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What Is Faradays Law of Induction?

Faradays Law of Induction describes how an electric current produces a magnetic field
and, conversely, how a changing magnetic field generates an electric current in a
conductor. English physicist Michael Faraday gets the credit for discovering magnetic
induction in 1830; however, an American physicist, Joseph Henry, independently made
the same discovery about the same time, according to the University of Texas.
It is impossible to overstate the significance of Faradays discovery. Magnetic induction
makes possible the electric motors, generators and transformers that form the
foundation of modern technology. By understanding and using induction, we have an
electric power grid and many of the things we plug into it.
Faraday's law was later incorporated into the more comprehensive Maxwells equations,
according to Michael Dubson, a professor of physics at the University of Colorado
Boulder. Maxwells equations were developed by Scottish physicist James Clerk
Maxwell to explain the relationship between electricity and magnetism, essentially
uniting them into a single electromagnet force and describing electromagnetic
waves that make up radio waves, visible light, and X-rays.
Electric charge is a fundamental property of matter, according to the Rochester
Institute of Technology. Although it is difficult to describe what it actually is, we are
quite familiar with how it behaves and interacts with other charges and fields. The
electric field from a localized point charge is relatively simple, according to Serif Uran, a
professor of physics at Pittsburg State University. He describes it as radiating out
equally in all directions, like light from a bare light bulb, and decreasing in strength as
the inverse square of the distance (1/r2), in accordance with Coulombs Law. When
you move twice as far away, the field strength decreases to one-fourth, and when you
move three times farther away, it decreases to one-ninth.
Protons have positive charge, while electrons have negative charge. However, protons
are mostly immobilized inside atomic nuclei, so the job of carrying charge from one
place to another is handled by electrons. Electrons in a conducting material such as a
metal are largely free to move from one atom to another along their conduction bands,
which are the highest electron orbits. A sufficient electromotive force (emf), or voltage,
produces a charge imbalance that can cause electrons move through a conductor from
a region of more negative charge to a region of more positive charge. This movement is
what we recognize as an electric current.

In order to understand Faradays Law of Induction, it is important to have a basic
understanding of magnetic fields. Compared to the electric field, the magnetic field is
more complex. While positive and negative electric charges can exist separately,
magnetic poles always come in pairs one north and one south, according to San
Jose State University. Typically, magnets of all sizes from sub-atomic particles to
industrial-size magnets to planets and stars are dipoles, meaning they each have two
poles. We call these poles north and south after the direction in which compass needles
point. Interestingly, since opposite poles attract, and like poles repel, the magnetic north
pole of the Earth is actually a south magnetic pole because it attracts the north poles of
compass needles.
A magnetic field is often depicted as lines of magnetic flux. In the case of a bar
magnet, the flux lines exit from the north pole and curve around to reenter at the south
pole. In this model, the number of flux lines passing through a given surface in space
represents the flux density, or the strength of the field. However, it should be noted that
this is only a model. A magnetic field is smooth and continuous and does not actually
consist of discrete lines.

Magnetic field lines from a bar magnet.

Earths magnetic field produces a tremendous amount of magnetic flux, but it is

dispersed over a huge volume of space. Therefore, only a small amount of flux passes
through a given area, resulting in a relatively weak field. By comparison, the flux from a
refrigerator magnet is tiny compared to that of the Earth, but its field strength is many
times stronger at close range where its flux lines are much more densely packed.
However, the field quickly becomes much weaker as you move away.
If we run an electric current through a wire, it will produce a magnetic field around the
wire. The direction of this magnetic field can be determined by the right-hand rule.
According to the physics department at Buffalo State University of New York, if you
extend your thumb and curl the fingers of your right hand, your thumb points in the
positive direction of the current, and your fingers curl in the north direction of the
magnetic field.

Left-hand and right-hand rule for a magnetic field due to a current in a

straight wire.
If you bend the wire into a loop, the magnetic field lines will bend with it, forming a
toroid, or doughnut shape. In this case, your thumb points in the north direction of the
magnetic field coming out of the center of the loop, while your fingers will point in the
positive direction of the current in the loop.

