Back EMF

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Physik
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JoVE Core Physik
Back EMF

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A motor converts electrical energy to mechanical energy. It consists of a current-carrying coil placed inside a uniform magnetic field.

When a current is passed through a coil, the magnetic field exerts a torque on the loop, rotating the coil inside the magnetic field. The magnetic flux through the rotating coil changes, inducing an emf.

According to Lenz's law, the induced emf opposes the current causing the rotation of the loop. Thus, the induced emf is called the back emf.

The total voltage available for supplying the current is the difference between the applied voltage and the induced back emf.

When the motor turns ON, the induced emf is zero, with maximum current through the loop. When the coil starts rotating, the induced emf reduces the current through the coil.

Suppose a current of 5 amperes passes through a coil with 20 ohm resistance at 100 volts. When the coil rotates at maximum speed, the back emf of 50 volts is induced, which reduces the current passing through the coil to 2.5 amperes.

Back EMF

Generators convert mechanical energy into electrical energy, whereas motors convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. A motor works by sending a current through a loop of wire located in a magnetic field. As a result, the magnetic field exerts a torque on the loop. This rotates a shaft, extracting mechanical work from the electrical current sent in initially. When the coil of a motor is turned, magnetic flux changes through the coil, and an emf (consistent with Faraday's law) is induced. The motor thus acts as a generator whenever its coil rotates. This happens whether the shaft is turned by an external input, like a belt drive, or by the action of the motor itself. When a motor is doing work, and its shaft is turning, an emf is generated. Lenz's law states that the emf opposes any change, so the input emf that powers the motor is opposed by the motor's self-generated emf, called the back emf of the motor.

The generator output of a motor is the difference between the supply voltage and the back emf. The back emf is zero when the motor is first turned on, meaning that the coil receives the full driving voltage, and the motor draws maximum current when it is on but not turning. As the motor spins faster, the back emf grows, always opposing the driving emf. This reduces the voltage across the coil and the amount of current it draws.

When a motor first comes on, it draws more current than when it runs at its normal operating speed. When a mechanical load is placed on the motor, like an electric wheelchair going up a hill, the motor slows, the back emf drops, more current flows, and more work can be done. If the motor runs at too low a speed, the larger current can overheat it, perhaps even burning it out. On the other hand, if there is no mechanical load on the motor, it increases its angular velocity until the back emf is nearly equal to the driving emf. Then the motor uses only enough energy to overcome friction.