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861
CONDUCTION, ELECTRIC


redness after being platinized, a grey surface is obtained which possesses sufficient area for use with dilute solutions and yet does not absorb an appreciable quantity of salt.

Any convenient source of alternating current may be used. The currents from the secondary circuit of a small induction coil are satisfactory, or the currents of an alternating electric light supply may be transformed down to an electromotive force of one or two volts. With such currents it is necessary to consider the effects of self-induction in the circuit and of electrostatic capacity. In balancing the resistance of the electrolyte, resistance coils may be used in which self-induction and the capacity are reduced to a minimum by winding the wire of the coil backwards and forwards in alternate layers.

EB1911 Conduction, Electric - Fig. 1.jpg
Fig. 1.

With these arrangements the usual method of measuring resistance by means of Wheatstone’s bridge may be adapted to the case of electrolytes. With alternating currents, however, it is impossible to use a galvanometer in the usual way. The galvanometer was therefore replaced by Kohlrausch by a telephone, which gives a sound when an alternating current passes through it. The most common plan of the apparatus is shown diagrammatically in fig. 1. The electrolytic cell and a resistance box form two arms of the bridge, and the sliding contact is moved along the metre wire which forms the other two arms till no sound is heard in the telephone. The resistance of the electrolyte is to that of the box as that of the right-hand end of the wire is to that of the left-hand end. A more accurate method of using alternating currents, and one more pleasant to use, gets rid of the telephone (Phil. Trans., 1900, 194, p. 321). The current from one or two voltaic cells is led to an ebonite drum turned by a motor or a hand-wheel and cord. On the drum are fixed brass strips with wire brushes touching them in such a manner that the current from the brushes is reversed several times in each revolution of the drum. The wires from the brushes are connected with the Wheatstone’s bridge. A moving coil galvanometer is used as indicator, its connexions being reversed in time with those of the battery by a slightly narrower set of brass strips fixed on the other end of the ebonite commutator. Thus any residual current through the galvanometer is direct and not alternating. The high moment of inertia of the coil makes the period of swing slow compared with the period of alternation of the current, and the slight periodic disturbances are thus prevented from affecting the galvanometer. When the measured resistance is not altered by increasing the speed of the commutator or changing the ratio of the arms of the bridge, the disturbing effects may be considered to be eliminated.

EB1911 Conduction, Electric - Figs. 2 & 3.jpg
Fig. 2. Fig. 3.

The form of vessel chosen to contain the electrolyte depends on the order of resistance to be measured. For dilute solutions the shape of cell shown in fig. 2 will be found convenient, while for more concentrated solutions, that indicated in fig. 3 is suitable. The absolute resistances of certain solutions have been determined by Kohlrausch by comparison with mercury, and, by using one of these solutions in any cell, the constant of that cell may be found once for all. From the observed resistance of any given solution in the cell the resistance of a centimetre cube—the so-called specific resistance—may be calculated. The reciprocal of this, or the conductivity, is a more generally useful constant; it is conveniently expressed in terms of a unit equal to the reciprocal of an ohm. Thus Kohlrausch found that a solution of potassium chloride, containing one-tenth of a gram equivalent (7.46 grams) per litre, has at 18° C. a specific resistance of 89.37 ohms per centimetre cube, or a conductivity of 1.119×10−2 mhos or 1.119×10−11 C.G.S. units. As the temperature variation of conductivity is large, usually about 2% per degree, it is necessary to place the resistance cell in a paraffin or water bath, and to observe its temperature with some accuracy.

Another way of eliminating the effects of polarization and of dilution has been used by W. Stroud and J. B. Henderson (Phil. Mag., 1897 [5], 43, p. 19). Two of the arms of a Wheatstone’s bridge are composed of narrow tubes filled with the solution, the tubes being of equal diameter but of different length. The other two arms are made of coils of wire of equal resistance, and metallic resistance is added to the shorter tube till the bridge is balanced. Direct currents of somewhat high electromotive force are used to work the bridge. Equal currents then flow through the two tubes; the effects of polarization and dilution must be the same in each, and the resistance added to the shorter tube must be equal to the resistance of a column of liquid the length of which is equal to the difference in length of the two tubes.

A somewhat different principle was adopted by E. Bouty in 1884. If a current be passed through two resistances in series by means of an applied electromotive force, the electric potential falls from one end of the resistances to the other, and, if we apply Ohm’s law to each resistance in succession, we see that, since for each of them E = CR, and C the current is the same through both, E the electromotive force or fall of potential between the ends of each resistance must be proportional to the resistance between them. Thus by measuring the potential difference between the ends of the two resistances successively, we may compare their resistances. If, on the other hand, we can measure the potential difference in some known units, and similarly measure the current flowing, we can determine the resistance of a single electrolyte. The details of the apparatus may vary, but its principle is illustrated in the following description. A narrow glass tube is fixed horizontally into side openings in two glass vessels, and an electric current passed through it by means of platinum electrodes and a battery of considerable electromotive force. In this way a steady fall of electric potential is set up along the length of the tube. To measure the potential difference between the ends of the tube, tapping electrodes are constructed, e.g. by placing zinc rods in vessels with zinc sulphate solution and connecting these vessels (by means of thin siphon tubes also filled with solution) with the vessels at the ends of the long tube which contains the electrolyte to be examined. Whatever be the contact potential difference between zinc and its solution, it is the same at both ends, and thus the potential difference between the zinc rods is equal to that between the liquid at the two ends of the tube. This potential difference may be measured without passing any appreciable current through the tapping electrodes, and thus the resistance of the liquid deduced.

Equivalent Conductivity of Solutions.—As is the case in the other properties of solutions, the phenomena are much more simple when the concentration is small than when it is great, and a study of dilute solutions is therefore the best way of getting an insight into the essential principles of the subject. The foundation of our knowledge was laid by Kohlrausch when he had developed the method of measuring electrolyte resistance described above. He expressed his results in terms of “equivalent conductivity,” that is, the conductivity (k) of the solution divided by the number (m) of gram-equivalents of electrolyte per litre. He finds that, as the concentration diminishes, the value of k/m approaches a limit, and eventually becomes constant, that is to say, at great dilution the conductivity is proportional to the concentration. Kohlrausch first prepared very pure water by repeated distillation and found that its resistance continually increased as the process of purification proceeded. The conductivity of the water, and of the slight impurities which must always remain, was subtracted from that of the solution made with it, and the result, divided by m, gave the equivalent conductivity of the substance dissolved. This procedure appears justifiable, for as long as conductivity is proportional to concentration it is evident that each part of the dissolved matter produces its own independent effect, so that the

total conductivity is the sum of the conductivities of the parts;