Avionics News June 2019 - 48

series
B Y

T H O M A S

I N M A N

Alternating
Current
S

FIGURE 1: The motion of a magnet
induces current flow in a coil of wire.
48

avionics news

*

june

2019

o far in this series of recent articles, I've only written about direct
current and devices used in direct current applications. Now would
be a good time to introduce alternating current, or AC. In an AC
circuit, the electrons flow back and forth. Figure 1 shows how a magnet
can induce current into a coil of wire. The direction of the current flow will
depend on the direction of the magnet. Part A of Figure 1 shows the effect
of the magnet moving downward. If there is no motion, as shown in part
B, then no current is produced. Moving the magnet up, as shown in part C,
forces the current to flow in the other direction.
If we were to rotate a magnet next to a wire, we would see electromotive
force (voltage) build in one direction to a peak value, begin to reduce, and then
build to a peak in the other direction. Generators work by rotating coils of wire
within a magnetic field. Alternators take the opposite approach, by rotating the
magnetic field within a coil of wire. In either case, AC is produced.
AC produced by alternators, generators or other devices takes the form
of a sinusoidal wave, as shown in Figure 2. The wave in Figure 2 happens
to be a measurement of voltage; however, current and power will take
the same form. For ease of discussion, and in case you would like to test
this theory in a laboratory setting through measurement, I will discuss
the wave forms in terms of voltage and time. As you look at the wave (in
red) in Figure 2, notice how it changes constantly. In addition, the wave
is symmetrical and repeating. Each repeating pattern is called a cycle.
The number of cycles per second defines the frequency (f). For example,
household current is 60 cycles per second, or 60 Hertz (Hz), named for
Heinrich Hertz, who proved the existence of electromagnetic waves.
Aircraft AC power is 400 Hz.



Avionics News June 2019

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