|An electric motor is an electrical machine that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. Most electric motors operate through the interaction between the motor's magnetic field and electric current in a wire winding to generate force in the form of torque applied on the motor's shaft. Electric motors can be powered by direct current (DC) sources, such as from batteries, motor vehicles or rectifiers, or by alternating current (AC) sources, such as a power grid, inverters or electrical generators. An electric generator is mechanically identical to an electric motor, but operates with a reversed flow of power, converting mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Electric motors may be classified by considerations such as power source type, internal construction, application and type of motion output. In addition to AC versus DC types, motors may be brushed or brushless, may be of various phase (see single-phase, two-phase, or three-phase), and may be either air-cooled or liquid-cooled. General-purpose motors with standard dimensions and characteristics provide convenient mechanical power for industrial use. The largest electric motors are used for ship propulsion, pipeline compression and pumped-storage applications with ratings reaching 100 megawatts. Electric motors are found in industrial fans, blowers and pumps, machine tools, household appliances, power tools and disk drives. Small motors may be found in electric watches.
In certain applications, such as in regenerative braking with traction motors, electric motors can be used in reverse as generators to recover energy that might otherwise be lost as heat and friction.
Electric motors produce linear or rotary force (torque) intended to propel some external mechanism, such as a fan or an elevator. An electric motor is generally designed for continuous rotation, or for linear movement over a significant distance compared to its size. Magnetic solenoids produce significant mechanical force, but over an operating distance comparable to their size. Transducers such as loudspeakers and microphones convert between electrical current and mechanical force to reproduce signals such as speech. When compared with common internal combustion engines (ICEs), electric motors are lightweight, physically smaller, provide more power output, are mechanically simpler and cheaper to build, while providing instant and consistent torque at any speed, with more responsiveness, higher overall efficiency and lower heat generation. However, electric motors are not as convenient or common as ICEs in mobile applications (i.e. cars and buses) as they require a large and expensive battery, while ICEs require a relatively small fuel tank.
The first electric motors were simple electrostatic devices described in experiments by Scottish monk Andrew Gordon and American experimenter Benjamin Franklin in the 1740s. The theoretical principle behind them, Coulomb's law, was discovered but not published, by Henry Cavendish in 1771. This law was discovered independently by Charles-Augustin de Coulomb in 1785, who published it so that it is now known with his name. The invention of the electrochemical battery by Alessandro Volta in 1799 made possible the production of persistent electric currents. After the discovery of the interaction between such a current and a magnetic field, namely the electromagnetic interaction by Hans Christian Ørsted in 1820 much progress was soon made. It only took a few weeks for André-Marie Ampère to develop the first formulation of the electromagnetic interaction and present the Ampère's force law, that described the production of mechanical force by the interaction of an electric current and a magnetic field. The first demonstration of the effect with a rotary motion was given by Michael Faraday in 1821. A free-hanging wire was dipped into a pool of mercury, on which a permanent magnet (PM) was placed. When a current was passed through the wire, the wire rotated around the magnet, showing that the current gave rise to a close circular magnetic field around the wire. This motor is often demonstrated in physics experiments, substituting brine for (toxic) mercury. Barlow's wheel was an early refinement to this Faraday demonstration, although these and similar homopolar motors remained unsuited to practical application until late in the century.
In 1827, Hungarian physicist Ányos Jedlik started experimenting with electromagnetic coils. After Jedlik solved the technical problems of continuous rotation with the invention of the commutator, he called his early devices "electromagnetic self-rotors". Although they were used only for teaching, in 1828 Jedlik demonstrated the first device to contain the three main components of practical DC motors: the stator, rotor and commutator. The device employed no permanent magnets, as the magnetic fields of both the stationary and revolving components were produced solely by the currents flowing through their windings.
AC motors operated at a fixed speed are generally powered directly from the grid or through motor soft starters.
AC motors operated at variable speeds are powered with various power inverter, variable-frequency drive or electronic commutator technologies.
The term electronic commutator is usually associated with self-commutated brushless DC motor and switched reluctance motor applications.
In magnetic motors, magnetic fields are formed in both the rotor and the stator. The product between these two fields gives rise to a force, and thus a torque on the motor shaft. One, or both, of these fields must be made to change with the rotation of the motor. This is done by switching the poles on and off at the right time, or varying the strength of the pole.
The main types are DC motors and AC motors, the former increasingly being displaced by the latter.
AC electric motors are either asynchronous or synchronous.
Once started, a synchronous motor requires synchronism with the moving magnetic field's synchronous speed for all normal torque conditions.
In synchronous machines, the magnetic field must be provided by means other than induction such as from separately excited windings or permanent magnets.
A fractional-horsepower motor motor either has a rating below about 1 horsepower (0.746 kW), or is manufactured with a standard-frame size smaller than a standard 1 HP motor. Many household and industrial motors are in the fractional-horsepower class.
An electrostatic motor is 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-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) 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 that runs living cells is often based on linear and rotary electrostatic motors.
A piezoelectric motor or piezo motor is a type of electric motor based upon the change in shape of a piezoelectric material when an electric field is applied. Piezoelectric motors make use of the converse piezoelectric effect whereby the material produces acoustic or ultrasonic vibrations to produce linear or rotary motion. In one mechanism, the elongation in a single plane is used to make a series of stretches and position holds, similar to the way a caterpillar moves.
An electrically powered spacecraft propulsion system uses electric motor technology to propel spacecraft in outer space, most systems being based on electrically powering propellant to high speed, with some systems being based on electrodynamic tethers principles of propulsion to the magnetosphere.