Perhaps you know that a generator’s basic purpose is to generate electricity—specifically, it converts motion into electricity. But when it comes to technical terms and generator differences, you might be lost. So, what exactly is an AC generator? What does the “AC” even stand for?
“Alternating Current” Generators
Those two simple letters stand for “alternating current”, which earned AC generators the secondary name of alternators. Instead of the electric current going in one direction, the current in an alternator goes one way and then the other to create that alternating current it requires.
To create such a current, the generator requires wire, magnets and a steam engine—or some other outside source of motion. The wire can simply be formed into a loop, or it can be wound to create several coils called armatures. The steam engine, or whatever source of motion the generator has, moves the wire through a magnetic field formed by the magnets to create an alternating current. In some cases, the magnetic field may rotate within a stationary coil instead of the wire rotating within a magnetic field.
What Separates AC Generators from Other Generators?
Because alternators have an alternating current, it can produce a voltage that can travel distances more efficiently. After the generator produces a voltage, a transformer can turn the lower voltage to a high voltage. This allows the energy to go farther distances, since higher voltages travel distances more efficiently using less materials. After the higher voltage reaches its destination, another transformer can step down the voltage as it enters into homes and business, keeping the voltage level safe as it enters the building.
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