed — that is, as far as the location of the poles is concerned — a continuous pull is exerted upon the periphery of the armature. In many respects these motors are similar to the continuous current motors. If load is put on, the speed, and also the resistance of the motor, is diminished and more current is made to pass through the energising coils, thus increasing the effect. Upon the load being taken off, the counter-electromotive force increases and less current passes through the primary or energising coils. Without any load the speed is very nearly equal to that of the shifting poles of the field magnet.
It will be found that the rotary effort in these motors fully equals that of the continuous current motors. The effort seems to be greatest when both armature and field-magnet are without any projections; but as in such dispositions the field cannot be very concentrated, probably the best results will be obtained by leaving pole projections on one of the elements only. Generally, it may be stated that the projections diminish the torque and produce a tendency to synchronism.
A characteristic feature of motors of this kind is their capacity of being very rapidly reversed. This follows from the peculiar action of the motor. Suppose the armature to be rotating and the direction of rotation of the poles to be reversed, the apparatus then represents a dynamo machine, the power to drive this machine being the momentum stored up in the armature, and its speed being the sum of the speeds of the armature and the poles. If we now consider that the power to drive such a dynamo would be very nearly proportional to the third power of the speed, for this reason alone the armature should be quickly reversed. But simultaneously with the reversal another element is brought into action; namely, as the movement of the poles with respect to the armature is reversed, the motor acts like a transformer in which the resistance of the secondary circuit would be abnormally diminished by producing in this circuit an additional E.M.F. Owing to these causes the reversal is instantaneous.
If it is desirable to secure a constant speed, and at the same time a certain effort at the start, this result may be easily attained in a variety of ways. For instance, two armatures, one for torque, and the other for synchronism, may be fastened on the same shaft, and any desired preponderance may be given to either one; or an armature may be wound for rotary effort, but a more or less pronounced tendency to synchronism may be given to it by properly constructing the iron core; and in many other ways.
As a means of obtaining the required phase of the currents in both the circuits, the disposition of the two coils at right angles is the simplest, securing the most uniform action; but the phase may be obtained in many other ways, varying with the machine employed. Any of the dynamos at present in use may be easily adapted for this purpose by making connections to proper points of the generating coils. In closed circuit armatures, such as used in the continuous-current systems, it is best to make four derivations from equi-distant points or bars of the commutator, and to connect the same to four insulated sliding rings on the shaft. In this case each of the motor circuits is connected to two diametrically opposite bars of the commutator. In such a disposition the motor may also be operated at half the potential, and on the three-wire plan, by connecting the motor circuits in the proper order to three of the contact rings.
In multipolar dynamo machines, such as use the converter systems, the phase is conveniently obtained by winding upon the armature two series of coils in such a manner that while the coils of one set or series are at their maximum production of current, the coils of the other will be at their neutral position, or nearly so, whereby both sets of coils may be subjected simultaneously or successively to the inducing action of the field-magnets.
The employment of multipolar motors secures in this system an advantage much desired and unattainable in the continuous-current system, and that is, that a motor may be made to run exactly at a predetermined speed irrespective of imperfections in construction of the load, and, within certain limits, of electromotive force and current strength.
If the number of the poles in the motor is even, the action will be harmonious and the proper result will be obtained; if this is not the case the best plan to be followed is to make a motor with a double number of poles, and connect the same in the manner before indicated, so that half the number of poles result. Suppose, for instance, that the generator has twelve poles and it would be desired to obtain a speed equal to 12/7 of the speed of the generator. This would require a motor with seven pole projections or magnets, and such a motor could not be properly connected in the circuits unless fourteen armature coils would be provided, which would necessitate the employment of sliding contacts. To avoid this, the motor should be provided with fourteen magnets and seven connected in each circuit, the magnets in each circuits alternating among themselves. The armature should have fourteen closed coils. The action of the motor will not be quite as perfect as in the case of an even number of poles, but the drawback will not be of a serious nature.
However, the disadvantages resulting from this unsymmetrical form will be reduced in the same proportion as the number of the poles is augmented.
If the generator has, say, n, and the motor n1 poles, the speed of the motor will be equal to that of the generator multiplied by n / n1.
The speed of the motor will generally be dependent on the number of the poles, but there may be exceptions to this rule. The speed may be modified by the phase of the currents in the circuits, or by the character of the current impulses or by intervals between each or between groups of impulses. Some of the possible cases are indicated in the diagrams, Figs. 18, 19, 20 and 21, which are self-explanatory. Fig. 18 represents the condition generally existing, and which secures the best result. In such a case, if the typical form of motor illustrated in Fig. 14 is employed, one complete wave in each circuit will produce one revolution of the motor. In Fig. 19 the same result will be effected by one wave in each circuit; in Fig. 20 by two, and in Fig. 21 by four waves.
By such means any desired speed may be attained; that is, at lease within the limits of practical demands. This system possesses this advantage besides others, resulting from simplicity. At full loads, the motors show an efficiency fully equal to that of the continuous current motors. The transformers present an additional advantage in their capability of operating motors. They are capable of similar modifications in construction, and will facilitate the introduction of motors and their adaptation to practical demands. Their efficiency should be higher than that of the present transformers, and I base my assertion on the following:
In a transformer as constructed at present we produce the currents in the secondary circuit by varying the strength of the primary or exciting currents. If we admit proportionality with respect to the iron core, the inductive effect exerted upon the secondary coil will be proportional to the numerical sum of the variations in the strength of the exciting current per unit of time; whence it follows that for a given variation, any prolongation of the primary current will result in a proportional loss. In order to obtain rapid variations in the strength of the current, essential to efficient induction, a great number of undulations are required and employed. From this, various disadvantages result. These are increased cost and diminished efficiency of the generator, more waste of energy in heating the cores, and also diminished output of the transformer, since the core is not properly utilised, the reversals being too rapid. The inductive effect is also very small in certain phases, as will be apparent from a graphic representation, and there may be periods of inaction, if there are intervals between the succeeding current impulses or waves. In producing a shifting of the poles in the transformer, and thereby inducing currents, the induction is of the ideal character, being always maintained at its maximum action. It is also reasonable to assume that by a shifting of the poles less energy will be wasted than by reversals.