The majority of electrical students begin their studies with DC or direct current. Including it in the first step of an electrical analysis is due to its simplicity. Because of possessing a constant polarity voltage, the electricity always flows in a constant direction in DC. But, how does alternating current work?
As opposed to direct current, alternating current flows back and forth by changing directions. In addition, the polarity switch in the voltage makes its working mechanism different from other usual standards. Continue reading for more information on this current type.
What Is Alternating Current?
Alternating current is a type of electric current that changes its direction of flowing periodically and is known as “AC” in short. Unlike the direct current or DC (in short), AC continuously changes its magnitude and reverses the current path. Not to mention, alternating current is not typically used for making electronics. Instead, you may see this form widely in residences or businesses.
In most cases, alternating current uses a sine wave as the typical waveform in electric circuits. As a matter of fact, the sine wave corresponds with the positive direction of the current and vice versa in terms of its positive half-period. When considering exceptional cases, the direction of current may not reverse at some specific conditions. For example, pulsating current doesn’t reverse accordingly.
The point often overlooked is that you may also see square or triangular waves in certain applications. Specifically, audio and radio signals carry information using these waves, and the alternating current uses higher frequencies to alternate these signals. However, power transmission of alternating current does not require much higher frequencies and is mostly used in wall sockets.
How Alternating Current Works
You already know that alternating current can reverse its direction within a second, and the voltage polarity also shifts its way of flowing periodically. In such a condition, alternating current can change its direction many times within a second, and you can mention the number of times of changing directions as frequency.
For instance, if the alternating current changes its direction 60 times a second, its frequency is 60Hz. In detail, the frequency decides how fast the alternating current will flow and fixes the waveform of the electricity. When alternating current flows, all charged molecules reach the maximum value from zero in a specific direction.
After peaking the maximum value, particles start to move in the opposite direction until they reach the same negative value at the maximum limit. That means, alternating current works using two cycles of the particles constantly in both positive and negative directions.
Since the current flows in positive and negative directions with the same value, the current remains stable under any condition. This process has become possible due to its bi-directional characteristics. Besides, the magnitude and direction change accordingly with time to time. Actually, the magnitude varies with the time and the frequency of the signal.
If you want to generate alternating current, numerous methods are available right there. However, using an alternator is the most popular among them. And, you can use various types of circuits for creating an alternating current.
Generally speaking, you can use a basic single coil AC generator for producing AC current in an easy way. Here, all AC generators work using a single principle of Faraday’s electromagnetic induction. To explain, this principle shows the pattern of converting rotational mechanical energy into electric energy like AC current.
Alternating Current Vs Direct Current
The significant difference between these two currents is in the direction of current flow. Identically, the DC does not have the voltage switching polarity like AC. For this reason, you can use a familiar battery symbol to define a DC voltage source. And, the generic symbol of DC represents the simple direct transmission of electricity.
In reality, alternating current does not have any significant advantage over direct current. But, in a practical sense, you may get some benefits from AC in some cases. We know that the heat-producing electricity does not require any modification of direction and you can simply put DC voltage as the polarity of the current is irrelevant here.
On the opposite side, high power applications sometimes require electric generators and motors, which can distribute power efficiently in both positive and negative directions. So, alternating current can easily fit in these applications and works as far more efficient than direct current.
Alternating Current Tools
For the purpose of using alternating current in several applications, it comes with many kinds of tools. In most cases, these tools are attached to the desired machine for getting an AC output. If you look at the circuit design, the alternating current tools use AC circuits that can match with multiple electric waveforms. Let’s look at some popular alternating current tools below.
Identically, an alternator is the most popular way of using an AC generator. In that case, the AC voltage runs across the wire coils using Faraday’s Law when the shaft of a specific machine is rotating. For being packed with wire coils, the shaft creates a magnetic field around itself when rotating and produces AC voltage.
An AC transformer does not directly produce AC voltage. Rather, it transfers AC from one coil to another. When using two inductive coils where one comes with AC energy, another coil will automatically create AC voltage in it. This way, the transformer helps to control the voltage level of electricity.
Most electric motors of the market are made using AC motors because of their better productivity in rotational energy production. Sadly, DC motors require brushes to make contact electrically with the moving coils of wire. Though both DC and AC motors are designed almost similarly, AC motors don’t need any brushes and work independently using the reversing magnetic field generated by alternating current.
Now, you should have a good understanding of the working process of alternating current. The primary mechanism here is the direction of the current flow, and alternating current uses positive and negative reverse flows constantly. Because of being opposite to the direct current, you’ll not see alternating current to be used in batteries or energy-storing machines where there is no need for directional changes. Ultimately, alternating current suits in higher applications and final releasing of output currents.