In a current-carrying circular loop, (a) the right-hand rule gives the direction
of the magnetic field inside and outside the loop. (b) More detailed mapping
of the field, which is similar to that of a bar magnet.
If we run a current through a wire loop in a magnetic field, the interaction of these
magnetic fields will exert a twisting force, or torque, on the loop causing it to rotate,
according to the Rochester Institute of Technology. However, it will only rotate so far
until the magnetic fields are aligned. If we want the loop to continue rotating, we have to
reverse the direction of the current, which will reverse the direction of the magnetic field
from the loop. The loop will then rotate 180 degrees until its field is aligned in the other
direction. This is the basis for the electric motor.
Conversely, if we rotate a wire loop in a magnetic field, the field will induce an electric
current in the wire. The direction of the current will reverse every half turn, producing
an alternating current. This is the basis for the electric generator. It should be noted
here that it is not the motion of the wire but rather the opening and closing of the loop
with respect to the direction of the field that induces the current. When the loop is faceon to the field, the maximum amount of flux passes through the loop. However, when
the loop is turned edge-on to the field, no flux lines pass through the loop. It is this
change in the amount of flux passing through the loop that induces the current.
Another experiment we can perform is to form a wire into a loop and connect the ends
to a sensitive current meter, or galvanometer. If we then push a bar magnet through the
loop, the needle in the galvanometer will move, indicating an induced current. However,
once we stop the motion of the magnet, the current returns to zero. The field from the
magnet will only induce a current when it is increasing or decreasing. If we pull the

magnet back out, it will again induce a current in the wire, but this time it will be in the
opposite direction.

Magnet in a wire loop connected to a galvanometer.

If we were to put a light bulb in the circuit, it would dissipate electrical energy in the form
of light and heat, and we would feel resistance to the motion of the magnet as we
moved it in and out of the loop. In order to move the magnet, we have to do work that is
equivalent to the energy being used by the light bulb.
In yet another experiment, we might construct two wire loops, connect the ends of one
to a battery with a switch, and connect the ends of the other loop to a galvanometer. If
we place the two loops close to each other in a face-to-face orientation, and we turn on
the power to the first loop, the galvanometer connected to the second loop will indicate
an induced current and then quickly return to zero.
What is happening here is that the current in the first loop produces a magnetic field,
which in turn induces a current in the second loop, but only for an instant when the
magnetic field is changing. When you turn off the switch, the meter will deflect
momentarily in the opposite direction. This is further indication that it is the change in
the intensity of the magnetic field, and not its strength or motion that induces the

The explanation for this is that a magnetic field causes electrons in a conductor to
move. This motion is what we know as electric current. Eventually, though, the electrons
reach a point where they are in equilibrium with the field, at which point they will stop
moving. Then when the field is removed or turned off, the electrons will flow back to
their original location, producing a current in the opposite direction.
Unlike a gravitational or electric field, a magnetic dipole field is a more complex 3dimensional structure that varies in strength and direction according to the location
where it is measured, so it requires calculus to describe it fully. However, we can
describe a simplified case of a uniform magnetic field for example, a very small
section of a very large field as B = BA, where B is the absolute value of the
magnetic flux, B is the strength of the field, and A is a defined area through which the
field passes. Conversely, in this case the strength of a magnetic field is the flux per unit
area, or B = B/A.
Faradays Law
Now that we have a basic understanding of the magnetic field, we are ready to define
Faradays Law of Induction. It states that the induced voltage in a circuit is proportional
to the rate of change over time of the magnetic flux through that circuit. In other words,
the faster the magnetic field changes, the greater will be the voltage in the circuit. The
direction of the change in the magnetic field determines the direction of the current.
We can increase the voltage by increasing the number of loops in the circuit. The
induced voltage in a coil with two loops will be twice that with one loop, and with three
loops it will be triple. This is why real motors and generators typically have large
numbers of coils.
In theory, motors and generators are the same. If you turn a motor, it will generate
electricity, and applying voltage to a generator, it will cause it to turn. However, most real
motors and generators are optimized for only one function.
Another important application of Faradays Law of Induction is the transformer,
invented by Nikola Tesla. In this device, alternating current, which changes direction
many times per second, is sent through a coil wrapped around a magnetic core. This
produces a changing magnetic field in the core, which in turn induces a current in
second coil wrapped around a different part of the same magnetic core.

