The Losses Due to Hysteresis in Transformers

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In your issue of April 2, in referring to certain remarks made by me at the recent meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers on the subject of hysteresis you make the statement: “It is this constancy of relation that, as Mr. Tesla pointed out * * * may ultimately establish the correctness of the hypothesis advanced, that in reality there is no loss due to hysteresis, and that the changes of magnetization represent a charging and discharging of molecular energy without entailing an actual expenditure of energy.”

I do not recollect having made such a statement, and as I was evidently misunderstood, you will greatly oblige me in inserting the following few lines, which express the idea I meant to advance:

Up to the present no satisfactory explanation of the causes of hysteresis has been given. In the most exhaustive and competent treatise on the theory of transformers, by Fleming, static hysteresis is explained by supposing that “the magnetic molecules or molecular magnets, the arrangement of which constitutes magnetization, move stiffly, and the dissipation of energy is the work done in making the necessary magnetic displacement against a sort of magnetic friction.” Commonly it is stated that this is a distinct element in the loss of energy in an iron core undergoing magnetic changes entirely independent of any currents generated therein.

Now it is difficult to reconcile these views with our present notions on the constitution of matter generally. The molecules or iron cannot be connected together by anything but elastic forces, since they are separated by an intervening elastic medium through which the forces act; and this being the case is it not reasonable to assume that if a given amount of energy is taken up to bring the molecules out of their original position an equivalent amount of energy should be restored by the molecules reassuming their original positions, as we know is the case in all molecular displacements? We cannot imagine that an appreciable amount of energy should be wasted by the elastically connected molecules swinging back and forth from their original positions, which they must constantly tend to assume, at least within the limit of elasticity, which in all probability is rarely surpassed. The losses cannot be attributed to mere displacement, as this would necessitate the supposition that the molecules are connected rigidly, which is quite unthinkable.

A current cannot act upon the particles unless it acts upon currents in the same, either previously existing or set up by it, and since the particles are held together by elastic forces the losses must be ascribed wholly to the current generated. The remarkable discovery of Ewing that the magnetization is greater on the descent than on the ascent for the same values of magnetizing force strongly points to the fact that hysteresis is intimately connected with the generation of currents either in the molecules individually or in groups of them through the space intervening. The fact observed accords perfectly with our experience on current induction, for we know that on the descent any current set up must be of the same direction with the inducing current, and, therefore, must join with the same in producing a common effect; whereas, on the ascent the contrary is the case.

Dr. Duncan stated that the ratio of increase of primary and secondary current is constant. This statement is, perhaps, not sufficiently expressive, for not only is the ratio constant but, obviously, the differential effect of primary and secondary is constant. Now any current generated – molecular or Foucault currents in the mass – must be in amount proportionate to the difference of the inductive effect of the primary and secondary, since both currents add algebraically — the ratio of windings duly considered, — and as this difference is constant the loss, if wholly accounted for in this manner, must be constant. Obviously I mean here the transformers under consideration, that is, those with a closed magnetic circuit, and I venture to say that the above will be more pronounced when the primary and secondary are wound one on top of the other than when they are wound side by side; and generally it will be the more pronounced the closer their inductive relation.

Dr. Duncan’s figures also show that the loss is proportionate to the square of the electromotive force. Again this ought to be so, for an increased electromotive force causes a proportionately increased current which, in accordance with the above statements, must entail a loss in the proportion of the square.

Certainly, to account for all the phenomena of hysteresis, effects of mechanical vibration, the behavior of steel and nickel alloy, etc., a number of suppositions must be made; but can it not be assumed that, for instance, in the case of steel and nickel alloys the dissipation of energy is modified by the modified resistance; and to explain the apparent inconsistency of this view we only need to remember that the resistance of a body as a whole is not a measure of the degree of conductivity of the particles of which it is composed.

N. Tesla
New York City

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