very large diminution in its velocity. Let us now follow the course of a stream of corpuscles starting from the cathode and approaching the anode. If the speed falls off as the stream proceeds, the corpuscles in the rear will gain on those in front and the density of the stream in the front will be increased. If at a certain place the velocity receives a sudden check by the corpuscles becoming loaded with a molecule, the density of the negative electricity will increase at this place with great rapidity, and here there will be a great accumulation of negative electricity, as at the bright head on the cathode side of a striation. Now this accumulation of negative electricity will produce a large electric force on the anode side; this will drive corpuscles forward with great velocity and ionize the gas. These corpuscles will behave like those shot from the cathode and will accumulate again at some distance from their origin, forming the bright head of the next striation, when the process will be repeated. On this view the bright heads of the striations act like electrodes, and the discharge passes from one bright head to the next as by a number of stepping stones, and not directly from cathode to anode. The luminosity at the head of the striations is due to the recombination of the ions. These ions have acquired considerable energy from the electric field, and this energy will be available for supplying the energy radiated away as light. The recombination of ions which do not possess considerable amounts of energy does not seem to give rise to luminosity. Thus, in an ionized gas not exposed to an electric field, although we have recombination between the ions, we need not have luminosity. We have at present no exact data as to the amount of energy which must be given to an ion to make it luminous on recombination; it also certainly varies with the nature of the ion; thus even with hot Wehnelt cathodes J. J. Thomson has never been able to make the discharge through air luminous with a potential less than from 16 to 17 volts. The mercury lamps, however, in which the discharge passes through mercury vapour are luminous with a potential difference of about 12 volts. It follows that if the preceding theory be right the potential difference between two bright striations must be great enough to make the corpuscles ionize by collision and also to give enough energy to the ions to make them luminous when they recombine. The difference of potential between the bright parts of successive striations has been measured by Hohn (Phys. Zeit. 9, p. 558); it varies with the pressure and with the gas. The smallest value given by Hohn is about 15 volts. In some experiments made by J. J. Thomson, when the pressure of the gas was very low, the difference of potential between two adjacent dark spaces was as low as 3.75 volts.
The Arc Discharge.—The discharges we have hitherto considered have been characterized by large potential differences and small currents. In the arc discharge we get very large currents with comparatively small potential differences. We may get the arc discharge by taking a battery of cells large enough to give a potential difference of 60 to 80 volts, and connecting the cells with two carbon terminals, which are put in contact, so that a current of electricity flows round the circuit. If the terminals, while the current is on, are drawn apart, a bright discharge, which may carry a current of many amperes, passes from one to the other. This arc discharge, as it is called, is characterized by intense heat and by the brilliant luminosity of the terminals. This makes it a powerful source of light. The temperature of the positive terminal is much higher than that of the negative. According to Violle (Comptes Rendus, 115, p. 1273) the temperature of the tip of the former is about 3500° C, and that of the latter 2700° C. The temperature of the arc itself he found to be higher than that of either of its terminals. As the arc passes, the positive terminal gets hollowed out into a crater-like shape, but the negative terminal remains pointed. Both terminals lose weight.
The appearance of the terminals is shown in fig. 18, given by Mrs Ayrton (Proc. Inst. Elec. Eng. 28, p. 400); a, b represent the terminals when the arc is quiet, and c when it is accompanied by a hissing sound. The intrinsic brightness of the positive crater does not increase with an increase in the current; an increased current produces an increase in the area of the luminous crater, but the amount of light given out by each unit of area of luminous surface is unaltered. This indicates that the temperature of the crater is constant; it is probably that at which carbon volatilizes. W. E. Wilson (Proc. Roy. Soc. 58, p. 174; 60, p. 377) has shown that at pressures of several atmospheres the intrinsic brightness of the crater is considerably diminished.
The connexion between V, the potential difference between the terminals, and l, the length of the arc, is somewhat analogous to that which holds for the spark discharge. Fröhlich (Electrotech. Zeit. 4, p. 150) gives for this connexion the relation V = m + nl, where m and n are constants. Mrs Ayrton (The Electric Arc, chap. iv.) finds that both m and n depend upon the current passing between the terminals, and gives as the relation between V and l, V = α + β + (γ + δ)l, where α, β, γ, δ are constants and I the current. The relation between current and potential difference was made the subject of a series of experiments by Ayrton (Electrician, 1, p. 319; xi. p. 418), some of whose results are represented in fig. 19. For a quiet arc an increase in current is accompanied by a fall in potential difference, while for the hissing arc the potential difference is independent of the current. The quantities m and n which occur in Fröhlich’s equation have been determined by several experimenters. For carbon electrodes in air at atmospheric pressure m is about 39 volts, varying somewhat with the size and purity of the carbons; it is diminished by soaking the terminals in salt solution. The value of n given by different observers varies considerably, ranging from .76 to 2 volts when l is measured in millimetres; it depends upon the current, diminishing as the current increases. When metallic terminals are used instead of carbons, the value of m depends upon the nature of the metal, m in general being larger the higher the temperature at which the metal volatilizes. Thus v. Lang (Wied. Ann. 31, p. 384) found the following values for m in air at atmospheric pressure:—C = 35; Pt = 27.4; Fe = 25; Ni = 26.18; Cu = 23.86; Ag = 15.23; Zn = 19.86; Cd = 10.28. Lecher (Wied. Ann. 33, p. 609) gives Pt = 28, Fe = 20, Ag = 8, while Arons (Wied. Ann. 31, p. 384) found for Hg the value 12.8; in this case the fall of potential along the arc itself was abnormally small. In comparing these values it is important to remember that Lecher (loc. cit.) has shown that with Fe or Pt terminals the arc discharge is intermittent. Arons has shown that this is also the case with Hg terminals, but no intermittence has been detected with terminals of C, Ag or Cu. The preceding measurements refer to mean potentials, and no conclusions as to the actual potential differences at any time can be drawn when the discharge is discontinuous, unless we know the law of discontinuity. The ease with which an arc is sustained depends greatly on the nature of the electrodes; when they are brass, zinc, cadmium, or magnesium it is exceedingly difficult to get the arc.The potential difference between the terminals is affected by the pressure of the gas. The most extensive series of experiments on this point is that made by Duncan, Rowland, and Tod (Electrician,