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Describe the principle construction and working of Van de Graff Generator.

Describe the principle construction and working of Van de Graff Generator.

Grade:Upto college level

1 Answers

Apoorva Arora IIT Roorkee
askIITians Faculty 181 Points
5 years ago
A simple Van de Graff-generator consists of a belt of silk, or a similar flexible dielectricmaterial, running over two metal pulleys, one of which is surrounded by a hollow metal sphere.Twoelectrodes, (2) and (7), in the form of comb-shaped rows of sharp metal points, are positioned respectively near to the bottom of the lower pulley and inside the sphere, over the upper pulley. Comb (2) is connected to the sphere, and comb (7) to the ground. A high DC potential (with respect to earth) is applied to roller (3); a positive potential in this example.
As the belt passes in front of the lower comb, it receives negative charge that escapes from its points due to the influence of the electric field around the lower pulley, which ionizes the air at the points. As the belt touches the lower roller (6), it transfers some electrons, leaving the roller with a negative charge (if it is insulated from the terminal), which added to the negative charge in the belt generates enough electric field to ionize the air at the points of the upper comb. Electrons then leak from the belt to the upper comb and to the terminal, leaving the belt positively charged as it returns down and the terminal negatively charged. The sphere shields the upper roller and comb from the electric field generated by charges that accumulate at the outer surface of it, causing the discharge and change of polarity of the belt at the upper roller to occur practically as if the terminal were grounded. As the belt continues to move, a constant 'charging current' travels via the belt, and the sphere continues to accumulate negative charge until the rate that charge is being lost (through leakage andcorona discharges) equals the charging current. The larger the sphere and the farther it is from ground, the higher will be its final potential.
Another method for building Van de Graaff generators is to use thetriboelectric effect. The friction between the belt and the rollers, one of them now made of insulating material, or both made with insulating materials at different positions on the triboelectric scale, one above and other below the material of the belt, charges the rollers with opposite polarities. The stronge-fieldfrom the rollers then induces a corona discharge at the tips of the pointed comb electrodes. The electrodes then "spray" a charge onto the belt which is opposite in polarity to the charge on the rollers. The remaining operation is otherwise the same as the voltage-injecting version above. This type of generator is easier to build for science fair or homemade projects, since it does not require a potentially dangerous high-voltage source. The trade-off is that it cannot build up as high a voltage as the other type, that cannot also be easily regulated, and operation may become difficult under humid conditions (which can severely reduce triboelectric effects). Finally, since the position of the rollers can be reversed, the accumulated charge on the hollow metal sphere can either be positive or negative.
A Van de Graaff generator terminal does not need to be sphere-shaped to work, and in fact, the optimum shape is a sphere with an inward curve around the hole where the belt enters. Since electrically charged conductors have no e-field inside, charges can be added continuously. A rounded terminal minimizes the electric field around it, allowing greater potentials to be achieved without ionization of the surrounding air, or otherdielectric gas. Outside the sphere, the e-field quickly becomes very strong and applying charges from the outside would soon be prevented by the field.
Since a Van de Graaff generator can supply the same small current at almost any level of electrical potential, it is an example of a nearly idealcurrent source. The maximum achievable potential is approximately equal to the sphere's radius multiplied by the e-field where corona discharges begin to form within the surrounding gas. For example, a polished spherical electrode 30cm in diameter immersed in air atSTP(which has abreakdown voltageof about 30 kV/cm) could be expected to develop a maximum voltage of about 450 kV.

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