An electric motor uses electrical energy to produce mechanical energy, very typically through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors. The reverse process, producing electrical energy from mechanical energy, is accomplished by a generator or dynamo. Many types of electric motors can be run as generators, and vice versa. For example a starter/generator for a gas turbine or Traction motors used on vehicles often perform both tasks.

Electric motors are found in applications as diverse as industrial fans, blowers and pumps, machine tools, household appliances, power tools, and disk drives. They may be powered by direct current (for example a battery powered portable device or motor vehicle), or by alternating current from a central electrical distribution grid. The smallest motors may be found in electric wristwatches. Medium-size motors of highly standardized dimensions and characteristics provide convenient mechanical power for industrial uses. The very largest electric motors are used for propulsion of large ships, and for such purposes as pipeline compressors, with ratings in the millions of watts. Electric motors may be classified by the source of electric power, by their internal construction, by their application, or by the type of motion they give.

The physical principle of production of mechanical force by the interactions of an electric current and a magnetic field was known as early as 1821. Electric motors of increasing efficiency were constructed throughout the 19th century, but commercial exploitation of electric motors on a large scale required efficient electrical generators and electrical distribution networks.

Some devices, such as magnetic solenoids and loudspeakers, although they generate some mechanical power, are not generally referred to as electric motors, and are usually termed actuators[1] and transducers,[2] respectively.

History and development Edit

File:Faraday magnetic rotation.jpg

The principleEdit

The conversion of electrical energy into mechanical energy by electromagnetic means was demonstrated by the British scientist Michael Faraday in 1821. A free-hanging wire was dipped into a pool of mercury, on which a permanent magnet was placed. When a current was passed through the wire, the wire rotated around the magnet, showing that the current gave rise to a circular magnetic field around the wire.[4] This motor is often demonstrated in school physics classes, but brine (salt water) is sometimes used in place of the toxic mercury. This is the simplest form of a class of devices called homopolar motors. A later refinement is the Barlow's Wheel. These were demonstration devices only, unsuited to practical applications due to their primitive construction.[citation needed]

File:Jedlik motor.jpg

In 1827, Hungarian Ányos Jedlik started experimenting with electromagnetic rotating devices he called "lightning-magnetic self-rotors". He used them for instructive purposes in universities, and in 1828 demonstrated the first device which contained the three main components of practical direct current motors: the stator, rotor and commutator. Both the stationary and the revolving parts were electromagnetic, employing no permanent magnets.[5][6][7][8][9][10] Again, the devices had no practical application.[citation needed]

The first electric motorsEdit

The first commutator-type direct current electric motor capable of turning machinery was invented by the British scientist William Sturgeon in 1832.[11] Following Sturgeon's work, a commutator-type direct-current electric motor made with the intention of commercial use was built by Americans Emily and Thomas Davenport and patented in 1837. Their motors ran at up to 600 revolutions per minute, and powered machine tools and a printing press.[12] Due to the high cost of the zinc electrodes required by primary battery power, the motors were commercially unsuccessful and the Davenports went bankrupt. Several inventors followed Sturgeon in the development of DC motors but all encountered the same cost issues with primary battery power. No electricity distribution had been developed at the time. Like Sturgeon's motor, there was no practical commercial market for these motors.[citation needed]

In 1855 Jedlik built a device using similar principles to those used in his electromagnetic self-rotors that was capable of useful work.[5][7] He built a model electric motor-propelled vehicle that same year.[13] There is no evidence that this experimentation was communicated to the wider scientific world at that time, or that it influenced the development of electric motors in the following decades.[citation needed]

The modern DC motor was invented by accident in 1873, when Zénobe Gramme connected the dynamo he had invented to a second similar unit, driving it as a motor. The Gramme machine was the first electric motor that was successful in the industry.[citation needed]

In 1886 Frank Julian Sprague invented the first practical DC motor, a non-sparking motor capable of constant speed under variable loads. Other Sprague electric inventions about this time greatly improved grid electric distribution [prior work done while employed by Edison], allowed power from electric motors to be returned to the electric grid, provided for electric distribution to trolleys via overhead wires and the trolley pole, and provided controls systems for electric operations. This allowed Sprague to use electric motors to invent the first electric trolley system in 1887-88 in Richmond VA, the electric elevator and control system in 1892, and the electric subway with independently powered centrally controlled cars, which was first installed in 1892 in Chicago by the South Side Elevated Railway where it became popularly known as the "L". Sprague's motor and related inventions led to an explosion of interest and use in electric motors for industry, while almost simultaneously another great inventor was developing its primary competitor, which would become much more widespread.

In 1888 Nikola Tesla invented the first practicable AC motor and with it the polyphase power transmission system. Tesla continued his work on the AC motor in the years to follow at the Westinghouse company.[citation needed]

The development of electric motors of acceptable efficiency was delayed for several decades by failure to recognize the extreme importance of a relatively-small air gap between rotor and stator. Early motors, for some rotor positions, had comparatively huge air gaps which constituted a very high reluctance magnetic circuit. They produced far-lower torque than an equivalent amount of power would produce with efficient designs. The cause of the lack of understanding seems to be that early designs were based on familiarity of distant attraction between a magnet and a piece of ferromagnetic material, or between two electromagnets. Efficient designs, as this article describes, are based on a rotor with a comparatively small air gap, and flux patterns that create torque.[14]

Note that the armature bars are at some distance (unknown) from the field pole pieces when power is fed to one of the field magnets; the air gap is likely to be considerable. The text tells of the inefficiency of the design. (Electricity was created, as a practical matter, by consuming zinc in wet primary cells!)

