Electrostatic Power Supplies

Written by Kevin Tavolaro
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Static electricity is harnessed and manipulated in order to facilitate the use of electrostatic power supplies. These devices function according to some of the original principles of electricity manipulation, which predate the discovery of the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Even though they have long since been replaced by modern counterparts, due to their highly inefficient nature, electrostatic power supplies are still used in some fields.

Electrostatic power supplies are descendants of the earliest synthetic electrical power sources. Instead of using direct current or alternating current, electrostatic supplies create energy by creating friction. The friction between insulators creates an electrical charge which is then separated into distinct portions. These portions create a field of electrostatic attraction/repulsion, which regulates the energy being transmitted.

Modern Use of Electrostatic Power Supplies

Electrostatic power supplies are currently only utilized in an experimental capacity. They are employed in experiments requiring high voltages, and in doing so, provide the knowledge necessary to continue developing new and increasingly efficient modern power supplies. In the process of electrical generation, in which electrical energy is manufactured via a mechanical source, these devices provide an up-close, although simplified study of the electricity transmission process.

The first electrostatic power supply was the Wimhurst Machine, invented in the 1880s by James Wimhurst. It utilized two large, rotating discs affixed to a vertical plane. The space between the discs provided the "spark gap," which collected the electrostatic energy caused by the friction generated when the rotating plates were brought into continuous contact with each other. This device, which was self starting, was capable of producing a stable current. However, due to the multiple needs of modern appliances, this simple method of generation would be inefficient today.

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