Transformer diagram
The ratio of the number of turns in the coils determines the ratio of the voltage between
the input and output current. For instance, if we take a transformer with 100 turns on the
input side and 50 turns on the output side, and we input an alternating current at 220
volts, the output will be 110 volts. According to Hyperphysics, a transformer cannot
increase power, which is the product of voltage and current, so if the voltage is raised,
the current is proportionally lowered and vice versa. In our example, an input of 220
volts at 10 amps, or 2,200 watts, would produce an output of 110 volts at 20 amps,
again, 2,200 watts. In practice, transformers are never perfectly efficient, but a welldesigned transformer typically has a power loss of only a few percent, according to
the University of Texas.
Transformers make possible the electric grid we depend on for our industrial and
technological society. Cross-country transmission lines operate at hundreds of
thousands of volts in order to transmit more power within the current-carrying limits of
the wires. This voltage is stepped down repeatedly using transformers at distribution
substations until it reaches your house, where it is finally stepped down to 220 and 110
volts that can run your electric stove and computer.

Generators and Motors

Basic Magnetic Field
Magnets are pieces of metal that have the ability to attract other metals. Every magnet
has two poles: a north and a south. Much like electrical charges, two similar magnetic
poles repel each other; while opposite magnetic poles attract each other. Magnets have
a continuous force around them that is known as a magnetic field. This field enables
them to attract other metals. Figure 1 illustrates this force using bar and horseshoe

The shape of the magnet dictates the path the lines of force will take. Notice that the
force in Figure 1 is made up of several lines traveling in a specific direction. It can be
concluded that the lines travel from the magnet's north pole to its south. These lines of
force are often called the magnetic flux. If the bar magnet is now bent to form a
horseshoe magnet, the north and south pole are now across from each other. Notice in
the horseshoe magnet how the lines of force are now straight, and that they travel from
the north pole to the south. It will be revealed how generators and motors use these
lines of force to generate electricity, as well as mechanical motion.
Magnetic Fields Around Conductors
When a current flows through a conductor, a magnetic field surrounds the conductor. As
current flow increases, so does the number of lines of force in the magnetic field (Fig. 2)

The right hand rule helps demonstrate the relationship between conductor current and
the direction of force. Grasp a wire conductor in the right hand, put your thumb on the
wire pointing upward, and wrap your four fingers around the wire. As long as the thumb
is in the direction that current flows through the wire, the fingers curl around the wire in
the direction of the magnetic field. Figure 3 demonstrates the right hand rule.

Polarity of Coils Cutting Through Lines of Force

A conductor can be twisted into a coil, which efficiently produces current when cutting
the lines of force in a magnetic field. The more turns in this coil, the stronger the
magnetic field. Furthermore, if the coil is wrapped around a piece of iron, the current
becomes even stronger.
When needing to discover which poles are which in a conductor, it is important to notice
which way the coils turn in order to apply the right hand rule. In addition, one should
always look at which side of the coil is attached to the positive terminal of a power
source such as a battery, and which side is attached to the negative. Figure 4 illustrates
four different scenarios and the appropriate poles.

As a conductor cuts across the lines of force in a magnetic field, it generates a current.
This method of inducing a current is called induction. There are three rules for induction:
1. When a conductor cuts through lines of force, it induces an electromotive force
(EMF), or voltage.
2. Either the magnetic field or the conductor needs to be moving for this to happen.
3. If the direction of the cutting across the magnetic field changes, the direction of
the induced EMF also changes.
Accordingly, Faraday's law states that induced voltage can be determined by the
number of turns in a coil, and how fast the coil cuts through a magnetic field. Therefore,
the more turns in a coil or the stronger the magnetic field, the more voltage induced.
In addition, current changes direction depending on which way it cuts across a magnetic
field. As depicted in Figure 5, a coil cutting through a basic magnetic field in a clockwise
direction will at first result in a current with positive polarity, but as it cuts across the
same field in the opposite direction during the second half of its turn, the polarity
becomes negative.

When current switches from positive to negative repeatedly, it is called alternating

current, or A.C. Alternating current will be explained in more detail later.
DC Current
When a current is direct (D.C.) rather than alternating (A.C.), the polarity of that current
never changes direction. Usually, when a coil turns in a clockwise direction, the first 180
degrees of the turn result in the induced current going in a positive direction. As
mentioned above, however, the second 180 degrees result in the induced current going
in a negative direction. In direct current, the current always travels in a positive
direction. How is this possible? When inducing direct current, some mechanism must be
employed to make sure the coils only cut through the magnetic field in one direction, or
that the circuit only uses current from the coil cutting in that one direction. Devices such
as D.C. generators employ a mechanism called a commutator to keep current flowing in
one direction. Figure 6 shows direct current in the form of a sine wave. Notice that the
current never has negative polarity, and is therefore always flowing in a positive

Direct Current Generators

A generator is a device that turns rotary mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Simple D.C. generators contain several parts, including an armature (or rotor), a
commutator, brushes, and field winding. A variety of sources can supply mechanical
energy to the D.C. generator to turn its armature. The commutator changes the
alternating current (A.C.) into direct current as it flows through the armature.

