GENERADOR ELECTROSTÁTICO

La existencia del fenómeno electrostático es bien conocido desde la antigüedad. Alrededor del 600 a. C. el filósofo griego Thales de Mileto describió por primera vez fenómenos electrostáticos producidos al frotar fragmentos de ámbar y comprobar su capacidad de atracción sobre pequeños objetos. Este efecto causó cierta curiosidad entre sus contemporáneos pero no fue abordado científicamente y cayó en el olvido.

Hoy sabemos que cuando un aislador cargado negativamente es tocado con el dedo, los electrones excedentes se desplazarán a través de éste por nuestro cuerpo hacia tierra, descargando el objeto. Este flujo de electrones constituye una corriente eléctrica mucho más pequeña que la generada por dínamos o pilas. Sin embargo, hasta fines del siglo XVIII era la única clase de electricidad conocida y se la podía obtener, entre otros medios, frotando una varilla de vidrio con una seda. Cuanto más se frota la varilla, mayor es la carga que desarrolla. A esta electricidad estática obtenida por fricción se la llama triboelectricidad.

El primer generador electrostático.

Alrededor del siglo XVII los investigadores volvieron a estudiar la experiencia de Thales y, para estudiar sus efectos, necesitaron un modo regular y sostenido de producirla. Una solución fue hallada hacia 1660 por el físico alemán Otto von Guericke, quien construyó la primera máquina electrostática capaz de producir triboelectricidad. Esta máquina consistía en una bola de azufre (aislador) que hacía girar con una mano y frotaba con la otra. La esfera podía mantener una gran cantidad de carga y se la podía descargar acercándole el extremo de un conductor. Con la bola de azufre cargada, Guericke observó una variedad de manifestaciones que hoy asociamos a la electricidad estática, tales como chispas, chisporroteos y atracción y repulsión de objetos livianos. Años después notó que, en ocasiones, al rotar la esfera se producía un halo. Aunque no lo comprendió así, el brillo que observó era electroluminiscencia: la conversión de energía eléctrica en luz. Nadie antes de él había reportado este efecto.
Para construir su máquina, Guericke fundió azufre y lo vertió en un balón de vidrio hueco. Una vez enfriado y endurecido el azufre, rompió el vidrio para exponer su contenido y perforar la bola para fijarle un eje de hierro. Esto permitió que el globo de azufre pudiera ser anclado a una base de madera para ser rotado velozmente con un asa, acelerando así el proceso de carga de la superficie de la esfera. Esta base tenía cajones donde guardaba plumas, trozos de papel y otros materiales útiles para demostrar las intrigantes habilidades
de su esfera.

Este fue el primer dispositivo para generar electricidad estática, luego llamado generador electrostático. La máquina de Guericke (y las versiones mejoradas de posteriores investigadores) fue un hito en la historia de la electricidad.
Junto con la botella de Leiden, posibilitó los enormes avances que pronto ocurrirían en el campo de la electricidad.

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