The War of Currents

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The War of Currents

DC (direct current) is the unidirectional flow or movement of electric charge carriers. The intensity never changes and polarity voltage never reverses.

Edison's direct current (DC)

Tesla's alternating current (AC)

Starting in the late 1880s, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were the main characters in a battle now known as the War of the Currents.Edison developed direct current which, during the early years of electricity, was the standard in the U.S. But there was one problem: direct current is not easily to convert into higher or lower voltages.Tesla believed that alternating current was the solution to this problem because it can be converted to different voltages relatively easily using a transformer.Edison did not want to lose the royalties which he was gaining from his direct current patents, so he started a campaign to discredit alternating current. He spread bad information saying that alternating current was more dangerous, even killing publicly animals using alternating current to prove his point.The Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the World’s Columbian Exposition, took place in 1893, at the height of the Current War.General Electric Company offered to electrify the fair using Edison’s direct current for $554,000, but it lost against George Westinghouse, who said he could power the fair for only $399,000 using Tesla’s alternating current.That same year, the Niagara Falls Power Company decided to award Westinghouse, who had authorized Tesla’s polyphase alternating current induction motor patent, signing a contract with him to generate power from Niagara Falls. Although some doubted that the falls could power all of Buffalo and New York, but Tesla was convinced that it could power not only Buffalo, but also the entire Eastern United States.In 1896, on the 16th of November, Buffalo was lit up by the alternating current from Niagara Falls. By this time General Electric Company had decided to use the alternating current too.

The War of CurrentsEdison vs Tesla

AC (alternating current) is the flow or movement of electric charge carriers when they periodically reverse their direction of movement.The best-known AC waveform is sinusoidal.

It would appear that alternating current had erased direct current, but in recent years direct current has seen a bit of a renaissance.Today our electricity is still predominantly powered by alternating current, but computers, LEDs, solar cells and electric vehicles all run on DC power and now there are lots of methods to convert direct current to higher and lower voltages. Since direct current is more stable, companies are finding ways of using high voltage direct current (HVDC) to transport electricity long distances with less electricity loss.So it appears the War of the Currents may not be over yet, but instead of continuing in an AC vs. DC battle, it looks like the two currents will end up working in parallel to each other in a sort of hybrid armistice. Nothing of that would be possible without the genius of both Tesla and Edison.


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