Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were two brilliant men of their time – even of ours, all things considered. They were backed by mercenary men of wealth and power – Westinghouse and J.P. Morgan, respectively. Because of this, the personal drama of Tesla and Edison played out across the media and through the parlors of mainstream America, not just through the power lines. Thanks to their brilliant yet bitter rivalry, we have things like light bulbs, transistors, resistors, capacitors, telegraphs, modern movies (talking and motion), and the comfort and power of electricity wired across the nation. Their antagonism also birthed things like Old Sparky (the electric chair). The energy poured into competition, being cut-throat and undercutting the form our energy came in might have been better spent elsewhere – but we will never know.
The truth of the matter is that between inverters and transformers, we have created networks of both AC and DC lines across the globe. Both forms of electrical transmission serve a purpose and a point – and both are useful. South America has a High Voltage DC transmission line of over 1400 miles in length while Long Island boasts a High-temperature superconductor transmission line that carries over 130k volts of AC with the capacity to carry up to 574k volts if needed.
As society becomes more and more dependant on personal electronics, we are seeing a wider swing back towards the localized, small-scale use of Direct Current to power our most commonly used items. Computers, cell phones, TVs and almost every electronic we use in our daily lives require a continuous stream of electricity with no variations or frequency. This is because we load electronics with semiconductors or transistors, which cannot operate on AC. Hence, each electronic carries an internal transformer that will convert it from one form of current to the other.
It is no longer a competition – it is now a cooperative effort to find the tools we most need to accomplish the goals we envision as important. Utilizing AC’s relatively easy and inexpensive transforming capacities combined with its ease of transmission, and our daily reliance upon DC currents to power our favorite electronics means we are losing the irrational emotional investment and accepting the scientific fundamentals. We are transforming the Alternating Current versus Direct Current attitude into one of utilization – how can we get what we need with as little waste as possible? How can we provide power quickly, efficiently, and with the least loss due to transmission or conversion?
In that case, the clear cut winner here is we the consumer, powering forwards into the future on both forms of current; bravely accepting that power is and nothing matters so much as that we get it and what we do with it.
(For those of you keeping track or curious, I am personally a fan of Nikola Tesla’s genius; however I’ve always rooted for the underdogs!)
This is the final and concluding piece of Swartz Electric’s series on AC vs DC. We hope you enjoyed the series and look forwards to a return in normal blog programming next week!
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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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