The stationary brushes, which are graphite connectors on the generator, form contact
with opposite parts of the commutator. As the armature coil turns, it cuts across the
magnetic field, and current is induced. At the first half turn of the armature coil
(clockwise direction), the contacts between commutator and brushes are reversed, or to
put it another way, the first brush now contacts the opposite segment that it was
touching during the first half turn while the second brush contacts the segment opposite
the one it touched on the first half turn. By doing this, the brushes keep current going in
one direction, and deliver it to and from its destination.
Direct Current Motors
Motors change electric energy into mechanical energy. Direct current motors and
generators are constructed very similarly. They function almost oppositely at first
because a generator creates voltage when conductors cut across the lines of force in a
magnetic field, while motors result in torque-- a turning effort of mechanical rotation.
Simple motors have a flat coil that carries current that rotates in a magnetic field. The
motor acts as a generator since after starting, it produces an opposing current by
rotating in a magnetic field, which in turn results in physical motion.

This is accomplished as a conductor is passed through a magnetic field, then the

opposing fields repel each other to cause physical motion. The left hand rule can be
used to explain the way a simple motor works (Figure 9). The pointer finger points in the
direction of the magnetic field, the middle finger points in the direction of the current,
and the thumb shows which way the conductor will be forced to move.

A self-excited motor produces its own field excitation. A shunt motor has its field in
parallel with the armature circuit, and a series motor is when the field is in a series with
the armature.
When the conductor is bent into a coil, the physical motion performs an up and down
cycle. The more bends in a coil, the less pulsating the movement will be. This physical
movement is called torque, and can be measured in the equation:
T = kt ia

T = torque
kt = constant depending on physical dimension of motor
Q = total number of lines of flux entering the armature from one N pole
ia = armature current
Alternating Current
Much like the process of producing direct current, the process of producing an
alternating current requires a conductor loop spinning in a magnetic field. As a matter of
fact, the process is the same for both types of current, except that the alternating
current is never changed into direct current through the use of a commutator. The
conductor loop, or coil, cuts through lines of force in a magnetic field to induce A.C.
voltage at its terminals. Each complete turn of the loop is called a "cycle." The
alternating current wave is pictured in Figure 10.

Notice what segment of the wave consists of one cycle, and which is the part of the
wave from point A to the next point A. If we divide the wave into four equal parts, the
divisions happen at points A, B, C, and D. We can read the turn of the coil and how it
relates to the wave produced. From A to B is the first quarter turn of the coil, from B to C
is the second quarter turn, from C to D is the third quarter turn, and from D to A is the
final quarter turn.
It is important to note that degree markings on a horizontal axis refer to electrical
degrees and are not geometric. The example above is for a single pole generator.
However, if this were a double pole generator, then 1 cycle would happen at each 180
degrees rather than 360 degrees, and so on.
Alternating Current Generator
An alternating current generator, or alternator, produces an alternating current, which
means the polarity of the current changes direction repeatedly. This type of generator
requires a coil to cut across a magnetic field, and is attached to two slip rings connected

to brushes. The brushes deliver the current to and from the load destination, thus
completing the circuit.

During the first half turn, the coil cuts across the field near the magnet's north pole.
Electrons go up the wire, and the lower slip ring becomes positively charged. When the
coil cuts near the south pole of the wire during the second half turn, the lower slip ring
becomes negatively charged, and electrons move down the wire. The faster the coil
turns, the faster the electrons move, or to put it another way, the more frequency is
increased, or the more hertz per second, the stronger the current.
Alternating Current Motor
An alternating current motor is similar to the direct current motor except for a few
characteristics. Instead of the rotor field reversing every half turn, the stator field
reverses every half turn.

There are several different types of alternating current motors. The most common type
is the polyphase induction motor, which contain a stator and a rotor, where the stator is
attached to the A.C. supply. When the stator winding becomes energized, a rotating
magnetic field is created. An EMF is induced as the field goes across the inductors and

current flows through them. Torque is therefore exerted on the rotor conductors carrying
current in the stator.