In his workshops Froment had an electromotive engine of one-horse power. But, though an interesting application of the transformation of energy, these machines will never be practically applied on the large scale in manufactures, for the expense of the acids and the zinc which they use very far exceeds that of the coal in steam-engines of the same force.

[...] motors worked by electricity, independently of any question as to the cost of construction, or of the cost of the acids, are at least sixty times as dear to work as steam-engines.

Although Gramme's design was comparatively much more efficient, apparently the Froment motor was still considered illustrative, years later. It is of some interest that the St. Louis motor, long used in classrooms to illustrate motor principles, is extremely inefficient for the same reason, as well as appearing nothing like a modern motor. Photo of a traditional form of the motor: [3] Note the prominent bar magnets, and the huge air gap at the ends opposite the rotor. Even modern versions still have big air gaps if the rotor poles are not aligned.

Application of electric motors revolutionized industry. Industrial processes were no longer limited by power transmission using shaft, belts, compressed air or hydraulic pressure. Instead every machine could be equipped with its own electric motor, providing easy control at the point of use, and improving power transmission efficiency. Electric motors applied in agriculture eliminated human and animal muscle power from such tasks as handling grain or pumping water. Household uses of electric motors reduced heavy labor in the home and made higher standards of convenience, comfort and safety possible. Today, electric motors consume more than half of all electric energy produced.

Categorization of electric motors Edit

The classic division of electric motors has been that of Alternating Current (AC) types vs Direct Current (DC) types. This is more a de facto convention, rather than a rigid distinction. For example, many classic DC motors run on AC power, these motors being referred to as universal motors.

Rated output power is also used to categorise motors, those of less than 746 Watts, for example, are often referred to as fractional horsepower motors (FHP) in reference to the old imperial measurement.

The ongoing trend toward electronic control further muddles the distinction, as modern drivers have moved the commutator out of the motor shell. For this new breed of motor, driver circuits are relied upon to generate sinusoidal AC drive currents, or some approximation thereof. The two best examples are: the brushless DC motor and the stepping motor, both being poly-phase AC motors requiring external electronic control, although historically, stepping motors (such as for maritime and naval gyrocompass repeaters) were driven from DC switched by contacts.

Considering all rotating (or linear) electric motors require synchronism between a moving magnetic field and a moving current sheet for average torque production, there is a clearer distinction between an asynchronous motor and synchronous types. An asynchronous motor requires slip between the moving magnetic field and a winding set to induce current in the winding set by mutual inductance; the most ubiquitous example being the common AC induction motor which must slip to generate torque. In the synchronous types, induction (or slip) is not a requisite for magnetic field or current production (e.g. permanent magnet motors, synchronous brush-less wound-rotor doubly-fed electric machine).

Comparison of motor types Edit

Comparison of motor types[15]
Type Advantages Disadvantages Typical Application Typical Drive
AC Induction
(Shaded Pole)
Least expensive
Long life
high power
Rotation slips from frequency
Low starting torque
Fans Uni/Poly-phase AC
AC Induction
(split-phase capacitor)
High power
high starting torque
Rotation slips from frequency Appliances Uni/Poly-phase AC
AC Synchronous Rotation in-sync with freq
long-life (alternator)
More expensive Industrial motors
Audio turntables
tape drives
Uni/Poly-phase AC
Stepper DC Precision positioning
High holding torque
Requires a controller Positioning in printers and floppy drives DC
Brushless DC Long lifespan
low maintenance
High efficiency
High initial cost
Requires a controller
Hard drives
CD/DVD players
electric vehicles
Brushed DC Low initial cost
Simple speed control
High maintenance (brushes)
Low lifespan
Treadmill exercisers
automotive starters
Direct DC or PWM
Pancake DC Compact design
Simple speed control
Medium cost
Medium lifespan
Office Equip
Direct DC or PWM

Servo motorEdit

A servomechanism,or servo is an automatic device that uses error-sensing feedback to correct the performance of a mechanism. The term correctly applies only to systems where the feedback or error-correction signals help control mechanical position or other parameters. For example, an automotive power window control is not a servomechanism, as there is no automatic feedback which controls position—the operator does this by observation. By contrast the car's cruise control uses closed loop feedback, which classifies it as a servomechanism.

Synchronous electric motorEdit

A synchronous electric motor is an AC motor distinguished by a rotor spinning with coils passing magnets at the same rate as the alternating current and resulting magnetic field which drives it. Another way of saying this is that it has zero slip under usual operating conditions. Contrast this with an induction motor, which must slip to produce torque. A synchronous motor is like an induction motor except the rotor is excited by a DC field. Slip rings and brushes are used to conduct current to rotor. The rotor poles connect to each other and move at the same speed hence the name synchronous motor.

