The synchronous motor is one of the principal types of AC motors. Like the induction motor, the synchronous motor makes use of a rotating magnetic field. Unlike the induction motor, however, the torque developed does not depend on the induction of currents in the rotor. Briefly, the principle of operation of the synchronous motor is as follows: A multiphase source of AC is applied to the stator windings, and a rotating magnetic field is produced. A direct current is applied to the rotor winding, and another magnetic field is produced. The synchronous motor is so designed and constructed that these two fields react to each other in such a manner that the rotor is dragged along and rotates at the same speed as the rotating magnetic field produced by the stator windings.
An understanding of the operation of the synchronous motor can be obtained by considering the simple motor of Figure 12-312.
Assume that poles A and B are being rotated clockwise by some mechanical means in order to produce a rotating magnetic field. They induce poles of opposite polarity in the soft iron rotor, and forces of attraction exist between corresponding north and south poles.
Consequently, as poles A and B rotate, the rotor is dragged along at the same speed. However, if a load is applied to the rotor shaft, the rotor axis momentarily falls behind that of the rotating field but, thereafter, continues to rotate with the field at the same speed as long as the load remains constant. If the load is too large, the rotor pulls out of synchronism with the rotating field and, as a result, no longer rotates with the field at the same speed. Thus, the motor is said to be overloaded.
Such a simple motor as shown in Figure 12-312 is never used. The idea of using some mechanical means of rotating the poles is impractical because another motor would be required to perform this work. Also, such an arrangement is unnecessary because a rotating magnetic field can be produced electrically by using phased AC voltages. In this respect, the synchronous motor is similar to the induction motor.
The synchronous motor consists of a stator field winding similar to that of an induction motor. The stator winding produces a rotating magnetic field. The rotor may be a permanent magnet, as in small, single-phase synchronous motors used for clocks and other small precision equipment, or it may be an electromagnet, energized from a DC source of power and fed through slip rings into the rotor field coils, as in an alternator. In fact, an alternator may be operated either as an alternator or a synchronous motor.
Since a synchronous motor has little starting torque, some means must be provided to bring it up to synchronous speed. The most common method is to start the motor at no load, allow it to reach full speed, and then energize the magnetic field. The magnetic field of the rotor locks with the magnetic field of the stator and the motor operates at synchronous speed.
The magnitude of the induced poles in the rotor shown in Figure 12-313 is so small that sufficient torque cannot be developed for most practical loads.
To avoid such a limitation on motor operation, a winding is placed on the rotor and energized with DC. A rheostat placed in series with the DC source provides the operator of the machine with a means of varying the strength of the rotor poles, thus placing the motor under control for varying loads.
The synchronous motor is not a self-starting motor. The rotor is heavy and, from a dead stop, it is impossible to bring the rotor into magnetic lock with the rotating magnetic field. For this reason, all synchronous motors have some kind of starting device. One type of simple starter is another motor, either AC or DC, which brings the rotor up to approximately 90 percent of its synchronous speed. The starting motor is then disconnected, and the rotor locks in step with the rotating field. Another starting method is a second winding of the squirrel cage type on the rotor. This induction winding brings the rotor almost to synchronous speed, and when the DC is connected to the rotor windings, the rotor pulls into step with the field. The latter method is the more commonly used.
AC Series Motor
An AC-series motor is a single-phase motor, but is not an induction or synchronous motor. It resembles a DC motor in that it has brushes and a commutator. The AC-series motor operates on either AC or DC circuits. Remember that the direction of rotation of a DC-series motor is independent of the polarity of the applied voltage, provided the field and armature connections remain unchanged. Hence, if a DC-series motor is connected to an AC source, a torque is developed that tends to rotate the armature in one direction.
However, a DC-series motor does not operate satisfactorily from an AC supply for the following reasons:
- The alternating flux sets up large eddy current and hysteresis losses in the unlaminated portions of the magnetic circuit and causes excessive heating and reduced efficiency.
- The self-induction of the field and armature windings causes a low power factor.
- The alternating field flux establishes large currents in the coils, which are short circuited by the brushes; this action causes excessive sparking at the commutator.
To design a series motor for satisfactory operation on AC, the following changes are made:
- The eddy current losses are reduced by laminating the field poles, frame, and armature.
- Hysteresis losses are minimized by using high permeability, transformer-type, silicon steel laminations.
- The reactance of the field windings is kept satisfactorily low by using shallow pole pieces, few turns of wire, low frequency (usually 25 cycles for large motors), low flux density, and low reluctance (a short air gap).
- The reactance of the armature is reduced by using a compensating winding embedded in the pole pieces. If the compensating winding is connected in series with the armature, as shown in Figure 12-314, the armature is conductively compensated.
If the compensating winding is designed as shown in Figure 12-315, the armature is inductively compensated.
If the motor is designed for operation on both DC and AC circuits, the compensating winding is connected in series with the armature. The axis of the compensating winding is displaced from the main field axis by an angle of 90°. This arrangement is similar to the compensating winding used in some DC motors and generators to overcome armature reaction. The compensating winding establishes a counter magnetomotive force, neutralizing the effect of the armature magnetomotive force, preventing distortion of the main field flux, and reducing the armature reactance. The inductively compensated armature acts like the primary of a transformer, the secondary of which is the shorted compensating winding. The shorted secondary receives an induced voltage by the action of the alternating armature flux, and the resulting current flowing through the turns of the compensating winding establishes the opposing magnetomotive force, neutralizing the armature reactance.
- Sparking at the commutator is reduced by the use of preventive leads P1, P2, P3, and so forth, as shown in Figure 12-316, where a ring armature is shown for simplicity.
When coils at A and B are shorted by the brushes, the induced current is limited by the relatively high resistance of the leads. Sparking at the brushes is also reduced by using armature coils having only a single turn and multipolar fields. High torque is obtained by having a large number of armature conductors and a large diameter armature. Thus, the commutator has a large number of very thin commutator bars and the armature voltage is limited to about 250 volts.
Fractional horsepower AC series motors are called universal motors. They do not have compensating windings or preventive leads. They are used extensively to operate fans and portable tools, such as drills, grinders, and saws.
Maintenance of AC Motors
The inspection and maintenance of AC motors is very simple. The bearings may or may not need frequent lubrication. If they are the sealed type, lubricated at the factory, they require no further attention. Be sure the coils are kept dry and free from oil or other abuse. The temperature of a motor is usually its only limiting operating factor. A good rule of thumb is that a temperature too hot for the hand is too high for safety. Next to the temperature, the sound of a motor or generator is the best trouble indicator. When operating properly, it should hum evenly. If it is overloaded it “grunts.” A three-phase motor with one lead disconnected refuses to turn and “growls.” A knocking sound generally indicates a loose armature coil, a shaft out of alignment, or armature dragging because of worn bearings. In all cases, the inspection and maintenance of all AC motors should be performed in accordance with the applicable manufacturer’s instructions.