Types of Motors

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Electric motor is an electrical machine that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. The reverse of this is the conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy and is done by an electric generator, which has much in common with a motor.

Most electric motors operate through the interaction between an electric motor’s magnetic field and winding currents to generate force. In certain applications, such as in regenerative braking with traction motors in the transportation industry, electric motors can also be used in reverse as generators to convert mechanical energy into electric power.

Found in applications as diverse as industrial fans, blowers and pumps, machine tools, household appliances, power tools, and disk drives, 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 from the power grid, inverters or generators. Small motors may be found in electric watches. General-purpose motors with highly standardized dimensions and characteristics provide convenient mechanical power for industrial use. The largest of electric motors are used for ship propulsion, pipeline compression and pumped-storage applications with ratings reaching 100 megawatts. Electric motors may be classified by electric power source type, internal construction, application, type of motion output, and so on.

Electric motors are used to produce linear or rotary force (torque), and should be distinguished from devices such as magnetic solenoids and loudspeakers that convert electricity into motion but do not generate usable mechanical powers, which are respectively referred to as actuators and transducers.

Motor construction

Electric motor rotor (left) and stator (right)


In an electric motor, the moving part is the rotor, which turns the shaft to deliver the mechanical power. The rotor usually has conductors laid into it that carry currents, which interact with the magnetic field of the stator to generate the forces that turn the shaft. However, some rotors carry permanent magnets, and the stator holds the conductors.


The rotor is supported by bearings, which allow the rotor to turn on its axis. The bearings are in turn supported by the motor housing. The motor shaft extends through the bearings to the outside of the motor, where the load is applied. Because the forces of the load are exerted beyond the outermost bearing, the load is said to be overhung.[54]


The stator is the stationary part of the motor’s electromagnetic circuit and usually consists of either windings or permanent magnets. The stator core is made up of many thin metal sheets, called laminations. Laminations are used to reduce energy losses that would result if a solid core were used.

Air gap

The distance between the rotor and stator is called the air gap. The air gap has important effects, and is generally as small as possible, as a large gap has a strong negative effect on the performance of an electric motor. It is the main source of the low power factor at which motors operate. The air gap increases the magnetizing current needed. For this reason, the air gap should be minimal. Very small gaps may pose mechanical problems in addition to noise and losses.

Salient-pole rotor


Windings are wires that are laid in coils, usually wrapped around a laminated soft iron magnetic core so as to form magnetic poles when energized with current.

Electric machines come in two basic magnet field pole configurations: salient-pole machine and nonsalient-pole machine. In the salient-pole machine the pole’s magnetic field is produced by a winding wound around the pole below the pole face. In the nonsalient-pole, or distributed field, or round-rotor, machine, the winding is distributed in pole face slots.[55] A shaded-pole motor has a winding around part of the pole that delays the phase of the magnetic field for that pole.

Some motors have conductors that consist of thicker metal, such as bars or sheets of metal, usually copper, although sometimes aluminum is used. These are usually powered by electromagnetic induction.


A toy’s small DC motor with its commutator

commutator is a mechanism used to switch the input of most DC machines and certain AC machines consisting of slip-ring segments insulated from each other and from the electric motor’s shaft. The motor’s armature current is supplied through the stationary brushes in contact with the revolving commutator, which causes required current reversal, and applies power to the machine in an optimal manner as the rotor rotates from pole to pole.[56][57] In absence of such current reversal, the motor would brake to a stop. In light of significant advances in the past few decades due to improved technologies in the electronic-controller, sensorless-control, induction-motor, and permanent-magnet-motor fields, electromechanically-commutated motors are increasingly being displaced by externally-commutated induction and permanent-magnet motors.

Motor supply and control

A DC motor is usually supplied through slip ring commutator as described above. AC motors’ commutation can be either slip ring commutator or externally commutated type, can be fixed-speed or variable-speed control type, and can be synchronous or asynchronous type. Universal motorscan run on either AC or DC.

Motor control

Fixed-speed controlled AC motors are provided with direct-on-line or soft-start starters.

Variable-speed controlled AC motors are provided with a range of different power invertervariable-frequency drive or electronic commutator technologies.

The term electronic commutator is usually associated with self-commutated brushless DC motor and switched reluctance motor applications.

Major categories

Electric motors operate on three different physical principles: magnetismelectrostatics, and piezoelectricity. By far, the most common is magnetism.

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.

fractional-horsepower (FHP) 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.

There are five types of brushed DC motor:-

  • DC shunt-wound motor
  • DC series-wound motor
  • DC compound motor (two configurations):
    • Cumulative compound
    • Differentially compounded
  • PM DC motor (not shown)
  • Separately excited (not shown).

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