Induction motorEdit

An induction motor (IM) is a type of asynchronous AC motor where power is supplied to the rotating device by means of electromagnetic induction. Another commonly used name is squirrel cage motor because the rotor bars with short circuit rings resemble a squirrel cage (hamster wheel). An electric motor converts electrical power to mechanical power in its rotor (rotating part). There are several ways to supply power to the rotor. In a DC motor this power is supplied to the armature directly from a DC source, while in an induction motor this power is induced in the rotating device. An induction motor is sometimes called a rotating transformer because the stator (stationary part) is essentially the primary side of the transformer and the rotor (rotating part) is the secondary side. Induction motors are widely used, especially polyphase induction motors, which are frequently used in industrial drives.

Electrostatic motor (capacitor motor)Edit

An electrostatic motor or capacitor motor is a type of electric motor based on the attraction and repulsion of electric charge. Usually, electrostatic motors are the dual of conventional coil-based motors. They typically require a high voltage power supply, although very small motors employ lower voltages. Conventional electric motors instead employ magnetic attraction and repulsion, and require high current at low voltages. In the 1750s, the first electrostatic motors were developed by Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Gordon. Today the electrostatic motor finds frequent use in micro-mechanical (MEMS) systems where their drive voltages are below 100 volts, and where moving, charged plates are far easier to fabricate than coils and iron cores. Also, the molecular machinery which runs living cells is often based on linear and rotary electrostatic motors.

DC MotorsEdit

A DC motor is designed to run on DC electric power. Two examples of pure DC designs are Michael Faraday's homopolar motor (which is uncommon), and the ball bearing motor, which is (so far) a novelty. By far the most common DC motor types are the brushed and brushless types, which use internal and external commutation respectively to create an oscillating AC current from the DC source—so they are not purely DC machines in a strict sense.

Brushed DC motors Edit

The classic DC motor design generates an oscillating current in a wound rotor, or armature, with a split ring commutator, and either a wound or permanent magnet stator. A rotor consists of one or more coils of wire wound around a core on a shaft; an electrical power source is connected to the rotor coil through the commutator and its brushes, causing current to flow in it, producing electromagnetism. The commutator causes the current in the coils to be switched as the rotor turns, keeping the magnetic poles of the rotor from ever fully aligning with the magnetic poles of the stator field, so that the rotor never stops (like a compass needle does) but rather keeps rotating indefinitely (as long as power is applied and is sufficient for the motor to overcome the shaft torque load and internal losses due to friction, etc.)

Many of the limitations of the classic commutator DC motor are due to the need for brushes to press against the commutator. This creates friction. Sparks are created by the brushes making and breaking circuits through the rotor coils as the brushes cross the insulating gaps between commutator sections. Depending on the commutator design, this may include the brushes shorting together adjacent sections—and hence coil ends—momentarily while crossing the gaps. Furthermore, the inductance of the rotor coils causes the voltage across each to rise when its circuit is opened, increasing the sparking of the brushes. This sparking limits the maximum speed of the machine, as too-rapid sparking will overheat, erode, or even melt the commutator. The current density per unit area of the brushes, in combination with their resistivity, limits the output of the motor. The making and breaking of electric contact also causes electrical noise, and the sparks additionally cause RFI. Brushes eventually wear out and require replacement, and the commutator itself is subject to wear and maintenance (on larger motors) or replacement (on small motors). The commutator assembly on a large machine is a costly element, requiring precision assembly of many parts. On small motors, the commutator is usually permanently integrated into the rotor, so replacing it usually requires replacing the whole rotor.

Large brushes are desired for a larger brush contact area to maximize motor output, but small brushes are desired for low mass to maximize the speed at which the motor can run without the brushes excessively bouncing and sparking (comparable to the problem of "valve float" in internal combustion engines). (Small brushes are also desirable for lower cost.) Stiffer brush springs can also be used to make brushes of a given mass work at a higher speed, but at the cost of greater friction losses (lower efficiency) and accelerated brush and commutator wear. Therefore, DC motor brush design entails a trade-off between output power, speed, and efficiency/wear.

File:Serie Shunt Coumpound.png

There are five types of brushed DC motor:

A. DC shunt wound motor

B. DC series wound motor

C. DC compound motor (two configurations):

  • Cumulative compound
  • Differentially compounded

D. Permanent Magnet DC Motor (not shown)

E. Separately-excited (sepex) (not shown).

Brushless DC motors Edit

Some of the problems of the brushed DC motor are eliminated in the brushless design. In this motor, the mechanical "rotating switch" or commutator/brushgear assembly is replaced by an external electronic switch synchronised to the rotor's position. Brushless motors are typically 85-90% efficient or more (higher efficiency for a brushless electric motor of up to 96.5% were reported by researchers at the Tokai University in Japan in 2009),[16] whereas DC motors with brushgear are typically 75-80% efficient.

