Leyden jar

Leyden jar

The Leyden jar is a simple device that "stores" static electricity in large amounts. It was invented in 1745 by Pieter van Musschenbroek (1692–1761), in Leiden, The Netherlands. It was the original form of the capacitor. The Leyden jar was used to conduct many early experiments in electricity, and its discovery was of fundamental importance in the study of electricity. Previously, researchers had to resort to insulated conductors of large dimensions to store charge. The Leyden jar provided a much more compact alternative.static charge is the buildup of charge in an object.


A typical design consists of a top electrode electrically connected by some means (usually a chain) to a metal foil coating part of the inner surface of a glass jar. A conducting foil is wrapped around the outside of the jar, matching the internal coated area. The jar is charged by an electrostatic generator, or other source of electric charge, connected to the inner electrode while the outer plate is grounded. The inner and outer surfaces of the jar store equal but opposite charges.

The original form of the device was just a glass bottle partially filled with water, with a metal wire passing through a cork closing it. The role of the outer plate was provided by the hand of the experimenter. Soon it was found that it was better to coat the exterior of the jar with metal foil (Watson, 1746), leaving the (accidentally) impure water inside acting as a conductor, connected by a chain or wire to an external terminal, a sphere to avoid losses by corona discharge. It was initially believed that the charge was stored in the water. Benjamin Franklin investigated the Leyden jar, and concluded that the charge was stored in the glass, not in the water, as others had assumed. We now know that the charge is actually stored in the conductors, but only in a thin layer along the facing surfaces that touch the glass, or dielectric. The charge may leak to the surface of the dielectric if contact is imperfect and the electric field is intense enough. Because of this, the fluid inside can be replaced with a metal foil lining. Early experimenters found without difficulty that the thinner the dielectric, the closer the plates, and the greater the surface, the greater the amount of charge that could be stored at a given voltage.

Further developments in electrostatics revealed that the dielectric material was not essential, but increased the storage capability (capacitance) and prevented arcing between the plates. Two plates separated by a small distance also act as a capacitor, even in vacuum.

"Originally", the amount of capacitance was measured in number of 'jars' of a given size, or through the total coated area, assuming reasonably standard thickness and composition of the glass. A typical Leyden jar has a capacitance between 50 pf and 1 nF of capacitance.


The ancient Greeks already knew that pieces of amber could be rubbed, becoming electrified and attracting light particles. This is the triboelectric effect, mechanical separation of charge in a dielectric. It is why the word "electricity" was made from the Greek word ηλεκτρον ("elektron", amber).

Around 1650, Otto von Guericke built a crude friction generator — a sulphur ball that rotated on a shaft. When Guericke held his hand against the ball and turned the shaft quickly, a static electric charge built up. This experiment inspired the development of several forms of "friction machines", that greatly helped in the study of electricity.

The initial discovery of the Leyden jar is credited to another German, Ewald Georg von Kleist, that in 1745 found a method of storing large amounts of electric charge. He lined a glass jar with silver foil, and charged the foil with a friction machine. Kleist was convinced that a substantial charge could be collected when he received a significant shock from the device. This Kleistian jar went on to be known as the Leyden jar because in 1746, Pieter van Musschenbroek of the University of Leiden, independently made the same discovery. Musschenbroek made the storage jar known to the scientific world, hence the jar was named after Leiden, the home town of the university. Daniel Gralath was the first to combine several jars in parallel into a "battery" to increase the total possible stored charge. [ [http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/sci/history/AHistoryofScienceVolumeII/chap49.html "The Leyden Jar Discovered"] — World Wide School] [The term "battery" was coined by Benjamin Franklin, who likened it to a battery of cannon (cannons grouped in a common place). The term was later used for arrangements of multiple electrochemical cells, the modern meaning of battery.] By the middle of the 19th century, the Leyden jar had become common enough for writers to assume their readers knew of and understood its basic operation. ["The Leyden Ball"] By the early 20th century, improved dielectrics and the need to reduce their size and inductance for use in the new technology of radio caused the Leyden jar to evolve into the modern compact form of capacitor.

