Alternating Current - History of Alternating Current

Alternating Current

Hippolyte Pixii built the first alternator in 1835 in Paris, France, a device which utilized a magnet rotated by a hand crank to produce AC (alternating current). Scientists at the time were more interested in DC (direct current), but once the advantages of AC power were realized, it became the world standard for electricity.

AC voltage changes polarity between positive and negative easily with a transformer, making it more efficient for transmitting power over long distances. This makes AC power more economical for power plants to carry over electrical wires to homes around the world. DC power is the type used in batteries, and is more useful for small devices.

  • In the 1880s industrialists and inventors wanted to find a way to use electricity to power street lights, and to power homes as well. This sparked a war of currents, between AC and DC power.
  • In the late 1880s Thomas Edison built a DC power system for his New York City neighborhood.
  • George Westinghouse bought patents for AC power transformers and motors from inventors such as Nikola Tesla.
  • While Edison built his DC power system, George Westinghouse and his business partners at Westinghouse Electric built his AC power system in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He then built another in Buffalo, NY.
  • AC won out as the most viable power distribution method in the ‘War of Currents'. It is still the way we transmit power today.


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