Midway between ordinary DC motors and stepper motors lies the realm of the brushless DC motor. Built in a fashion very similar to stepper motors, these often use a permanent magnet external rotor, three phases of driving coils, one or more Hall effect sensors to sense the position of the rotor, and the associated drive electronics. The coils are activated, one phase after the other, by the drive electronics as cued by the signals from either Hall effect sensors or from the back EMF (electromotive force) of the undriven coils. In effect, they act as three-phase synchronous motors containing their own variable-frequency drive electronics. A specialized class of brushless DC motor controllers utilize EMF feedback through the main phase connections instead of Hall effect sensors to determine position and velocity. These motors are used extensively in electric radio-controlled vehicles. When configured with the magnets on the outside, these are referred to by modellers as outrunner motors.

Brushless DC motors are commonly used where precise speed control is necessary, as in computer disk drives or in video cassette recorders, the spindles within CD, CD-ROM (etc.) drives, and mechanisms within office products such as fans, laser printers and photocopiers. They have several advantages over conventional motors:

  • Compared to AC fans using shaded-pole motors, they are very efficient, running much cooler than the equivalent AC motors. This cool operation leads to much-improved life of the fan's bearings.
  • Without a commutator to wear out, the life of a DC brushless motor can be significantly longer compared to a DC motor using brushes and a commutator. Commutation also tends to cause a great deal of electrical and RF noise; without a commutator or brushes, a brushless motor may be used in electrically sensitive devices like audio equipment or computers.
  • The same Hall effect sensors that provide the commutation can also provide a convenient tachometer signal for closed-loop control (servo-controlled) applications. In fans, the tachometer signal can be used to derive a "fan OK" signal.
  • The motor can be easily synchronized to an internal or external clock, leading to precise speed control.
  • Brushless motors have no chance of sparking, unlike brushed motors, making them better suited to environments with volatile chemicals and fuels. Also, sparking generates ozone which can accumulate in poorly ventilated buildings risking harm to occupants' health.
  • Brushless motors are usually used in small equipment such as computers and are generally used to get rid of unwanted heat.
  • They are also very quiet motors which is an advantage if being used in equipment that is affected by vibrations.

Modern DC brushless motors range in power from a fraction of a watt to many kilowatts. Larger brushless motors up to about 100 kW rating are used in electric vehicles. They also find significant use in high-performance electric model aircraft.

Coreless or ironless DC motors Edit

Nothing in the design of any of the motors described above requires that the iron (steel) portions of the rotor actually rotate; torque is exerted only on the windings of the electromagnets. Taking advantage of this fact is the coreless or ironless DC motor, a specialized form of a brush or brushless DC motor. Optimized for rapid acceleration, these motors have a rotor that is constructed without any iron core. The rotor can take the form of a winding-filled cylinder, or a self-supporting structure comprising only the magnet wire and the bonding material. The rotor can fit inside the stator magnets; a magnetically-soft stationary cylinder inside the rotor provides a return path for the stator magnetic flux. A second arrangement has the rotor winding basket surrounding the stator magnets. In that design, the rotor fits inside a magnetically-soft cylinder that can serve as the housing for the motor, and likewise provides a return path for the flux.

Because the rotor is much lighter in weight (mass) than a conventional rotor formed from copper windings on steel laminations, the rotor can accelerate much more rapidly, often achieving a mechanical time constant under 1 ms. This is especially true if the windings use aluminum rather than the heavier copper. But because there is no metal mass in the rotor to act as a heat sink, even small coreless motors must often be cooled by forced air.

Related limited-travel actuators have no core and a bonded coil placed between the poles of high-flux thin permanent magnets. These are the fast head positioners for rigid-disk ("hard disk") drives.

Printed Armature or Pancake DC Motors Edit

A rather unique motor design the pancake/printed armature motor has the windings shaped as a disc running between arrays of high-flux magnets, arranged in a circle, facing the rotor and forming an axial air gap. This design is commonly known the pancake motor because of its extremely flat profile, although the technology has had many brand names since its inception, such as ServoDisc.

The printed armature (originally formed on a printed circuit board) in a printed armature motor is made from punched copper sheets that are laminated together using advanced composites to form a thin rigid disc. The printed armature has a unique construction, in the brushed motor world, in that is does not have a separate ring commutator. The brushes run directly on the armature surface making the whole design very compact.

An alternative manufacturing method is to use wound copper wire laid flat with a central conventional commutator, in a flower and petal shape. The windings are typically stabilized by being impregnated with electrical epoxy potting systems. These are filled epoxies that have moderate mixed viscosity and a long gel time. They are highlighted by low shrinkage and low exotherm, and are typically UL 1446 recognized as a potting compound for use up to 180°C (Class H) (UL File No. E 210549).

The unique advantage of ironless DC motors is that there is no cogging (vibration caused by attraction between the iron and the magnets) and parasitic eddy currents cannot form in the rotor as it is totally ironless. This can greatly improve efficiency, but variable-speed controllers must use a higher switching rate (>40 kHz) or direct current because of the decreased electromagnetic induction.

These motors were originally invented to drive the capstan(s) of magnetic tape drives, in the burgeoning computer industry. Pancake motors are still widely used in high-performance servo-controlled systems, humanoid robotic systems, industrial automation and medical devices. Due to the variety of constructions now available the technology is used in applications from high temperature military to low cost pump and basic servo applications.

