Science: Gas in the Generator

Electric-power production is a conservative business; it makes electricity just as it did more than a century ago—by driving copper wires through magnetic fields. That is all that happens in the huge, spinning generators of a power station. The rest of the massive apparatus—furnaces, boilers, turbines, condensers, etc. —is only to make the generators spin. Last week Avco Corp. described an infant invention that may grow into a wholly different and more efficient way to generate electricity.

Avco's apparatus, called a magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) electric generator, works on the principle that any conductor of...

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