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Type of electric furnace in which heat is generated by an arc between carbon electrodes above the surface of the material (commonly a metal) being heated. William Siemens first demonstrated the arc furnace in 1879 at the Paris Exposition by melting iron in crucibles; horizontally placed carbon electrodes produced an electric arc above the container of metal. The first commercial arc furnace in the U.S. (1906) had a capacity of four tons (3.6 metric tons) and was equipped with two electrodes. Modern furnaces range in heat size from a few tons up to 400 tons (360 metric tons), and the arcs strike directly into the metal bath from vertically positioned, graphite electrodes to remelt scrap steel or refine briquettes of direct-reduced iron ore.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on arc furnace, visit Britannica.com.