Conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy has been made easy by the help of generators. Such mechanical energy can be instigated by various sources, including wind, flowing water, and engine, among others. But did this powerful component come to be? Who invented the first generator and its working principle? Well, below is a highlight of chronological development occurrences in the progress of a generator, from how it started to the contemporary model.
Early beginnings – the 1700s
The 18th century marked the beginning of the steam engines’ use, which would later lead to the invention of generators. After the invention of Newcomen 1712 steam engine, James Watt noticed a massive loss of energy during its operation. This engine required a lot of heat energy to warm up the cylinders when starting, as well as a lot of water for cooling during the operation. He developed Watt Steam Engine in 1781 that had more efficient energy conservative mechanisms.
Watt’s invention marked a significant period, with engine improvements including rotary motions in the operation mechanism.
This would later lead to generator development and produced power attained unit watt, named after him.
The development of electricity – the 1800s
Michael Faraday played a significant role in the electrical invention in the early 1800s. In 1831, he invented a magnetic generator that deployed a Faraday disk. It entailed a copper disk that rotated between two magnets with their poles perpendicular to it. The generator produced relatively high current but low voltage amount. The faraday’s magnetic principle was applied in the production of dynamos, where the first one was built in 1832. Development of a dynamo was a significant breakthrough that caused the introduction of electricity for use in industries.
In the mid-1800s, several inventions arose from Faraday’s principle. There were two inventions in 1860 that included DC and AC generators, fostered by scientists such as Werner Von Siemens from Germany. Progressive developments occurred over the period, and in the late 1870s, Electric Lighting System was introduced by Thomas Edison using DC generators. This system helped supply power to light industries and homesteads. The system was later to become commercial, and in the early 1880s, several industries had installed the systems.
In 1887, Nikola Tesla brought significant changes to the generator progression by considerably improving the already existing AC generator. Instead of standard singly rotating poles, Tesla introduced Polyphase AC that consisted of several outputs combined into one phase. This invention led to usage in massive companies since power could be generated in large amounts.
Expansion generators – the 1900s
After these significant inventions and developments, various companies manufacturing generators were already established by the beginning of the 20th century. Besides, the motor also accompanied generators’ production since the two applies a similar mechanism. Mechanical energy for the generators was obtained from various sources including steam turbines, water turbines, and gas turbines. These turbines could turn together with the generator poles, consequently inducing a current.
Companies dealing with the production of generators back then could design the entire unit, and then install if for a particular company. Besides, electricity generating units were established for supplying power to multiple targets. This led to grid systems that involved regional electricity supply.
Contemporary portable generators – the 2000s
Incorporation of an engine into the generator forming a single unit became the current design. The so-called engine-generator has become significant in supplying power while it can be moved to different places. Usually, the unit comprises an engine, a fuel tank, voltage regulator and a speed regulator. It also consists of a starting mechanism which includes a battery and a starter, especially large portable engine-generators. However, small portable generators can be started manually using a lash pulling mechanism.
Usually, portable generators produce AC current, since most of the apparatus currently use this type of current. There are different types of engine-generators, including single-phase and three-phase. However, most portable generators are available in single-phase models, and only a few three-phase are available. Their power ratings also vary depending on their size. Small hand-held generators mainly use petrol as fuels, while massive generators use fuels including Diesel and natural gas. There are also dual fuel portable generators running on gas and propane.
Essentially, generators are currently used to supplement the national power grid system. But mostly, they produce sufficient power to sustain various requirements such as homestead lightings, trivial commercial uses, among others. Besides, they are mainly used in places where the grid system has not reached yet. Other uses include lighting traveling carnivals where trailer-mounted generators are used.
Contemporary generators are much quieter than the older models. This especially applies to the generators with inverter technology. These are popular choices not only for home or construction but also for camping or travel trailers.