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Direct current

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Direct current (DC) is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is
produced by such sources as batteries, thermocouples, solar cells, and commutator-type
electric machines of the dynamo type. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a
wire, but can also be through semiconductors, insulators, or even through a vacuum as in
electron or ion beams. In direct current, the electric charges flow in a constant direction,
distinguishing it from alternating current (AC). A term formerly used for direct current
was Galvanic current.

Types of direct current

Direct current may be obtained from an alternating current supply by use of a current-
switching arrangement called a rectifier, which contains electronic elements (usually) or
electromechanical elements (historically) that allow current to flow only in one direction.
Direct current may be made into alternating current with an inverter or a motor-generator

The first commercial electric power transmission (developed by Thomas Edison in the
late nineteenth century) used direct current. Because of the advantage of alternating
current over direct current in transforming and transmission, electric power distribution
today is nearly all alternating current. For applications requiring direct current, such as
third rail power systems, alternating current is distributed to a substation, which utilizes a
rectifier to convert the power to direct current. See War of Currents.

Direct current is used to charge batteries, and in nearly all electronic systems as the
power supply. Very large quantities of direct-current power are used in production of
aluminum and other electrochemical processes. Direct current is used for some railway
propulsion, especially in urban areas. High voltage direct current is used to transmit large
amounts of power from remote generation sites or to interconnect alternating current
power grids.


• 1 Various definitions
• 2 Applications
• 3 See also
• 4 References

• 5 External links

[edit] Various definitions

Within electrical engineering, the term DC is used to refer to power systems that use only
one polarity of voltage or current, and to refer to the constant, zero-frequency, or slowly
varying local mean value of a voltage or current.[1] For example, the voltage across a DC
voltage source is constant as is the current through a DC current source. The DC solution
of an electric circuit is the solution where all voltages and currents are constant. It can be
shown that any stationary voltage or current waveform can be decomposed into a sum of
a DC component and a zero-mean time-varying component; the DC component is defined
to be the expected value, or the average value of the voltage or current over all time.

Although DC stands for "Direct Current", DC sometimes refers to "constant polarity."

With this definition, DC voltages can vary in time, such as the raw output of a rectifier
or the fluctuating voice signal on a telephone line.

Some forms of DC (such as that produced by a voltage regulator) have almost no

variations in voltage, but may still have variations in output power and current.

[edit] Applications
Direct-current installations usually have different types of sockets, switches, and fixtures,
mostly due to the low voltages used, from those suitable for alternating current. It is
usually important with a direct-current appliance not to reverse polarity unless the device
has a diode bridge to correct for this (most battery-powered devices do not).
This symbol is found on many electronic devices that either require or produce direct

DC is commonly found in many low-voltage applications, especially where these are

powered by batteries, which can produce only DC, or solar power systems, since solar
cells can produce only DC. Most automotive applications use DC, although the alternator
is an AC device which uses a rectifier to produce DC. Most electronic circuits require a
DC power supply. Applications using fuel cells (mixing hydrogen and oxygen together
with a catalyst to produce electricity and water as byproducts) also produce only DC.

Many telephones connect to a twisted pair of wires, and internally separate the AC
component of the voltage between the two wires (the audio signal) from the DC
component of the voltage between the two wires (used to power the phone).

Telephone exchange communication equipment, such as DSLAM, uses standard -48V

DC power supply. The negative polarity is achieved by grounding the positive terminal of
power supply system and the battery bank. This is done to prevent electrolysis

An electrified third rail can be used to power both underground (subway) and overground

DC motor
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discuss these issues on the talk page.

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citing reliable sources. Tagged since January 2008.

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since January 2008.

A DC motor is an electric motor that runs on direct current (DC) electricity.

Please help improve this article or section by expanding it. Further

information might be found on the talk page. (September 2008)

This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards.

Please improve this article if you can. (September 2008)


• 1 How does a DC motor work?

• 2 Brushed
• 3 Synchronous
• 4 Brushless
• 5 Uncommutated
• 6 External links

• 7 References

[edit] How does a DC motor work?

A DC motor works by converting electric power into mechanical work. This is
accomplished by forcing current through a coil and producing a magnetic field that spins
the motor. The simplest DC motor is a single coil apparatus, used here to discuss the DC
motor theory.

The voltage source forces voltage through the coil via sliding contacts or brushes that are
connected to the DC source. These brushes are found on the end of the coil wires and
make a temporary electrical connection with the voltage source. In this motor, the
brushes will make a connection every 180 degrees and current will then flow through the
coil wires. At 0 degrees, the brushes are in contact with the voltage source and current is
flowing. The current that flows through wire segment C-D interacts with the magnetic
field that is present and the result is an upward force on the segment. The current that
flows through segment A-B has the same interaction, but the force is in the downward
direction. Both forces are of equal magnitude, but in opposing directions since the
direction of current flow in the segments is reversed with respect to the magnetic field. At
180 degrees, the same phenomenon occurs, but segment A-B is forced up and C-D is
forced down. At 90 and 270-degrees, the brushes are not in contact with the voltage
source and no force is produced. In these two positions, the rotational kinetic energy of
the motor keeps it spinning until the brushes regain contact.

Problems with a DC Motor

One drawback to the motor is the large amount of torque ripple that it has. The reason for
this excessive ripple is because of the fact that the coil has a force pushing on it only at
the 90 and 270 degree positions. The rest of the time the coil spins on its own and the
torque drops to zero. The torque curve produced by this single coil, as more coils are
added to the motor, the torque curve is smoothed out.

The resulting torque curve never reaches the zero point and the average torque for the
motor is greatly increased. As more and more coils are added, the torque curve
approaches a straight line and has very little torque ripple and the motor runs much more
smoothly. Another method of increasing the torque and rotational speed of the motor is to
increase the current supplied to the coils. This is accomplished by increasing the voltage
that is sent to the motor, thus increasing the current at the same time.

[edit] Brushed
The brushed DC motor generates torque directly from DC power supplied to the motor by
using internal commutation, stationary permanent magnets, and rotating electrical
magnets. Advantages of a brushed DC motor include low initial cost, high reliability, and
simple control of motor speed. Disadvantages are high maintenance and low life-span for
high intensity uses. Maintenance involves regularly replacing the brushes and springs
which carry the electric current, as well as cleaning or replacing the commutator. These
components are necessary for transferring electrical power from outside the motor to the
spinning wire windings of the rotor inside the motor.

[edit] Synchronous
Synchronous DC motors, such as the brushless DC motor and the stepper motor, require
external commutation to generate torque. They lock up if driven directly by DC power.

[edit] Brushless
Brushless DC motors use a rotating permanent magnet in the rotor, and stationary
electrical magnets on the motor housing. A motor controller converts DC to AC. This
design is simpler than that of brushed motors because it eliminates the complication of
transferring power from outside the motor to the spinning rotor. Advantages of brushless
motors include long life span, little or no maintenance, and high efficiency.
Disadvantages include high initial cost, and more complicated motor speed controllers.