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Induction and Inductance

Induction

In 1824, Oersted discovered that current passing though a coil created a magnetic field capable of shifting a compass needle. Seven years later, Faraday and Henry discovered just the opposite. They noticed that a moving magnetic field would induce current in an electrical conductor. This process of generating electrical current in a conductor by placing the conductor in a changing magnetic field is called electromagnetic induction or just induction. It is called induction because the current is said to be induced in the conductor by the magnetic field.

Faraday also noticed that the rate at which the magnetic field changed also had an effect on the amount of current or voltage that was induced. Faraday's Law for an uncoiled conductor states that the amount of induced voltage is proportional to the rate of change of flux lines cutting the conductor. Faraday's Law for a straight wire is shown below.

Where:

VL = the induced voltage in volts
dø/dt = the rate of change of magnetic flux in webers/second

Induction is measured in unit of Henries (H) which reflects this dependence on the rate of change of the magnetic field. One henry is the amount of inductance that is required to generate one volt of induced voltage when the current is changing at the rate of one ampere per second. Note that current is used in the definition rather than magnetic field. This is because current can be used to generate the magnetic field and is easier to measure and control than magnetic flux.

Inductance

When induction occurs in an electrical circuit and affects the flow of electricity it is called inductance, L. Self-inductance, or simply inductance, is the property of a circuit whereby a change in current causes a change in voltage in the same circuit. When one circuit induces current flow in a second nearby circuit, it is known as mutual-inductance. The image to the right shows an example of mutual-inductance. When an AC current is flowing through a piece of wire in a circuit, an electromagnetic field is produced that is constantly growing and shrinking and changing direction due to the constantly changing current in the wire. This changing magnetic field will induce electrical current in another wire or circuit that is brought close to the wire in the primary circuit. The current in the second wire will also be AC and in fact will look very similar to the current flowing in the first wire. An electrical transformer uses inductance to change the voltage of electricity into a more useful level. In nondestructive testing, inductance is used to generate eddy currents in the test piece.

It should be noted that since it is the changing magnetic field that is responsible for inductance, it is only present in AC circuits. High frequency AC will result in greater inductive reactance since the magnetic field is changing more rapidly.

Self-inductance and mutual-inductance will be discussed in more detail in the following pages.