Universal motors Edit

A series-wound motor is referred to as a universal motor when it has been designed to operate on either AC or DC power. The ability to operate on AC is because the current in both the field and the armature (and hence the resultant magnetic fields) will alternate (reverse polarity) in synchronism, and hence the resulting mechanical force will occur in a constant direction.

Operating at normal power line frequencies, universal motors are very rarely larger than one kilowatt (about 1.3 horsepower). Universal motors also form the basis of the traditional railway traction motor in electric railways. In this application, the use of AC to power a motor originally designed to run on DC would lead to efficiency losses due to eddy current heating of their magnetic components, particularly the motor field pole-pieces that, for DC, would have used solid (un-laminated) iron. Although the heating effects are reduced by using laminated pole-pieces, as used for the cores of transformers and by the use of laminations of high permeability electrical steel, one solution available at start of the 20th Century was for the motors to be operated from very low frequency AC supplies, with 25 and 16.7 hertz (Hz) operation being common. Because they used universal motors, locomotives using this design were also commonly capable of operating from a third rail powered by DC.

An advantage of the universal motor is that AC supplies may be used on motors which have some characteristics more common in DC motors, specifically high starting torque and very compact design if high running speeds are used. The negative aspect is the maintenance and short life problems caused by the commutator. As a result, such motors are usually used in AC devices such as food mixers and power tools which are used only intermittently, and often have high starting-torque demands. Continuous speed control of a universal motor running on AC is easily obtained by use of a thyristor circuit, while (imprecise) stepped speed control can be accomplished using multiple taps on the field coil. Household blenders that advertise many speeds frequently combine a field coil with several taps and a diode that can be inserted in series with the motor (causing the motor to run on half-wave rectified AC).

Universal motors generally run at high speeds, making them useful for appliances such as blenders, vacuum cleaners, and hair dryers where high RPM operation is desirable. They are also commonly used in portable power tools, such as drills, sanders (both disc and orbital), circular and jig saws, where the motor's characteristics work well. Many vacuum cleaner and weed trimmer motors exceed 10,000 RPM, while Dremel and other similar miniature grinders will often exceed 30,000 RPM.

Universal motors also lend themselves to electronic speed control and, as such, are an ideal choice for domestic washing machines. The motor can be used to agitate the drum (both forwards and in reverse) by switching the field winding with respect to the armature. The motor can also be run up to the high speeds required for the spin cycle.

Motor damage may occur due to overspeeding (running at an RPM in excess of design limits) if the unit is operated with no significant load. On larger motors, sudden loss of load is to be avoided, and the possibility of such an occurrence is incorporated into the motor's protection and control schemes. In some smaller applications, a fan blade attached to the shaft often acts as an artificial load to limit the motor speed to a safe value, as well as a means to circulate cooling airflow over the armature and field windings.

AC motors Edit

In 1882, Nikola Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, and pioneered the use of a rotary field of force to operate machines. He exploited the principle to design a unique two-phase induction motor in 1883. In 1885, Galileo Ferraris independently researched the concept. In 1888, Ferraris published his research in a paper to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Turin.

Tesla had suggested that the commutators from a machine could be removed and the device could operate on a rotary field of force. Professor Poeschel, his teacher, stated that would be akin to building a perpetual motion machine.[17] Tesla would later attain Template:US patent, Electric Motor (December 1889), which resembles the motor seen in many of Tesla's photos. This classic alternating current electro-magnetic motor was an induction motor.

Michail Osipovich Dolivo-Dobrovolsky later invented a three-phase "cage-rotor" in 1890. This type of motor is now used for the vast majority of commercial applications.


A typical AC motor consists of two parts:

  • An outside stationary stator having coils supplied with AC current to produce a rotating magnetic field, and;
  • An inside rotor attached to the output shaft that is given a torque by the rotating field.

Torque motors Edit

A torque motor (also known as a limited torque motor) is a specialized form of induction motor which is capable of operating indefinitely while stalled, that is, with the rotor blocked from turning, without incurring damage. In this mode of operation, the motor will apply a steady torque to the load (hence the name).

A common application of a torque motor would be the supply- and take-up reel motors in a tape drive. In this application, driven from a low voltage, the characteristics of these motors allow a relatively-constant light tension to be applied to the tape whether or not the capstan is feeding tape past the tape heads. Driven from a higher voltage, (and so delivering a higher torque), the torque motors can also achieve fast-forward and rewind operation without requiring any additional mechanics such as gears or clutches. In the computer gaming world, torque motors are used in force feedback steering wheels.

Another common application is the control of the throttle of an internal combustion engine in conjunction with an electronic governor. In this usage, the motor works against a return spring to move the throttle in accordance with the output of the governor. The latter monitors engine speed by counting electrical pulses from the ignition system or from a magnetic pickup [18] and, depending on the speed, makes small adjustments to the amount of current applied to the motor. If the engine starts to slow down relative to the desired speed, the current will be increased, the motor will develop more torque, pulling against the return spring and opening the throttle. Should the engine run too fast, the governor will reduce the current being applied to the motor, causing the return spring to pull back and close the throttle.

