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Electric motors and generators
Dec 26, 2018

AC motors

With AC currents, we can reverse field directions without having to use brushes. This is good news, because we can avoid the arcing, the ozone production and the ohmic loss of energy that brushes can entail. Further, because brushes make contact between moving surfaces, they wear out.

The first thing to do in an AC motor is to create a rotating field. 'Ordinary' AC from a 2 or 3 pin socket is single phase AC--it has a single sinusoidal potential difference generated between only two wires--the active and neutral. (Note that the Earth wire doesn't carry a current except in the event of electrical faults.) With single phase AC, one can produce a rotating field by generating two currents that are out of phase using for example a capacitor. In the example shown, the two currents are 90° out of phase, so the vertical component of the magnetic field is sinusoidal, while the horizontal is cosusoidal, as shown. This gives a field rotating counterclockwise.

(* I've been asked to explain this: from simple AC theory, neither coils nor capacitors have the voltage in phase with the current. In a capacitor, the voltage is a maximum when the charge has finished flowing onto the capacitor, and is about to start flowing off. Thus the voltage is behind the current. In a purely inductive coil, the voltage drop is greatest when the current is changing most rapidly, which is also when the current is zero. The voltage (drop) is ahead of the current. In motor coils, the phase angle is rather less than 90¡, because electrical energy is being converted to mechanical energy.)