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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/421

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

cent arrival of the steamship Labrador with a number of these batteries on board, which had been successfully used during the passage in electric illumination, has revived both the interest and the speculations about them in this country, so that a few words on their possibilities, and what has been so far accomplished, may be here appropriate. It is hardly necessary to say anything regarding the construction of the Faure cell, as it was fully described in the August number of the "Monthly" of last year, and has since received much attention in the technical papers and by the daily press.

That a thoroughly commercial storage-battery has a wide field of usefulness before it there can be no question. Of the many uses to which it could be applied, one of the most important, perhaps, is as an element in a system of electric distribution for both light and power purposes. With a storage battery in each house, a smaller electric producing plant in continuous operation could take the place of the larger one required without it, and distribution could be readily accomplished with one set of mains, as, by simply connecting groups of battery-cells in the proper way, arc and incandescent lamps, as well as various pieces of machinery, could be run quite independently of each other.

The power that such a battery confers of utilizing the results of work performed at other times and places makes it peculiarly well adapted for use in isolated electric plant, such as would be suitable for suburban and country houses. Wind and water power are both suitable for charging the battery, but neither of them would commonly be available as direct agents in maintaining a current. It is not at all impossible that we may yet see the farmers using the power of the wind, which costs nothing beyond interest on investment in a mill and repairs, to light their houses, and obtain all the power necessary for many of the operations of the farm.

Such batteries would also have a not unimportant use in the propulsion of cars on street and suburban railways, and it is quite within the bounds of reasonable expectation to think that they could in a good many cases displace steam with advantage on ordinary railways. The conditions requisite to render this feasible are simply good water-power facilities at sufficiently frequent intervals along the line, or such a proximity to coal-mines that the electricity for the charging can be generated at the pit, and coal transportation, therefore, dispensed with. The great advantages of a method of railway propulsion which would dispense with the fire, steam, and smoke of the locomotive, are too obvious to need specifying. Many other applications of these batteries might be named, and the sphere of their utility will doubtless constantly enlarge with the progress of industry.

In order, however, for the storage battery to take its place as an important element in the growing industrial applications of electricity, it must reach a considerably higher efficiency than it appears to have yet attained. The results obtained in the experiments on the Faure battery at the Conservatoire des Arts-et-Métiers, communicated to the French Academy of Sciences in March last, and which constitute the only trustworthy account yet given of the performance of this battery, certainly leave much to be desired. The experiments were conducted to determine—1. The mechanical labor expended in charging the battery; 2. The quantity of electricity stored up during the charge; 3. The quantity of electricity given out during the charge; and, 4. The electrical work actually effected during the discharge. They resulted in showing that the battery returned forty per cent of the total mechanical power spent in I charging it, and sixty per cent of the