Slip ring Edit

The slip ring is a component of the wound rotor motor as an induction machine (best evidenced by the construction of the common automotive alternator), where the rotor comprises a set of coils that are electrically terminated in slip rings. These are metal rings rigidly mounted on the rotor, and combined with brushes (as used with commutators), provide continuous unswitched connection to the rotor windings.

In the case of the wound-rotor induction motor, external impedances can be connected to the brushes. The stator is excited similarly to the standard squirrel cage motor. By changing the impedance connected to the rotor circuit, the speed/current and speed/torque curves can be altered.

(Slip rings are most-commonly used in automotive alternators as well as in synchro angular data-transmission devices, among other applications.)

The slip ring motor is used primarily to start a high inertia load or a load that requires a very high starting torque across the full speed range. By correctly selecting the resistors used in the secondary resistance or slip ring starter, the motor is able to produce maximum torque at a relatively low supply current from zero speed to full speed. This type of motor also offers controllable speed.

Motor speed can be changed because the torque curve of the motor is effectively modified by the amount of resistance connected to the rotor circuit. Increasing the value of resistance will move the speed of maximum torque down. If the resistance connected to the rotor is increased beyond the point where the maximum torque occurs at zero speed, the torque will be further reduced.

When used with a load that has a torque curve that increases with speed, the motor will operate at the speed where the torque developed by the motor is equal to the load torque. Reducing the load will cause the motor to speed up, and increasing the load will cause the motor to slow down until the load and motor torque are equal. Operated in this manner, the slip losses are dissipated in the secondary resistors and can be very significant. The speed regulation and net efficiency is also very poor.

Stepper motors Edit

Closely related in design to three-phase AC synchronous motors are stepper motors, where an internal rotor containing permanent magnets or a magnetically-soft rotor with salient poles is controlled by a set of external magnets that are switched electronically. A stepper motor may also be thought of as a cross between a DC electric motor and a rotary solenoid. As each coil is energized in turn, the rotor aligns itself with the magnetic field produced by the energized field winding. Unlike a synchronous motor, in its application, the stepper motor may not rotate continuously; instead, it "steps" — starts and then quickly stops again — from one position to the next as field windings are energized and de-energized in sequence. Depending on the sequence, the rotor may turn forwards or backwards, and it may change direction, stop, speed up or slow down arbitrarily at any time.

Simple stepper motor drivers entirely energize or entirely de-energize the field windings, leading the rotor to "cog" to a limited number of positions; more sophisticated drivers can proportionally control the power to the field windings, allowing the rotors to position between the cog points and thereby rotate extremely smoothly. This mode of operation is often called microstepping. Computer controlled stepper motors are one of the most versatile forms of positioning systems, particularly when part of a digital servo-controlled system.

Stepper motors can be rotated to a specific angle in discrete steps with ease, and hence stepper motors are used for read/write head positioning in computer floppy diskette drives. They were used for the same purpose in pre-gigabyte era computer disk drives, where the precision and speed they offered was adequate for the correct positioning of the read/write head of a hard disk drive. As drive density increased, the precision and speed limitations of stepper motors made them obsolete for hard drives—the precision limitation made them unusable, and the speed limitation made them uncompetitive—thus newer hard disk drives use voice coil-based head actuator systems. (The term "voice coil" in this connection is historic; it refers to the structure in a typical (cone type) loudspeaker. This structure was used for a while to position the heads. Modern drives have a pivoted coil mount; the coil swings back and forth, something like a blade of a rotating fan. Nevertheless, like a voice coil, modern actuator coil conductors (the magnet wire) move perpendicular to the magnetic lines of force.)

Stepper motors were and still are often used in computer printers, optical scanners, and digital photocopiers to move the optical scanning element, the print head carriage (of dot matrix and inkjet printers), and the platen. Likewise, many computer plotters (which since the early 1990s have been replaced with large-format inkjet and laser printers) used rotary stepper motors for pen and platen movement; the typical alternatives here were either linear stepper motors or servomotors with complex closed-loop control systems.

So-called quartz analog wristwatches contain the smallest commonplace stepping motors; they have one coil, draw very little power, and have a permanent-magnet rotor. The same kind of motor drives battery-powered quartz clocks. Some of these watches, such as chronographs, contain more than one stepping motor.

Stepper motors were upscaled to be used in electric vehicles under the term SRM (Switched Reluctance Motor).

Linear motors Edit

A linear motor is essentially an electric motor that has been "unrolled" so that, instead of producing a torque (rotation), it produces a straight-line force along its length by setting up a traveling electromagnetic field.

Linear motors are most commonly induction motors or stepper motors. You can find a linear motor in a maglev (Transrapid) train, where the train "flies" over the ground, and in many roller-coasters where the rapid motion of the motorless railcar is controlled by the rail. On a smaller scale, at least one letter-size (8.5" x 11") computer graphics X-Y pen plotter made by Hewlett-Packard (in the late 1970s to mid 1980's) used two linear stepper motors to move the pen along the two orthogonal axes.

Feeding and windingsEdit

Doubly-fed electric motor Edit

Doubly-fed electric motors have two independent multiphase windings that actively participate in the energy conversion process with at least one of the winding sets electronically controlled for variable speed operation. Two is the most active multiphase winding sets possible without duplicating singly-fed or doubly-fed categories in the same package. As a result, doubly-fed electric motors are machines with an effective constant torque speed range that is twice synchronous speed for a given frequency of excitation. This is twice the constant torque speed range as singly-fed electric machines, which have only one active winding set.

