Royal Institution, June 1833.
S 12. On the power of Metals and other Solids to induce the Combination of Gaseous Bodies.
Received November 30, 1833,—Read January 11, 1834.
564. The conclusion at which I have arrived in the present communication may seem to render the whole of it unfit to form part of a series of researches in electricity; since, remarkable as the phenomena are, the power which produces them is not to be considered as of an electric origin, otherwise than as all attraction of particles may have this subtile agent for their common cause. But as the effects investigated arose out of electrical researches, as they are directly connected with other effects which are of an electric nature, and must of necessity be understood and guarded against in a very extensive series of electro-chemical decompositions (707.), I have felt myself fully justified in describing them in this place.
565. Believing that I had proved (by experiments hereafter to be described (705.),) the constant and definite chemical action of a certain quantity of electricity, whatever its intensity might be, or however the circumstances of its transmission through either the body under decomposition or the more perfect conductors were varied, I endeavoured upon that result to construct a new measuring instrument, which from its use might be called, at least provisionally, a Volta-electrometer (739.)[A].
[A] Or Voltameter.—Dec. 1838.
566. During the course of the experiments made to render the instrument efficient, I was occasionally surprised at observing a deficiency of the gases resulting from the decompositions of water, and at last an actual disappearance of portions which had been evolved, collected, and measured. The circumstances of the disappearance were these. A glass tube, about twelve inches in length and 3/4ths of an inch in diameter, had two platina poles fixed into its upper, hermetically sealed, extremity: the poles, where they passed through the glass, were of wire; but terminated below in plates, which were soldered to the wires with gold (Plate V. fig. 56.). The tube was filled with dilute sulphuric acid, and inverted in a cup of the same fluid; a voltaic battery was connected with the two wires, and sufficient oxygen and hydrogen evolved to occupy 4/5ths of the tube, or by the graduation, 116 parts. On separating the tube from the voltaic battery the volume of gas immediately began to diminish, and in about five hours only 13-1/2 parts remained, and these ultimately disappeared.