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Floris Nollet

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Floris (Florise) Nollet was a Belgian scientist and inventor.

Born in Elouges, Belgium, on 16 September 1794, and died at Ixelles , 11 January 1853.

Nollet served in Napoleon's army and was involved in various battles, and was injured hurt and imprisoned. After the defeat of 1814 he became apprenticed to the pharmacist Gossart. He went to Paris to complete his studies and then became a pharmacist in Ath in 1818.

In the year of the Belgian Revolution he became a professor at Brussels (from 1830 at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and from 1835 at the École Militaire). Among other things, he worked on the construction of electromagnetic devices

In 1849 Nollet had designed a steam-driven generator capable of producing a powerful current. It was an improvement over previous machines from Hippolyte Pixii and Joseph Saxton. In 1850 he obtained a first patent on his invention and later he would improve his magneto-electric machine with his Brussels assistant Joseph Van Malderen.

After Nollet's death in 1853, the Compagnie de l'Alliance obtained his generator patent. With Van Malderen as chief engineer, the company eventually succeeded in developing a functional generator.

The main application that Nollet had in mind was the electrolysis of water. In those days people were looking for a practical way to produce oxygen and hydrogen for limelight floodlights. Limited success was obtained at the Paris Hôtel des Invalides in 1856. Nollet had also mentioned the heating of a carbon wire in vacuum in the patent as a possible application. However, it was Frederick Hale Holmes, an English engineer with the Alliance, who came up with the idea of using the generator to power arc lamps. This promising light source did not get off the ground because of the limitations of the current electrochemical power sources. Holmes' version of the Nollet generator was several British lighthouses.

In France, l'Alliance developed an improved version of the system based on alternating current, more suited to arc lamps. The resulting Alliance machine was shown at the Crystal Palace. Shortly after, installations followed in the port of Le Havre (Phare de la Neve , 1863) and on Cap Gris-Nez . In September 1863 the system was tested in an underground slate mine near Angers . The installation was done under licence by the société Bazin , but under the supervision of L'Alliance's most experienced engineer, Zénobe Gramme. The results were rated as very positive, but the costs were still prohibitive for the time being.

However another Belgian engineer at the Alliance would soon invent an even more powerful power generator: the Gramme dynamo (1869) soon made Nollet's invention obsolete. The Siemens dynamo also became extremely popular in a short time. However, Auguste de Meritens successfully developed an improved version of the Alliance machine.

The above information is largely based on the Wikipedia entry for Floris Nollet.[1]

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] Google translation of Belgian Wikipedia entry for Floris Nollet