A doubly-fed motor allows for a smaller electronic converter but the cost of the rotor winding and slip rings may offset the saving in the power electronics components. Difficulties with controlling speed near synchronous speed limit applications.[19]

Singly-fed electric motor Edit

Singly-fed electric motors incorporate a single multiphase winding set that is connected to a power supply. Singly-fed electric machines may be either induction or synchronous. The active winding set can be electronically controlled. Induction machines develop starting torque at zero speed and can operate as standalone machines. Synchronous machines must have auxiliary means for startup, such as a starting induction squirrel-cage winding or an electronic controller. Singly-fed electric machines have an effective constant torque speed range up to synchronous speed for a given excitation frequency.

The induction (asynchronous) motors (i.e., squirrel cage rotor or wound rotor), synchronous motors (i.e., field-excited, permanent magnet or brushless DC motors, reluctance motors, etc.), which are discussed on this page, are examples of singly-fed motors. By far, singly-fed motors are the predominantly installed type of motors.

Nanotube nanomotor Edit

Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, recently developed rotational bearings based upon multiwall carbon nanotubes. By attaching a gold plate (with dimensions of the order of 100 nm) to the outer shell of a suspended multiwall carbon nanotube (like nested carbon cylinders), they are able to electrostatically rotate the outer shell relative to the inner core. These bearings are very robust; devices have been oscillated thousands of times with no indication of wear. These nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are the next step in miniaturization and may find their way into commercial applications in the future.

See also:


To calculate a motor's efficiency, the mechanical output power is divided by the electrical input power:

\eta = \frac{P_m}{P_e},

where \eta is energy conversion efficiency, P_e is electrical input power, and P_m is mechanical output power.

In simplest case P_e = V I, and P_m = T \omega, where V is input voltage, I is input current, T is output torque, and \omega is output angular velocity. It is possible to derive analytically the point of maximum efficiency. It is typically at less than 1/2 the stall torque.


Because a DC motor operates most efficiently at less than 1/2 its stall torque, an "oversized" motor runs with the highest efficiency. IE: using a bigger motor than is necessary enables the motor to operate closest to no load, or peak operating conditions.

Torque capability of motor types Edit

When optimally designed for a given active current (i.e., torque current), voltage, pole-pair number, excitation frequency (i.e., synchronous speed), and core flux density, all categories of electric motors or generators will exhibit virtually the same maximum continuous shaft torque (i.e., operating torque) within a given physical size of electromagnetic core. Some applications require bursts of torque beyond the maximum operating torque, such as short bursts of torque to accelerate an electric vehicle from standstill. Always limited by magnetic core saturation or safe operating temperature rise and voltage, the capacity for torque bursts beyond the maximum operating torque differs significantly between categories of electric motors or generators.

Note: Capacity for bursts of torque should not be confused with Field Weakening capability inherent in fully electromagnetic electric machines (Permanent Magnet (PM) electric machine are excluded). Field Weakening, which is not readily available with PM electric machines, allows an electric machine to operate beyond the designed frequency of excitation without electrical damage.

Electric machines without a transformer circuit topology, such as Field-Wound (i.e., electromagnet) or Permanent Magnet (PM) Synchronous electric machines cannot realize bursts of torque higher than the maximum designed torque without saturating the magnetic core and rendering any increase in current as useless. Furthermore, the permanent magnet assembly of PM synchronous electric machines can be irreparably damaged, if bursts of torque exceeding the maximum operating torque rating are attempted.

Electric machines with a transformer circuit topology, such as Induction (i.e., asynchronous) electric machines, Induction Doubly-Fed electric machines, and Induction or Synchronous Wound-Rotor Doubly-Fed (WRDF) electric machines, exhibit very high bursts of torque because the active current (i.e., Magneto-Motive-Force or the product of current and winding-turns) induced on either side of the transformer oppose each other and as a result, the active current contributes nothing to the transformer coupled magnetic core flux density, which would otherwise lead to core saturation.

Electric machines that rely on Induction or Asynchronous principles short-circuit one port of the transformer circuit and as a result, the reactive impedance of the transformer circuit becomes dominant as slip increases, which limits the magnitude of active (i.e., real) current. Still, bursts of torque that are two to three times higher than the maximum design torque are realizable.

The Synchronous WRDF electric machine is the only electric machine with a truly dual ported transformer circuit topology (i.e., both ports independently excited with no short-circuited port). The dual ported transformer circuit topology is known to be unstable and requires a multiphase slip-ring-brush assembly to propagate limited power to the rotor winding set. If a precision means were available to instantaneously control torque angle and slip for synchronous operation during motoring or generating while simultaneously providing brushless power to the rotor winding set (see Brushless wound-rotor doubly-fed electric machine), the active current of the Synchronous WRDF electric machine would be independent of the reactive impedance of the transformer circuit and bursts of torque significantly higher than the maximum operating torque and far beyond the practical capability of any other type of electric machine would be realizable. Torque bursts greater than eight times operating torque have been calculated.

