The Brief History of Generators with Timeline

Updated On: June 26, 2020

Dynamos and generators have the capability of converting mechanical rotation into electric energy. What a generator does is convert mechanical energy into electrical energy using electromagnetic induction. The mechanical energy at question can be from any of the mentioned sources, including but not limited to wind flow, flowing water, turbine steam engine internal combustion engine, hand crank, etc.

Faraday disk, the first electromagnetic generator invented in 1831 by Michael Faraday, a British scientist, evolved from the works of both Faraday and Joseph Henry. They documented as they discovered the phenomenon of electromagnetic induction that we know as “Faraday’s Law”. By the year 1932, Faraday’s law had spread and reached Frenchman Hippolyte Pixii, who happened to end up making the first dynamo generator by passing pulses of electricity separated by no current also, he accidentally invented the primary alternator.

The Direct-Current Generators

DC generators were widely in use before the availability of inexpensive rectifier systems offered by alternators. For example, they were commonly used for charging batteries and for electrolytic systems. In specific applications, the direct current generator retained an advantage over the rectifier-alternator, because it could also function as a motor, reversing the direction of the flow of energy. On the other hand, an alternator must be equipped with a more complex rectifier-inverter system to obtain a power reversal.

 A direct current generator is a rotating machine that provides electrical output with voltage and unidirectional current. The basic operating principles are the same as synchronous generators. The tension is induced in coils through speed variations in the magnetic field through the loops when the machine is running. This induced voltage is intrinsically alternative when the coil flow rate increases and, therefore, decreases by zero on average. 

The field is produced by direct current in field coils or by permanent magnets in the stator. The positions of output windings or reinforcements are in grooves of the cylindrical iron rotor. The rotor has a mechanical rotary switch or switch, which connects the rotor coil to the fixed output terminals using brushes coal. This switch reverses the connections at the two moments of each rotation when the coil flow is zero, that is to say when the closed flow is maximum (positive) or minimum (negative). The output voltage is unidirectional but pulsed in the simple case of a rotor coil. In practical 2-pole machines, the rotor contains many coils arranged symmetrically in grooves around the periphery and all connected in series. Various engineers have perfected the mechanism over the time of decades, and some improvements are still happening.

Each coil has a connection to a segment on a multi-bus switch. Consequently, the output voltage is made up of the sum of the voltages induced in several single coils displaced around the center of the periphery. The amplitude of the output voltage is approximately constant and contains only a small ripple. The energy size is proportional to the speed of the rotor and the magnetic flux, so the control of the output voltage is normally ensured by checking the direct current in the field. For design convenience, DC generators are generally constructed with 4 to 8 field poles, partly to shorten the final connections on the rotor coils and partially to reduce the amount of magnetic iron required in the stator. The number of fixed brushes that support the rotary switch is generally equal to the number of poles, but can only be on two models. 

History of Generator

The 1700s- The Very Beginning

Around the 18th century, the use of engines, specifically steam engines became common knowledge which later led to the invention of the generator.

1712 – Newcomen steam engine was invented. Much later, James Watt noticed massive energy loss in the conversion of energy. A lot of heat was necessary to warm up the engine cylinders and a lot of water was needed for cooling purposes.

1781 – James Watt developed Watt Engine which had more efficient power conservative mechanisms. James Watt’s invention marled an important period improving engines and its rotary motions in the mechanism of operation. The power unit watt was named after him.

The 1800s- Electricity 

In the early 1800s, Michael Faraday played a vital role in electrical invention. In 1831, Faraday made a generator (magnetic generator) that used a Faraday disc. It was a copper disc rotating between two magnets with vertical poles. The generator produced a high current in comparison, but the voltage was low.

In 1832, Faraday’s magnetic principle was applied to the production of the dynamo. This noted invention of the first dynamo.

A significant advancement proceeded with the introduction of dynamo that also led to the introduction of electricity for commercial use in industries. In the mid-1800s, many inventions came out due to Faraday’s Law, and two of the designs were in 1860 that included AC and DC generators. Thomas Edison used introduced DC generators and the Electric Lighting System. The development progressed for some period.

Such developments made possible the delivery of power to light industries and homes. It later became commercial, and by the 1880s, many industries adopted the systems. 1887 was a year of great significance as Nikola Tesla brought notable changes to the progression of the generator by improving the existing AC generator significantly. He also improved the practical AC motor. The Tesla motor was designed in such a way so that it peaks the supply of power of the engine. Such improvements made it easy for companies to create massive power plants.

