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Electronics >> Basics of Electronics >> Inductors

What is an Inductor?

An inductor is an electrical device (typically a conducting coil) that introduces inductance into a circuit. An inductor is a passive electricalinductorl component designed to provide inductance in a circuit.

It is basically a coil of wire wrapped around an iron core. simplest form an inductor is made up of a coil of wire. The inductance measured in henrys, is proportional to the number of turns of wire, the wire loop diameter and the material or core the wire is wound around.

Inductors are the third and final type of basic circuit component. An inductor is a coil of wire with many windings, often wound around a core made of a magnetic material, like iron.

Properties of an Inductor

The properties of inductors derive from a different type of force than the one we invented charge to explain: magnetic force rather than electric force.

When current flows through a coil (or any wire) it produces a magnetic field in the space outside the wire, and the coil acts just like any natural, permanent magnet, attracting iron and other magnets.


How Inductor Works?

If you move a wire through a magnetic field, a current will be generated in the wire and will flow through the associated circuit. It takes energy to move the wire through the field, and that mechanical energy is transformed to electrical energy. This is how an electrical generator works.

If the current through a coil is stopped, the magnetic field must also disappear, but it cannot do so immediately. The field represents stored energy and that energy must go somewhere. The field contracts toward the coil, and the effect of the field moving through the wire of the coil is the same as moving a wire through a stationary field: a current is generated in the coil.

This induced current acts to keep the current flowing in the coil; the induced current opposes any change, an increase or a decrease, in the current through the inductor. Inductors are used in circuits to smooth the flow of current and prevent any rapid changes.

The current in an inductor is analogous to the voltage across a capacitor. It takes time to change the voltage across a capacitor, and if you try, a large current flows initially.

Similarly, it takes time to change the current through an inductor, and if you insist, say by opening a switch, a large voltage will be produced across the inductor as it tries to force current to flow.

Such induced voltages can be very large and can damage other circuit components, so it is common to connect some element, like a resistor or even a capacitor across the inductor to provide a current path and absorb the induced voltage. (Often, a diode, which we will discuss later, is used.)

There are almost no inductors on the RoboBoard, but you will be using some indirectly: the motors act like inductors in many ways. In a sense an electric motor is the opposite of an electrical generator.

If current flows through a wire that is in a magnetic field (produced either by a permanent magnet or current flowing through a coil), a mechanical force will be generated on the wire. That force can do work.

In a motor, the wire that moves through the field and experiences the force is also in the form of a coil of wire, connected mechanically to the shaft of the motor. This coil looks like and acts like an inductor; if you turn off the current (to stop the motor), the coil will still be moving through the magnetic field, and the motor now looks like a generator and can produce a large voltage. The resulting inductive voltage spike can damage components, such as the circuit that controls the motor current.

Measurement of Inductance

Inductors are measured in henrys (h), another very big unit, so you are more likely to see millihenries, and microhenries.

Combinations of Inductors

You already know how inductors act in combination because they act just like resistors. Inductance adds in series. This makes physical sense because two coils of wire connected in series just looks like a longer coil.

Parallel connection reduces inductance because the current is split between the several coils and the fields in each are thus weaker.

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