The Edison electric meter, like those of Sprague and Lane-Fox, was based upon the principle that when an electric current flows through an electrolyte, such as sulphate of copper or sulphate of zinc, the electrodes being plates of copper or zinc, metal is dissolved off one plate (the anode) and deposited on the other plate (the cathode).
When this liquid is cold it is diluted with cold water, heated until all the soluble salts are dissolved, transferred to a tall, narrow beaker, and diluted to about 150 cc. The electrodes are attached to a frame connected with the battery and the beaker is placed on a stool, which can be raised so that the electrodes are immersed in the liquid and reach the bottom of the beaker.
The electric arc is formed between cooled copper (positive) and carbon (negative) electrodes in an atmosphere of hydrogen or coal-gas.
Very irregular surfaces may require the use of specially shaped anodes in order that the distance between the electrodes may be fairly uniform, otherwise the portion of the cathode lying nearest to the anode may receive an undue share of the current, and therefore a greater thickness of coat.
Faraday observed that a large drop of mercury, resting on the flat bottom of a vessel containing dilute acid, changes its form in a remarkable way when connected with one of the electrodes of a battery, the other electrode being placed in the acid.
Duddell discovered in 1900 that if a continuous current carbon arc had its carbon electrodes connected by a condenser in series with an inductance, then under certain conditions oscillations were excited in this condenser circuit which appeared to be continuous.
Across the arc is a transverse or radial magnetic field, and the electrodes are connected by an oscillatory circuit consisting of a condenser and inductance.
Differences between the two electrodes are thus set up, and, as we have seen above, an electromotive force will therefore exist between them.
In 1895 the British Aluminium Company was founded to mine bauxite and manufacture alumina in Ireland, to prepare the necessary electrodes at Greenock, to reduce the aluminium by the aid of water-power at the Falls of Foyers, and to refine and work up the metal into marketable shapes at the old Milton factory of the Cowles Syndicate, remodelled to suit modern requirements.
When we use platinum electrodes in acidulated water, hydrogen and oxygen are evolved.