Basic Motor Theory (3)

AC Current
How is the current reversed in the coil so as to change the coils polarity, you ask. Well, as you probably know, the difference between DC and AC is that with DC the current flows in only one direction while with AC the direction of current flow changes periodically. In the case of common AC that is used throughout most of the United States, the current flow changes direction 120 times every second. This current is referred to as “60 cycle AC” or “60 Hertz AC” in honor of Mr. Hertz who first conceived the AC current concept. Another characteristic of current flow is that it can vary in quantity. We can have a 5 amp, 10 amp or 100 amp flow for instance. With pure DC, this means that the current flow is actually 5,10, or 100 amps on a continuous basis. We can visualize this on a simple time-current graph by a straight line as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6 – Visualization of DC

But with AC it is different. As you can well imagine, it would be rather difficult for the current to be flowing at say 100 amps in a positive direction one moment and then at the next moment be flowing at an equal intensity in the negative direction. Instead, as the current is getting ready to change directions, it first tapers off until it reaches zero flow and then gradually builds up in the other direction. See Figure 7. Note that the maximum current flow (the peaks of the line) in each direction is more than the specified value (100 amps in this case). Therefore, the specified value is given as an average. It is actually called a “root mean square” value, but don’t worry about remembering this because it is of no importance to us at this time. What is important in our study of motors, is to realize that the strength of the magnetic field produced by an AC electro-magnetic coil increases and decreases with the increase and decrease of this alternating current flow.

Figure 7 – Visualization of AC.

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