Materials Edit


There is an impending shortage of many rare raw materials used in the manufacture of hybrid and electric cars (Nishiyama 2007) (Cox 2008). For example, the rare earth element dysprosium is required to fabricate many of the advanced electric motors used in hybrid cars (Cox 2008). However, over 95% of the world's rare earth elements are mined in China (Haxel et al. 2005), and domestic Chinese consumption is expected to consume China's entire supply by 2012 (Cox 2008).[citation needed]

While permanent magnet motors, favored in hybrids such as those made by Toyota, often use rare earth materials in their magnets, AC traction motors used in production electric vehicles such as the GM EV1, Toyota RAV4 EV and Tesla Roadster do not use permanent magnets or the associated rare earth materials. AC motors typically use conventional copper wire for their stator coils and copper or aluminum rods or bars for their rotor. AC motors do not significantly use rare earth materials.

Motor standardsEdit

The following are major design and manufacturing standards covering electric motors:


Electric motors are used in many, if not most, modern machines. Obvious uses would be in rotating machines such as fans, turbines, drills, the wheels on electric cars, locomotives and conveyor belts. Also, in many vibrating or oscillating machines, an electric motor spins an irregular figure with more area on one side of the axle than the other, causing it to appear to be moving up and down.

Electric motors are also popular in robotics. They are used to turn the wheels of vehicular robots, and servo motors are used to turn arms and legs in humanoid robots. In flying robots, along with helicopters, a motor causes a propeller or wide, flat blades to spin and create lift force, allowing vertical motion.

Electric motors are replacing hydraulic cylinders in airplanes and military equipment.[20][21]

In industrial and manufacturing businesses, electric motors are used to turn saws and blades in cutting and slicing processes, and to spin gears and mixers (the latter very common in food manufacturing). Linear motors are often used to push products into containers horizontally.

Many kitchen appliances also use electric motors to accomplish various jobs. Food processors and grinders spin blades to chop and break up foods. Blenders use electric motors to mix liquids, and microwave ovens use motors to turn the tray food sits on. Toaster ovens also use electric motors to turn a conveyor to move food over heating elements.

Template:Electric motor

References and further reading Edit

  1. "What is an Actuator?", wiseGEEK. Conjecture Corp., 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-13.
  2. Schoenherr, Steven E. (2001), "Loudspeaker History". Recording Technology History. Retrieved 2010-03-13.
  3. Faraday, Michael (1844). Experimental Researches in Electricity. 2.  See plate 4.
  4. spark museum
  5. 5.0 5.1 Electricity and magnetism, translated from the French of Amédée Guillemin. Rev. and ed. by Silvanus P. Thompson. London, MacMillan, 1891
  6. Nature 53. (printed in 1896) page: 516
  7. 7.0 7.1
  11. Gee, William (2004). "Sturgeon, William (1783–1850)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26748. 
  12. [1] Garrison, Ervan G., "A history of engineering and technology". CRC Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8493-9810-X, 9780849398100. Retrieved May 7, 2009.
  14. For a description and superb illustration of one such early electric motor designed by Froment, see a Google Books PDF online version of Ganot's Physics, 14th Edition, N.Y., 1893 translated by Atkinson, pp. 907 and 908. (Section 899, and Figure 888). (Note to readers using Google: This is not Ganon's Physics.) [2]
  15. Motor Comparison, Circuit Cellar Magazine, July 2008, Issue 216, Bachiochi, p.78
  16. [JSAP] Tokai University Unveils 100W DC Motor with 96% Efficiency
  17. "Tesla's Early Years". PBS.
  19. Cyril W. Lander, Power Electronics 3rd Edition, Mc Graw Hill International UK Limited, London 1993 ISBN 0-07-707714-8 Chapter 9-8 Slip Ring Induction Motor Control
  20. Briere D. and Traverse, P. (1993) “Airbus A320/A330/A340 Electrical Flight Controls: A Family of Fault-Tolerant Systems” Proc. FTCS, pp. 616-623.
  21. North, David. (2000) "Finding Common Ground in Envelope Protection Systems". Aviation Week & Space Technology, Aug 28, pp. 66–68.
General references



Further reading


  • Shanefield D. J., Industrial Electronics for Engineers, Chemists, and Technicians,William Andrew Publishing, Norwich, NY, 2001.
  • Fitzgerald/Kingsley/Kusko (Fitzgerald/Kingsley/Umans in later years), Electric Machinery, classic text for junior and senior electrical engineering students. Originally published in 1952, 6th edition published in 2002.
  • Bedford, B. D.; Hoft, R. G. et al. (1964). Principles of Inverter Circuits. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. ISBN 0 471 06134 4.  (Inverter circuits are used for variable-frequency motor speed control)
  • B. R. Pelly, "Thyristor Phase-Controlled Converters and Cycloconverters: Operation, Control, and Performance" (New York: John Wiley, 1971).
  • John N. Chiasson, Modeling and High Performance Control of Electric Machines, Wiley-IEEE Press, New York, 2005, ISBN 0-471-68449-X.


See alsoEdit

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External linksEdit

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