Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/247

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locomotives for charging the furnaces, removing slag, &c. Many stone quarries have a central plant for compressing air, which is transmitted through pipes extending to all working points, and operates derricks, hoists, drills, stone cutters, &c., by means of motors. Every considerable ironworks, railroad shop or foundry has its pneumatic transmission plant. Also in the erection of the larger steel bridges or buildings a pneumatic transmission system is part of the contractor's outfit, and many railways have a portable compressing plant on a car ready to be moved to any point as needed.

Dr Julius G. Pohle, of Arizona, patented in 1886, and introduced extensively, the use of compressed air for lifting water directly, by admitting it into the water column. His plan is largely adopted in artesian wells that do not flow, or do notflow as much as desired, and is so arranged that the air supply has a back pressure of water equal to at least half the lift. If it is desired to lift the water 30 ft. the air is admitted to the water column at least 30 ft. below the standing water surface. The air admitted being so much lighter than the water it displaces, the column 60 ft. high becomes lighter than the column 30 ft. high and is constantly released and flows out at the top. The efficiency of this method is only 20 to 4O<%), depending on the lift, but its adaptation to artesian wells renders it valuable in many localities.

A remarkable pneumatic transmission system was installed in I8QO by Priestly in the Snake River Desert, Idaho, U.S.A. On the north side of the river is a cliff, nearly perpendicular, about 300 ft. high. One hundred and ninety feet above the river, for a considerable distance along the cliff, streams of water gush out from between the bottom of the great lava bed and the hardened clay of the old lake bottom. Priestly, without knowledge of Pohle's system, built a pipe line down the bluff and trained the Water into it in such a way that it carried a very considerable quantity of air in the form of bubbles along with it down the pipe, compressing it on the way. The air was collected at the bottom in a covered reservoir, and taken up the cliff again to the lower part of an inverted siphon pipe, one side of which reached down from the water-supply about 60 ft. and the other side reached up and over the bluff. Allowing the water to fill both sides of the pipe to the level of the water-supply, he admitted his compressed air at about 75 lb pressure into the long side of the pipe near the bottom, and soon had water flowing upwards over the cliff and irrigating a large tract of rich lava land. He had made a power, a transmission and a motor plant without a moving part. A similar compressor was installed near Montreal, Canada, in 1896; another at Ainsworth, British Columbia, in 1898; and another at Norwich, Connecticut, U.S.A., in 1902. These are called hydraulic air compressors and show an efficiency of about 70%. They are particularly adapted to positions where there is a large flow of water with a slight fall or head.

The actual transmission of power by air from the compressor to the motor is simple and effective. The air admits of a velocity of I5 to 20 ft. per second through pipes, with very slight loss by friction, and consequently there is no necessity for an expensive pipe system in proportion to the power transmitted. It is found in practice that, allowing a velocity as given above, there is no noticeable difference in pressure between the compressor and the motor several miles away. Light butt-welded tubing is largely used for pi ing, and if properly put in there is very slight loss from leakage, which, moreover, can be easily detected and stopped. In practice, ei sponge with soap-suds passed around a joint furnishes a detective agency, the escaping air blowing soap bubbles. In good practice there need not be more than 1% loss through leakage and 1% possibly through friction in the pneumatic transmission of power. Air develops heat on compression and is cooled by expansion, and it expands with heat and contracts with cold. For the purpose of illustration suppose a cylinder IO ft. long containing 10 cub. ft. of air at 60° F., with a frictionless piston at one end. If this piston be moved 7% ft. into the cylinder, so that the air is compressed to one quarter of its volume, and none of the heat developed by compression be allowed to escape, the air will be under a pressure of 90 lb per square inch and at a temperature of 460° F. If this air be cooled down to 60° F. the pressure will be reduced to 45 lb per square inch, showing that the heat produced in the air itself during compression gives it an additional expansive force of 45 Ib per square inch. 'The average force or pressure in compressing this air without loss of heat is 21 Ib per square inch, whereas if all the heat developed during compression had been removed as rapidly as developed the average pressure on the piston would have been only II lb per square inch, showing that the heat developed in the air during compression, when not removed as fast as developed, caused in this case an extra force of IO lb per square inch to be used on the piston. If this heated air could be transmitted and used without any loss of heat the extra force used in compressing it could be utilized; but in practice this is impossible, as the heat is lost in transmission. If the piston holding the 2% cub. ft. of air at 45 lb per square inch and at 60° F. were released the air expanding without receiving any heat would move it back within 3% ft. of the end only, and the temperature of the air would be lowered 170° F., or to IIO° F. below zero. If the air were then warmed to 60° F. again it would move the piston the remaining 3% ft. to its starting point. It is seen that the ideal air-compressing machine is one which will take all the heat from the air as rapidly as it is developed during compression. Such “ isothermal compression ” is never reached in practice, the best work yet done lacking I0% of it. It follows that the most inefficient compressing machine is one which takes away no heat during compression-that is, works by “ adiabatic compression, ” which in practice has been much more nearly approached than the ideal. It also follows that the ideal motor for using compressed air is one which will supply heat to the air as required when it is expanding. Such “ isothermal " expansion is often attained, and sometimes exceeded, in practice by supplying heat artificially. Finally, the most inefficient motor for using compressed air is one which supplies no heat to the air during its expansion, or works by adiabatic expansion, which was long very closely approached by most air motors. In practice isothermal compression is approached by compressing the air slightly, then cooling it, compressing it slightly again, and again cooling it until the desired' compression is completed. This is called compression in stages or compound compression. Isothermal expansion is approximately accomplished by allowing the air to do part of its work (as expanding slightly in a. cylinder) and then warming it, then allowing it to do a little more and then warming it again, and so continuing until expansion is complete. It will be seen that the air is carefully cooled during compression to prevent the heat it develops from working against compression, and even more carefully heated during expansion to prevent loss from cold developed during expansion. More stages of compression of course give a higher efficiency, but the cost of machinery and friction losses have to be considered. The reheating of air is often a disadvantage, especially in mining, where there are great objections to' having any kind of combustion underground; but where reheating is possible, as W. C. Unwin says, “for the amount of heat supplied the economy realized in the weight of air used is surprising. The reason for this is, the heat supplied to the air is used nearly five times as efficiently as an equal amount of heat employed in generating steam.” Practically there is a hotair engine, using a medium much more effective than common air, in addition to a compressed-air engine, making the efficiency of the whole system extremely high. (A. DE W. F.)


Though the older methods of power transmission, such as wire ropes, compressed air and high-pressure water, are still worked on a comparatively small scale, the chief commercial burden has fallen upon the electric generator and motor linked by a transmission line. The efficiency of the conversion from mechanical power to electrical energy and back again is so high, and the facility of power distribution by electric motors is so great, as to leave little room for competition in any but very exceptional cases. The largest single department of electrical power transmission-that is, transmission for traction purposes -is at present almost wholly carried on by continuous currents. The usual voltage is 500 to 600, and the motors are almost universally series-wound constant-potential machines. The total amount of such transmission in daily use reaches probably a million and a half horse power. In long distance power transmission proper continuous currents are not used to any considerable extent, owing mainly to the difficulty of generating continuous currents at sufficient pressure to be available for such work, and the difficulty of reducing such pressure, even if it could be conveniently obtained, far enough to render it available for convenient distribution at the receiving end of the line. Single continuous current machines have seldom been built successfully for more than about 2000 to 3000 volts, if at the same time they were required to deliver any considerable amount of current. About 300 to 500 kilowatts per machine at this voltage appears to be the present limit, although it is by nomeans unlikely that the use of com mutating poles and