The "dissectible Leyden jar" myth

A popular, but misleading, demonstration of the Leyden jar involves taking one apart after it has been charged and showing that the energy is stored on the dielectric, not the plates. The first documented instance of this demonstration is in a letter by Benjamin Franklin. [Letter IV: Benjamin Franklin to Peter Collinson, April 29, 1749 (Bigelow vol II p. 237-253) [http://www.compadre.org/precollege/items/Load.cfm?ID=3430 (PDF containing extracts)] ]

A Leyden jar is constructed out of a plastic cup nested between two snugly fitting metal cups. When the jar is charged with a high voltage and carefully dismantled, it is discovered that all the parts may be freely handled without discharging the jar. If the pieces are re-assembled, a large spark may still be obtained.

This demonstration shows that the charge has been "transferred" to the surface of the dielectric, and is not on the metal conductors. When the jar is taken apart, simply touching the cup does not give enough contact area to remove all the charge. The conductors normally provide this surface area.

When not properly explained, however, this is an urban legend. This behaviour is not typical of capacitors, and does not happen at low voltages. In a typical capacitor, the charge is on the surface of the conductors. The transfer of charge to the dielectric in the above experiment results from the high voltages present when the conductors are separated from the dielectric, which redeposits charge onto the surface of the dielectric by means of a corona discharge at the edges of the plates as they slide along the dielectric during the disassembly. If the experiment were performed in a highly insulating fluid (such as mineral oil) instead of air, the effect would no longer be present, or would require higher voltages. [ [http://www.amasci.com/emotor/cap1.html "Capacitor complaints"] — William J. Beaty, 1996]

ee also

*Jar (unit of capacitance)


External links

* [http://www.magnet.fsu.edu/education/tutorials/java/leydenjar/index.html Leyden Jar - Interactive Java Tutorial] National High Magnetic Field Laboratory

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужен реферат?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Leyden jar — Ley den jar (l[imac] d n j[aum]r ; 277) Leyden phial Ley den phi al (f[imac] al).n. (Elec.) A glass jar or bottle used to accumulate electricity. It is coated with tin foil, within and without, nearly to its top, and is surmounted by a brass knob …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Leyden jar — Jar Jar (j[aum]r), n. [F. jarre, Sp. jarra, from Ar. jarrah ewer; cf. Pers. jarrah.] 1. A deep, broad mouthed vessel of earthenware or glass, for holding fruit, preserves, etc., or for ornamental purposes; as, a jar of honey; a rose jar. Dryden.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Leyden jar — or Leyden vial n. [after LEIDEN, where invented] a condenser for static electricity, consisting of a glass jar with a coat of tinfoil outside and inside and a metal rod connecting with the inner lining and passing through the lid …   English World dictionary

  • Leyden jar — 1755, phial used for accumulating and storing static electricity, from Leyden (modern Leiden), city in Holland; so called because it was first described (in 1746) by physicist Pieter van Musschenbroek of Leyden (1692 1761). The place name is said …   Etymology dictionary

  • Leyden jar — Elect. a device for storing electric charge, consisting essentially of a glass jar lined inside and outside, for about two thirds of its height, with tinfoil. [1815 25; so called because invented in LEYDEN] * * * ▪ electrical instrument… …   Universalium

  • Leyden jar — Leideno stiklinė statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. Leyden jar vok. Leydener Flasche, f rus. лейденская банка, f pranc. bouteille de Leyde, f …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • Leyden jar — Ley′den jar n. elm a device for storing electric charge, consisting essentially of a metal rod in a glass jar lined inside and outside with tinfoil • Etymology: 1815–25; so called because invented in Leyden …   From formal English to slang

  • Leyden jar — noun Etymology: Leiden, Leyden, Netherlands Date: 1825 an electrical capacitor consisting of a glass jar coated inside and outside with metal foil and having the inner coating connected to a conducting rod passed through an insulating stopper …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Leyden jar — [ lʌɪd(ə)n] noun an early form of capacitor consisting of a glass jar with layers of metal foil on the outside and inside. Origin C18: named after Leyden (or Leiden), the city in the Netherlands where it was invented …   English new terms dictionary

  • Leyden jar — /ˈleɪdn dʒa/ (say laydn jah) noun a device formerly used for storing electric charge, consisting essentially of a glass jar lined inside and outside, for about two thirds of its height, with tinfoil. {from Leyden (Leiden), a town in the W… …  

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”