Barlow's Wheel is the name given to an early demonstration of a
homopolar motor, designed and built by English mathematician and physicist, Peter Barlowin 1822. An electric currentpasses through the hub of the wheel to a mercury contact on the rim; this is contained in a small trough through which the rim passes. Due to health and safety considerations brineis sometimes used today in place of mercury. The interaction of the current with the magnetic fieldof a U-magnet causes the wheel to rotate. The presence of serrations on the wheel is unnecessary and the apparatus will work with a round metal disk, usually made of copper.
"The points of the wheel, R, dip into mercury contained in a groove hollowed in the stand. A more rapid revolution will be obtained if a small electro-magnet be substituted for a steel magnet, as is shown in the cut. The electro-magnet is fixed to the stand, and included in the circuit with the spur-wheel, so that the current flows through them in succession. Hence the direction of the rotation will not be changed by reversing that of the current; since the polarity of the electromagnet will also be reversed."
("Excerpt taken from the 1842 edition of the Manual of Magnetism, page 94")
* [http://www.magnet.fsu.edu/education/tutorials/java/barlowswheel/index.html Barlow's Wheel - Interactive Java Tutorial] National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
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