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what is ac electrical service

Alternating current (AC) is an electric current that periodically reverses its direction, unlike direct current (DC) which does not flow only in a direction that cannot change sporadically.

Most students of electrical engineering and related subjects begin their studies by learning about direct current (DC).

This is because most of the digital electronic devices these students will build will use direct current. However, it is also important to understand alternating currents (AC) and its concepts, as they have many useful properties and use cases.

How alternating current is produced

Alternating current (green curve). The horizontal axis measures time; vertical, current or voltage. (Source: Public Domain)

Although direct current, the unidirectional flow of an electrical charge, is perhaps one of the simplest concepts in electrical engineering, it is not It's not the only "type" of electricity used.

AC and DC describe the types of current flowing in a circuit. Many sources of electricity, especially electromechanical generators, produce alternating current with alternating voltages in polarity, reversing time between positive and negative. An alternator can also be used to intentionally generate alternating current.

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In an alternator, a ring of wire spins rapidly in a magnetic field. This produces an electric current along the wire.

As the wire rotates and periodically enters a different magnetic polarity, voltage and current on the wire alternate. This current can change direction periodically and the voltage in an AC circuit also reverses periodically as the current changes direction.

Alternating current comes in different forms, as long as voltage and current alternate. If an AC circuit is connected to an oscilloscope and its voltage is plotted over time, you will likely see different waveforms such as sine, square, and triangle: sine is the most common waveform and AC in most buildings connected to the network have an oscillation. voltage in the form of a sine wave.


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AC applications

AC power is most commonly found in grid-connected buildings such as homes and offices.

This is because it is relatively easy to generate and transport alternating current over long distances. At high voltages above 110 kV, less energy is lost in power transmission. At higher voltages, lower currents are produced and lower currents generate less heat in the power line due to a lower level of resistance. This then useless energy is lost in the form of heat. Alternating currents can be easily converted to and from high voltage using transformers.

Alternating currents can be easily converted to and from high voltages using transformers. (Source: ABC Science)

Alternating current is also ideal for electric motors because motors and generators are the same device. The only difference between a generator and a motor is that a motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. These motors are used in all types of household appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and dishwashers. Although generators and motors are great, perhaps the most useful application of alternating current is in transformers.

An effect of electromagnetism (called "mutual induction"), in which two or more coils of wire are positioned so that the varying magnetic field in one coil induces a voltage in the other , can be used to create a device called a transformer. If there are two mutually inductive coils and one is supplied with alternating current, an alternating voltage will be created in the other coil.


What is the difference between AC-DC and DC-DC power supplies?

This is where alternating current becomes very useful

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The basic use of a transformer is to increase or decrease the voltage from the powered coil to the unpowered coil fed. This gives alternating current an advantage over direct current in the field of power distribution because, as mentioned earlier, transmitting electricity over long distances is much more efficient with higher and higher voltages and lower currents.

Before reaching the outlets, the voltage is reduced and the current increased.

This kind of transformation technology has made long-range power distribution efficient and convenient. Without transformers, it would be too expensive to build electrical systems in their current form over long distances. And, since mutual inductance is based on varying magnetic fields, transformers only work with alternating current Alternating current (AC) is an electric current that periodically reverses direction, as opposed to direct current (DC) which only flows in one direction.

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