After the introduction of the DC electrical distribution system by Edison in the United States, a gradual transition to the more economical AC system commenced. Lighting worked as well on AC as on DC. Transmission of electrical energy covered longer distances at lower loss with alternating current. However, motors were a problem with alternating current. Initially, AC motors were constructed like DC motors. Numerous problems were encountered due to changing magnetic fields, as compared to the static fields in DC motor motor field coils.
Charles P. Steinmetz contributed to solving these problems with his investigation of hysteresis losses in iron armatures. Nikola Tesla envisioned an entirely new type of motor when he visualized a spinning turbine, not spun by water or steam, but by a rotating magnetic field. His new type of motor, the AC induction motor, is the workhorse of industry to this day. Its ruggedness and simplicity (Figure ) make for long life, high reliability, and low maintenance. Yet small brushed AC motors, similar to the DC variety, persist in small appliances along with small Tesla induction motors. Above one horsepower (750 W), the Tesla motor reigns supreme.
Modern solid state electronic circuits drive brushless DC motors with AC waveforms generated from a DC source. The brushless DC motor, actually an AC motor, is replacing the conventional brushed D motor in many applications. And, the stepper motor, a digital version of motor, is driven by alternating current square waves, again, generated by solid state circuitry. Figure shows the family tree of the AC motors described in this chapter.
Cruise ships and other large vessels replace reduction geared drive shafts with large multi-megawatt generators and motors. Such has been the case with diesel-electric locomotives on a smaller scale for many years.
Motor system level diagram.
At the system level, (Figure ) a motor takes in electrical energy in terms of a potential difference and a current flow, converting it to mechanical work. Alas, electric motors are not 100% efficient. Some of the electric energy is lost to heat, another form of energy, due to I2R losses in the motor windings. The heat is an undesired byproduct of the conversion. It must be removed from the motor and may adversely affect longevity. Thus, one goal is to maximize motor efficiency, reducing the heat loss. AC motors also have some losses not encountered by DC motors: hysteresis and eddy currents.