Electric arc


Electric arc

An electric arc is an electrical breakdown of a gas which produces an ongoing plasma discharge, resulting from a current flowing through normally nonconductive media such as air. A synonym is arc discharge. The phenomenon was first described by Vasily V. Petrov, a Russian scientist who discovered it in 1802. An archaic term is voltaic arc as used in the phrase "voltaic arc lamp".

Overview

The various shapes of electric arc are emergent properties of nonlinear patterns of current and electric field. The arc occurs in the gas-filled space between two conductive electrodes (often made of carbon) and it results in a very high temperature, capable of melting or vaporizing most materials. An electric arc is a continuous discharge, while a similar electric spark discharge is momentary. An electric arc may occur either in direct-current circuits or in alternating current circuits. In the latter case, the arc may re-strike on each half cycle of the current. An electric arc differs from a glow discharge in that the current density is quite high, and the voltage drop within the arc is low; at the cathode the current density may be as high as one million amps per square centimeter. [ A. H. Howatson, "An Introduction to Gas Discharges", Pergamon Press, Oxford pgs. 80-95]

An electric arc has a non-linear relationship between current and voltage. Once the arc is established (either by progression from a glow discharge [Princples of Electronics By V.K. Mehta ISBN 8121924502 pages 101-107] or by momentarily touching the electrodes then separating them), increased current results in a lower voltage between the arc terminals. This negative impedance effect requires that some positive form of impedance to be placed in the circuit, if it is desired to maintain a stable arc. This property is the reason uncontrolled electrical arcs in apparatus become so destructive, since once initiated an arc will draw more and more current from a fixed-voltage supply until the apparatus is destroyed.

Uses

Industrially, electric arcs are used for welding, plasma cutting, for electrical discharge machining, as an arc lamp in movie theater projectors, and Followspots in stage lighting. Electric arc furnaces are used to produce steel and other substances. Calcium carbide is made in this way as it requires a large amount of energy to promote an endothermic reaction (at temperatures of 2500 °C).

Low-pressure electric arcs are used for lighting, e.g., fluorescent tubes, mercury and sodium street lamps, and camera flash lamps.

Electric arcs have been studied for electric propulsion of spacecraft.

Undesired arcing

Undesired or unintended electric arcing can have detrimental effects on electric power transmission and distribution systems and electronic equipment. Devices which may cause arcing include switches, circuit breakers, relay contacts, fuses and poor cable terminations. When an inductive circuit is switched off the current cannot instantaneously jump to zero; a transient arc will be formed across the separating contacts. Switching devices susceptible to arcing are normally designed to contain and extinguish an arc, and snubber circuits can supply a path for transient currents, preventing arcing. If a circuit has enough current and voltage to sustain an arc formed outside of a switching device, the arc can cause damage to equipment such as melting of conductors, destruction of insulation, and fire. An arc flash describes an explosive electrical event that presents a hazard to people and equipment.

Undesired arcing in electrical contactors can be suppressed by various devices, including:

* immersion in oil, inert gas or vacuum
* arc chutes
* magnetic blowouts

ee also

* Arc transmitter
* Arc welding
* Arc lamp
* Spark gap
* Vacuum arc

References

External links

* [http://www.arcadvisor.com/index.html Arc Analysis]
* [http://www.rmcybernetics.com/research/resonance/plasma.htm Unusual Arcing Photos]
* [http://arcmelt.velp.info/ Some more info about making electric arcs] using a welder.
* [http://205.243.100.155/frames/longarc.htm Videos of 230,000 volt 3-phase "Jacobs Ladder" and unintentional 500,000 volt power arc]
* [http://www.cirris.com/testing/voltage/arc.html High Voltage Arc Gap Calculator] to calculate the length of an arc knowing the voltage or vice versa


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • electric arc — arc (def. 2). [1880 85] * * * ▪ physics       continuous, high density electric current between two separated conductors in a gas or vapour with a relatively low potential difference, or voltage, across the conductors. The high intensity light… …   Universalium

  • electric arc — noun electrical conduction through a gas in an applied electric field • Syn: ↑discharge, ↑spark, ↑arc, ↑electric discharge • Derivationally related forms: ↑spark (for: ↑spark) …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Electric arc furnace — An electric arc furnace (EAF) is a furnace that heats charged material by means of an electric arc. Arc furnaces range in size from small units of approximately one ton capacity (used in foundries for producing cast iron products) up to about 400 …   Wikipedia


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