Voltage Produced by Friction
The first method discovered for creating a voltage was that of generation by friction. The development of charges by rubbing a rod with fur is a prime example of the way in which a voltage is generated by friction. Because of the nature of the materials with which this voltage is generated, it cannot be conveniently used or maintained. For this reason, very little practical use has been found for voltages generated by this method.
In the search for methods to produce a voltage of a larger amplitude and of a more practical nature, machines were developed in which charges were transferred from one terminal to another by means of rotating glass discs or moving belts. The most notable of these machines is the Van de Graaff generator. It is used today to produce potentials in the order of millions of volts for nuclear research. As these machines have little value outside the field of research, their theory of operation will not be described here.
Voltage Produced by Pressure
One specialized method of generating an emf utilizes the characteristics of certain ionic crystals such as quartz, Rochelle salts, and tourmaline. These crystals have the remarkable ability to generate a voltage whenever stresses are applied to their surfaces. Thus, if a crystal of quartz is squeezed, charges of opposite polarity will appear on two opposite surfaces of the crystal. If the force is reversed and the crystal is stretched, charges will again appear, but will be of the opposite polarity from those produced by squeezing. If a crystal of this type is given a vibratory motion, it will produce a voltage of reversing polarity between two of its sides. Quartz or similar crystals can thus be used to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. This phenomenon, called the PIEZOELECTRIC EFFECT, is shown in figure 1-20. Some of the common devices that make use of piezoelectric crystals are microphones, phonograph cartridges, and oscillators used in radio transmitters, radio receivers, and sonar equipment. This method of generating an emf is not suitable for applications having large voltage or power requirements, but is widely used in sound and communications systems where small signal voltages can be effectively used.
Crystals of this type also possess another interesting property, the "converse piezoelectric effect." That is, they have the ability to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. A voltage impressed across the proper surfaces of the crystal will cause it to expand or contract its surfaces in response to the voltage applied.
Voltage Produced by Heat
When a length of metal, such as copper, is heated at one end, electrons tend to move away from the hot end toward the cooler end. This is true of most metals. However, in some metals, such as iron, the opposite takes place and electrons tend to move TOWARD the hot end. These characteristics are illustrated in figure 1-21. The negative charges (electrons) are moving through the copper away from the heat and through the iron toward the heat. They cross from the iron to the copper through the current meter to the iron at the cold junction. This device is generally referred to as a THERMOCOUPLE
Thermocouples have somewhat greater power capacities than crystals, but their capacity is still very small if compared to some other sources. The thermoelectric voltage in a thermocouple depends mainly on the difference in temperature between the hot and cold junctions. Consequently, they are widely used to measure temperature, and as heat-sensing devices in automatic temperature control equipment. Thermocouples generally can be subjected to much greater temperatures than ordinary thermometers, such as the mercury or alcohol types.
Voltage Produced by Light
When light strikes the surface of a substance, it may dislodge electrons from their orbits around the surface atoms of the substance. This occurs because light has energy, the same as any moving force.
Some substances, mostly metallic ones, are far more sensitive to
light than others. That is, more electrons will be dislodged and emitted from the surface
of a highly sensitive metal, with a given amount of light, than will be emitted from a
less sensitive substance. Upon losing electrons, the photosensitive (light-sensitive)
metal becomes positively charged, and an electric force is created. Voltage produced in
this manner is referred to as a PHOTOELECTRIC VOLTAGE.
The cell (fig. 1-22 view A) has a curved light-sensitive surface focused on the central anode. When light from the direction shown strikes the sensitive surface, it emits electrons toward the anode. The more intense the light, the greater the number of electrons emitted. When a wire is connected between the filament and the back, or dark side of the cell, the accumulated electrons will flow to the dark side. These electrons will eventually pass through the metal of the reflector and replace the electrons leaving the light-sensitive surface. Thus, light energy is converted to a flow of electrons, and a usable current is developed.
The cell (fig. 1-22 view B) is constructed in layers. A base plate of pure copper is coated with light-sensitive copper oxide. An extremely thin semitransparent layer of metal is placed over the copper oxide. This additional layer serves two purposes:
An externally connected wire completes the electron path, the same as in the reflector-type cell. The photocell's voltage is used as needed by connecting the external wires to some other device, which amplifies (enlarges) it to a usable level.
The power capacity of a photocell is very small. However, it reacts to light-intensity variations in an extremely short time. This characteristic makes the photocell very useful in detecting or accurately controlling a great number of operations. For instance, the photoelectric cell, or some form of the photoelectric principle, is used in television cameras, automatic manufacturing process controls, door openers, burglar alarms, and so forth.