ARC LAMPS The Electric Arc. Suppose two carbon rods are connected in an electric circuit, and the circuit closed by touching the tips of these rods together; on separating the carbons again the circuit will not be broken, provided the space between the carbons be not too great, but will be maintained through the arc formed at these points. This enon, which is the basis of the arc light, was first observed on a large scale by Sir Humphrey Davy, who used a battery of 2,000 cells and produced an arc between charcoal points four inches apart.
As the incandescence of the carbons across which an arc is maintained, to gether with the arc itself, forms the source of light for a large portion of are lamps, it will be well to study the nature of the arc. Fig. 32 shows the general appearance of an arc between two carbon electrodes when maintained by direct current.
Here the current is assumed as passing from the top carbon to the bottom one as indicated by the arrow and signs. We find, in the direct-current arc, that the most of the light issues from the tip of the positive carbon, or electrode, and this portion is known as the crater of the arc. This crater has a temperature of from 3,000° to 3,500° C., the temperature at which the carbon vaporizes, and gives fully 80 to 85% of the light furnished by the arc. The negative carbon becomes pointed at the same time that the positive one is hollowed out to form the crater, and it is also incandescent but not to as great a degree as the positive carbon. Between the electrodes there is a band of violet light, the arc proper, and this is surrounded by a luminous zone of a golden yellow color. The arc proper does not fur nish more than 5% of the light emitted when pure carbon electrodes are used.
The carbons are worn away or consumed by the passage of the current, the positive carbon being con sumed about twice as rapidly as the negative.
The light distribution curve of a direct-current arc, taken in a vertical plane, is shown in Fig. 33. Here it is seen that the maximum amount of light is given off at an angle of about 50° from the vertical, the negative carbon shutting off the rays of light that are thrown directly down ward from the crater.
If alternating current is used, the upper carbon becomes positive and negative alternately, and there is no chance for a crater to be formed, both carbons giving off the same amount of light and being consumed at about the same rate. The light distribution curve of an alternating-current arc is shown in Fig. 34.
2. They must be separated at the right distance to form a proper arc immediately afterward.
3. The carbons must be fed to the arc as they are consumed.
4. The circuit should be open or closed when the carbons are entirely consumed, depending on the method of power distribution.
The feeding of the carbons may be done by hand, as is the case in some stereopticons using an arc, but for ordinary illumination the striking and maintaining of the arc must be automatic. It is made so in all cases by means of solenoids acting against the force of gravity or against springs. There are an endless number of such mechanisms, but a few only will be described here. They may be roughly divided into three classes: 1. Shunt mechanisms.
2. Series mechanisms.
3. Differential mechanisms.
Shunt Mechanisms. In shunt lamps, the carbons are held apart before the current is turned on, and the circuit is closed through a solenoid connected in across the gap so formed. All of the cur rent must pass through this coil at first, and the plunger of the solenoid is arranged to draw the carbons together, thus starting the arc. The pull of the solenoid and that of th springs are ad justed to maintain the arc at its proper length.