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U.S. NRC image of a modern steam turbine generator
Early Ganz Generator in Zwevegem,West Flanders, Belgium
Early 20th century alternator made inBudapest, Hungary, in the power generating hall of a hydroelectric station In electricity generation, an electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. A generator forces electric charge (usually carried by electrons) to flow through an external electrical circuit. The source of mechanical energy may be a reciprocating or turbine steam engine, water falling through a turbine or waterwheel, aninternal combustion engine, a wind turbine, a hand crank, compressed air, or any other source of mechanical energy. Generators supply almost all of the power for the electric power grids which provide most of the world's electric power. The reverse conversion of electrical energy into mechanical energy is done by an electric motor, and motors and generators have many similarities. Many motors can be mechanically driven to generate electricity and frequently make acceptable generators. -------------------------------------------------
Before the connection between magnetism and electricity was discovered, electrostatic generators were used. They operated on electrostaticprinciples. Such generators generated very high voltage and low current. They operated by using moving electrically charged belts, plates, and disks that carried charge to a high potential electrode. The charge was generated using either of two mechanisms: * Electrostatic induction
* The triboelectric effect, where the contact between two insulators leaves them charged. Because of their inefficiency and the difficulty of insulating machines that produced very high voltages, electrostatic generators had low power ratings, and were never used for generation of commercially significant quantities of electric power. The Wimshurst machine and Van de Graaff generator are examples of these machines that have survived. In 1827, Hungarian Anyos Jedlik started experimenting with the electromagnetic rotating devices which he called electromagnetic self-rotors, now called the Jedlik's dynamo. In the prototype of the single-pole electric starter (finished between 1852 and 1854) both the stationary and the revolving parts were electromagnetic. He formulated the concept of the dynamo at least 6 years beforeSiemens and Wheatstone but didn't patent it as he thought he wasn't the first to realize this. In essence the concept is that instead of permanent magnets, two electromagnets opposite to each other induce the magnetic field around the rotor. It was also the discovery of the principle of self-excitation.
Faraday disk, the first electric generator. The horseshoe-shaped magnet (A) created a magnetic field through the disk (D). When the disk was turned, this induced an electric current radially outward from the center toward the rim. The current flowed out through the sliding spring contact m, through the external circuit, and back into the center of the disk through the axle. In the years of 1831–1832, Michael Faraday discovered the operating principle of electromagnetic generators. The principle, later called Faraday's law, is that an electromotive force is generated in an electrical conductor which encircles a varying magnetic flux. He also built the first electromagnetic generator, called the Faraday disk, a type of homopolar generator, using a copper disc rotating between the poles of a horseshoe magnet. It produced a small DC voltage. This design was inefficient, due to self-cancelling counterflows of current in regions that were not under the influence of the magnetic field. While current was induced directly underneath the magnet, the current would circulate backwards in regions that were outside the influence of the magnetic field. This counterflow limited...
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