Yablochkov, Pavel Nikolayevich

Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov (September 14, 1847 ““ March 31, 1984) was a Russian electrical engineer, inventor, and businessman. His most notable invention was a type of electric carbon arc lamp, called the Yablochkov candle.

Yablochkov graduated from Mykolayiv Engineering Institute as a military engineer in 1866. In 1869, he continued his education at the Galvanic School in St. Petersburg. Yablochkov settled in Moscow in 1873 after serving time in the army. After that, he was selected to be Head of Telegraph Office at the Moscow-Kursk railroad. He established a private workshop for himself to conduct his experiments in electrical engineering, which laid the ground work for his future inventions in the field of electric lighting, electric machines, galvanic cells, and accumulators.

The 1878 Paris Exposition hosted Yablochkov’s demonstration of brilliant arc lights along the Avenue l’Opera. This demonstration generated a steep sell off of utility stocks in gas.

Yablochkov’s most important invention was the original version of an arc lamp that eradicated the mechanical complexity of competing lights that needed a regulator to control the voltaic arc. He built an industrial example of the electric candle when he went to Paris. It was while he was in Paris that he transformed his idea of arc light into an actual complete system of electric lighting powered by Zénobe Gramme direct current dynamos fixed with an inverter to deliver single-phase alternating current. In October 1877 at the Halle Marengo of the Magasins du Louvre, the premier public display of Yablochkov’s system which was lit by 6 arc lights was demonstrated. The system grew into 120 lamps with 84 lit at a time, by 1880. It had been powered and operating consistently every night for two and a half years.

Yablochkov was invited to the Paris Exposition of 1878 with the exclusive opportunity to give an impressive exhibition before a global audience. With the promotional support of Gramme, he was granted another rare opportunity and given permission to install 64 of his arc lights along the half mile stretch of Avenue de l’Opera. It was first lit in February 1878. Yablochkov candles operated on high voltage, and before too long experimenters discovered that the arc lights could be powered on a 7 mile circuit. Unlike the Lontin-Serrin regulator arc lights that each needed a separate Gramme generator in order to function, the Yablochkov candles did not require multiple generators. The Paris Hippodrome’s 20 Serrin lights powered by 20 generators were replaced at the beginning of 1880 by 68 additional Yablochkov candles. This decision was based on 2 years of positive experience with 60 candles powered by just 3 generators. A depression in the worth of gas company shares resulted from the demonstration that took place at the 1878 Paris demonstration. Recovery was not seen until 1880. Soon after, French, English, and American businessmen established companies licensing Yablochkov’s patents.

Included in his arc lighting patents, Yablochkov explained a technique of using Michael Faraday’s concept of induction to produce a continuous current of higher voltage, where primary windings were attached to a source of alternating current and secondary windings could be connected to several electric “candles.” Although it was unknown at the time, Yablochkov’s initiative of utilizing transformers to supply various voltages from the same AC line was the model in which modern transmission and distribution systems would agree upon. The patent stated that such a system “allowed to provide separate provide separate supply to several lighting fixtures with different luminous intensities from a single source of electric power.” Yablochkov founded “Electric Lighting Company, P.N. Yablochkov the Inventor and Co.” Also, he established an electrical plant located in Petersburg that would eventually produce illuminators for military vessels and factories. International competition to his arc lights developed rapidly. Charles F. Brush created arc lights that lasted twice as long as Yablochkov’s one and half hours of burn time.

During the mid-1880s, Yablochkov was consumed with problems of generating electric energy. He built the “magnet dynamo electric machine,” which carried most of the characteristics of the modern inductor. Based on his substantial research in transformation of fuel energy into electric energy, he proposed a galvanic cell with alkaline electrolyte, and then crafted a regenerative cell, called autoaccumulator.

Yablochkov attended Russian exhibitions for electrical engineering in 1880 and 1882, as well as exhibitions in Paris in 1881 and 1889. He also participated at the First International Congress of Electricians in 1881. The USSR instituted the Yablochkov Award for the best work in the field of electrical engineering.

There is a crater on the moon, Yablochkov, which is named in his honor.

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