What Is The Difference Between An Alternator and Generator?
Alternators and generators are common forms of electrical generation systems, and despite serving similar purposes, the two systems should not be conflated with one another. To understand the functionality of each and the roles that they play, one first must understand what generators and alternators are. In this blog, we will go beyond the very basics of generators and alternators, allowing you to have a better grasp on the basic makeup of each, and how these differing designs result in varying operations and outputs.
Alternators are present in countless applications where electricity is required, serving to transform mechanical energy into alternating current that can be used to power systems and components. To do this, alternators feature an internal magnet that rotates within a stationary set of conductors which are known as the stator, and this results in an AC voltage being induced in the stator windings. The magnetic field may be produced with either a field coil electromagnet or permanent magnets, and generated voltage may be adjusted with the rotor winding. As the magnetic poles alternate between north and south with the rotation of the magnets themselves, the armature conductor will switch between clockwise and anti-clockwise directions. Because of these switches, the output will be alternating current.
With a generator, mechanical energy is still converted into harnessable electrical energy, though instead of only generating one type of current, generators may produce both alternating and direct current. As compared to the alternator, a generator will feature a stationary magnetic field while a rotating coil will circle around it. A permanent magnet or electromagnet is still used to create the field, and two slip rings collect induced current so that it can be transferred to the external load. To create an output that is direct current, a commutator must be implemented within the assembly.
While these differences still may not seem to be major, the overall output of each system and its design will affect how it can be used. For example, while generators can provide a consistent DC output for charging a batter, alternators cannot perform such roles. In fact, attempting to use an alternator to charge a battery is very hazardous, as one may end up causing an explosion. Meanwhile, alternators are much smaller than generators of the same capability, allowing them to serve more compact needs in certain settings.
For their applications, generators are commonly used for the power needs of buildings such as homes, shops, offices, and more, either acting as a backup source of power in the instance of a main power loss, or to ensure that power is available in more remote areas. On the other hand, alternators are regularly used in aircraft and automobiles, as well as within power stations. If you find yourself in need of an alternator, generator, or the various components that make them up, look no further than Aerospace Buying for sourcing all you need.
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