The Tesla system used polyphase currents, in which the generator generated several different alternating current flows, which combined or overlapped to create a single polyphase current output, component currents being “out of phase” with each other. The Tesla motor, introduced in 1887, was designed so that the tips of the polyphase current would supply energy at the right time in the rotation of the engine and that the resulting induction motor, as it was called, would run smoothly. With a practical alternating current generator and a motor, as well as transformers to increase and decrease the voltage, utilities could use the Tesla system to create an ever-increasing electrical distribution network using large power plants such as the hydroelectric generating station at Niagara Falls made in the 1890s. Larger energy systems helped reduce costs by stimulating demand for electricity, particularly in homes. Here’s a timeline of the events that took place:

1832 – Hippolyte Pixii, originally from France, built the first dynamo using a switch, a model creating different individual electrical impulses without current. And by chance, he created the primary alternator. He did not know what to do with the switching current, so he focused on removing the alternating current to obtain direct current, which led him to create the switch.

1830-1860 – The battery, as we know today, is still predominantly used, and back in the days, they were utilized in experiments that took place. Electricity wasn’t common then. An electric train with batteries from Washington DC to Baltimore broke down, which showed great shame for the new electric field. After wasting millions of dollars, steam had proven to be a better source of energy. Because of various circumstances, electricity wasn’t valid commercially.

1860 – Antonio Pacinotti created a dynamo but it was different from the earlier ones as it had the capability to provide continuous energy

1867 – Charles Wheatstone and Werner Von Siemens came up with a more robust and useful dynamo that used a stator motor electromagnet instead of a weak permanent magnet.

1871 – Zenobe Gramme began the commercial electricity revolution. It filled the attraction field with an iron center, which made a superior way for the magnetic flux. This expanded the intensity of the dynamo to where it was usable for some business applications.

1870 – There had been an explosion of new models in the dynamo, the designs varied enormously, only a few being remarkable in terms of efficiency.

1876 – Charles F. Brush (Ohio) built up the most productive and dependable dynamo. His creations were sold through the Telegraph Supply Company.

1877 – The Franklin Institute tested dynamos worldwide. The exposure of this occasion invigorated the improvement of others, as Elihu Thomson, Lord Kelvin, and Thomas Edison.

1878 – Ganz began to used alternating current generators in small commercial factories in Budapest.

1880 – Charles F. Brush operated more than 5,000 arc lamps, which represented 80% of all lamps in the world. The financial intensity of the power age had started.

1886-innovators like Nikola Tesla, William Stanley, George Westinghouse, and Elihu Thomson built up their air conditioning frameworks and generator ventures. The greater part of them utilized Siemens and Ferranti generators as a reason for their examination. That being stated, William Stanley immediately concocted a superior generator subsequent to being disappointed with the Siemens generator he had utilized during his first experience. 

1880-1891 – In Europe, AC systems were developed. Primarily by Siemens, Sabastian Ferranti, and Lucien Gaulard. DC Dynamo reigned supreme in the American market when it came to profitability. Many were skeptical about investing in air conditioning as the generator alone was not the biggest problem; the AC distribution and control systems had to be improved before they could compete with DC systems on the market. Polyphase AC generators were developed by C.S. Bradly, August Haselwander, Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovsky, Galileo Ferraris, and others. Alternating current systems that include better control and powerful electric motors allow alternating current to compete.

The 1900s-Expansion Generators

After these essential innovations and advancements, a few organizations that made generators were getting well established; following the start of the twentieth century. The mechanical energy for the generators was provided from an assortment of sources, including steam turbines, water turbines, and gas turbines. These turbines could rotate with the poles of the generator, which would induce a current. The companies that then produced the generators could design the entire unit and install it for a specific company. Additionally, electricity production units had been set up to supply energy for various purposes. This had led to network systems that led to a regional energy supply.

The early 1900s,

Generators were designed and manufactured by Siemens, Westinghouse, Kohler, General Electric, and other famous companies. Generators and motors have a lot in stock due to the relationship between electricity and mechanical energy. What do electric motors do? Motors can be operated mechanically to generate electricity. The generation of electricity is done via the generator, transforming the energy of the engine into electricity for external use. Mechanical energy sources include (already mentioned) water turbines, steam turbines, and gas turbines. A generator is the combination of an electric generator and a motor to form a single source of energy. 

