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Chapter: High Voltage Engineering - Over Voltages in Electrical Power Systems

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Wilson’s Theory of Charge Separation

Wilson‘s theory is based on the assumption that a large number of ions are present in the atmosphere.

Wilson’s Theory of Charge Separation

 

Wilson‘s theory is based on the assumption that a large number of ions are present in the atmosphere. Many of these ions attach themselves to small dust particles and water particles. It also assumes that an electric field exists in the earth‘s atmosphere during fair weather which is directed downwards towards the earth (Figure.1.4 (a)). The intensity of the field is approximately 1 volt/cm at the surface of the earth and decreases gradually with height so that at 9,500 m it is only about 0.02 V/cm. A relatively large raindrop (0.1 cm radius) falling in this field becomes polarized, the upper side acquires a negative charge and the lower side a positive charge. Subsequently, the lower part of the drop attracts –ve charges from the atmosphere which are available in abundance in the atmosphere leaving a preponderance of positive charges in the air.

 

The upwards motion of air currents tends to carry up the top of the cloud, the +ve air and smaller drops that the wind can blow against gravity. Meanwhile the falling heavier raindrops which are negatively charged settle on the base of the cloud. It is to be noted that the selective action of capturing –ve charges from the atmosphere by the lower surface of the drop is possible. No such selective action occurs at the upper surface. Thus in the original system, both the positive and negative charges which were mixed up, producing essentially a neutral space charge, are now separated.

 

Thus according to Wilson‘s theory since larger negatively charged drops settle on the base of the cloud and smaller positively charged drops settle on the upper positions of the cloud, the lower base of the cloud is negatively charged and the upper region is positively charged (Figure.1.4 (b)). Simpson’s and Scarse Theory Simpson‘s theory is based on the temperature variations in the various regions of the cloud. When water droplets are broken due to air currents, water droplets acquire positive charges whereas the air is negatively charged. Also when ice crystals strike with air, the air is positively charged and the crystals negatively charged. The theory is explained with the help of Fig. 1.5.


cloud according to Simpson‘s theory Let the cloud move in the direction from left to right as shown by the arrow. The air currents are also shown in the diagram. If the velocity of the air currents is about 10 m/sec in the base of the cloud, these air currents when collide with the water particles in the base of the cloud, the water drops are broken and carried upwards unless they combine together and fall down in a pocket as shown by a pocket of positive charges (right bottom region in Fig. 7.23). With the collision of water particles we know the air is negatively charged and the water particles positively charged. These negative charges in the air are immediately absorbed by the cloud particles which are carried away upwards with the air currents. The air currents go still higher in the cloud where the moisture freezes into ice crystals.

The air currents when collide with ice crystals the air is positively charged and it goes in the upper region of cloud whereas the negatively charged ice crystals drift gently down in the lower region of the cloud. This is how the charge is separated in a thundercloud. Once the charge separation is complete, the conditions are now set for a lightning stroke.

 


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