Three-phase current field trial ends War of Currents, May 16, 1891

-May 16, 2017

The 1891 International Electrotechnical Exhibition kicked off on May 16 of that year at the site of the three former “Westbahnhöfe” (Western Railway Stations) in Frankfurt, Germany, for a five month run that would feature many electrical industry demonstrations. Among them was the first long distance transmission of high-power, three-phase electrical current, which was generated 175 km away at Lauffen am Neckar station.

Prior to the event, the city of Frankfurt had a problem to solve: It needed a central power station – an issue that had been under discussion in the city’s political and technical committees since 1886. However, opinions were divided between direct current, alternating current, and three-phase current. The exhibition became the deciding force in the demonstration of a commercially viable method for the transmission of electricity.

Three-phase current with a minimal loss of 25% would be transmitted at high voltage from Lauffen am Neckar to Frankfurt. This took center stage at the exhibition and was evidenced in the large three-section entrance gate. The entrance was illuminated with 1000 light bulbs and an electrically powered waterfall (see image, right). More than 1,200,000 visitors from all over the world walked through the entrance.

The field trial was so successful that three-phase current became established for electrical transmission networks throughout the world, thus ending the ongoing War of Currents.

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Also on this day in tech history, Ivan Sutherland, credited with inventing and developing interactive computer graphics and creating Sketchpad, was born.

For more moments in tech history, see this blog.
EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on May 16, 2012 and edited on May 16, 2017.

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