The generator unit includes a power supply, a speed regulator, a voltage regulator, a lubrication system, and cooling and exhaust systems. There are many variations in designs and styles, and they can run on gas, natural gas, propane, and even wine as a dual fuel hybrid energy. Their dimensions range from very small, which can provide several hundred watts and are portable to large turbines. Many generators produce enough energy to keep many vital aspects of life and business activities active. For example, electricity for hospitals, power for homes, farms, and commercial areas, as well as energy for rural areas. In addition to providing a complete energy solution for the house for various emergencies.

The 2000s

Portable Generators

The consolidation of a motor in the generator which frames a single unit had become the current task in those days. The alleged engine generator had gotten significant in the supply of power, while it could be moved to various positions. The unit additionally had a motor, a fuel tank, a voltage controller, and a speed controller with the option of an initiating mechanism that incorporated a battery that was more relevant for bigger portable generators. Be that as it may, portable generators could be started physically utilizing a guide extraction system. 

Modern-day Generators

The most common type of generator is the generator we know today: portable size fields for industrial installations used for emergency power or for powering off-grid sites. Generators now have a wide range of applications, including caravan power, power tool power, standby power, off-grid life, and more.

Portable generators generally produce alternating current, as most devices currently use this type of power. There are several types of motor generators that include single-phase and three-phase ones but most portable generators are available on single-phase models, and only a few are available on three-phase. Their powers vary according to their size. Small portable generators mainly use gasoline as fuel, while large generators use fuels such as diesel and natural gas. There are also portable generators with dual power supply running on gas and propane.

Generators are at present used to coordinate the national grid framework. By and large, they produce enough power to keep up different prerequisites, for example, family lighting, ordinary business utilities, among others. They are for the most part utilized in places where the system framework has not yet shown up. Other applications include traveling lighting carnivals where trailer-mounted generators are used.

Synchronous Generators: High-Speed Variation

Generators powered by high-speed steam turbines are almost always built with horizontal shafts. The diameter of the rotor is generally limited to a maximum of one meter due to the tremendous centrifugal forces produced. The length of the rotor can be a few meters. The rotor shaft and the field structure are made of forged solid alloy steel, in which the grooves are machined to accept field coils. These coils are generally insulated with mica and Laminated glass. The reels are held in place by non-magnetic edges at the top of the slots.

The stator provides a continuously variable path for the magnetic flux. Therefore, the stator core is made up of thin sheets or magnetic steel laminates. Steel is an electrical conductor; it tends to short circuit the induced voltage if it is reliable. The bearing interrupts the conductor’s path along the length of the stator and keeps the power losses of the stator steel at an acceptable value. The grooves are drilled around the inner periphery of the laminates to receive the stator coils. In large generators, each stator coil contains typically only one change.

The high-speed generators are located inside a closed cylindrical stator housing, which extends between the bearings at both ends. They are cooled by hydrogen gas circulating inside the housing and often also by pipes in the stator conductors. Massive generators are cooled by the circulation of water through the stator and the rotor conductors. The nominal values ​​of synchronous generators for high power systems range up to around 2000 megavolts-amps. Small electrical systems use generators of lower capacity (for example, 50 megavolts or more) since it is generally not desirable to have more than 10% of the total system generation required on a machine.

Waterwheel generators

The first reference to the Water-wheel generator was made back around 4000 BCE. It’s an old-old idea. Vitruvius was an engineer who was credited with using and creating a vertical water wheel in Roman times. He died in 14 CE. In the modern era, the waterwheel generator has improved significantly and uses various advanced mechanisms. 

Hydraulic turbines are of different types, and the choice depends mostly on the height of the cascade and the nominal power. The speed range for which hydraulic turbines provide acceptable efficiency is much lower than for steam turbines. The rotation speed generally varies from 60 to 720 rotations per minute. The construction of low-speed synchronous generators is significantly different from that of high-speed units. 

Motor vehicles Generators

Vehicles such as cars, buses, and trucks required a direct voltage source for ignition, lights, fans, etc. In modern cars, electricity is generated by an alternator mechanically coupled to the engine. The alternator generally has a rotor field coil supplied with current through the sliding rings. The stator is equipped with a three-phase winding. A rectifier is used to convert alternative living energy. A regulator is used to control the field current so that the output voltage of the alternator-rectifier correctly corresponds to the battery voltage as the motor speed varies.

About Steven Smith

For the last 20 years, I have been working as a professional contractor in many construction projects. From my childhood, I love to work with different kinds of power tools. In my spare time, I love to do a different kind of DIY project. It gives me a kind of inner satisfaction.

Leave a Comment

To Calculate Your Total Power Consumption Click Here