Inductors And Magnetic Properties

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 - Passive Components

The elemental magnetic particle is the spinning electron in inductors and magnetic properties. In magnetic materials, such as iron, cobalt, and nickel, the electrons in the third shell of the atom are the source of magnetic properties. If the spins are arranged to be parallel, the atom and its associated domains or clusters of the material will exhibit a magnetic field. The magnetic field of a magnetized bar has lines of magnetic force that extend between the ends, one called the north pole and the other the south pole, as shown in the following picture (a). The lines of force of a magnetic field are called magnetic flux lines.

Inductors And Magnetic Properties

Inductors And Magnetic PropertiesThe properties of magnetism: (a) lines of force surrounding a bar magnet, (b) relation of compass poles to the earth’s magnetic field.


A current flowing in a conductor produces a magnetic field surrounding the wire as shown in the following picture (a). In a coil or solenoid, the direction of the magnetic field relative to the electron flow (– to +) is shown in the following picture (b). The attraction and repulsion between two iron-core electromagnetic solenoids driven by direct currents is similar to that of two permanent magnets.

Magnetic field surrounding a current-carrying conductorMagnetic field surrounding a current-carrying conductor:

(a) Compass at right indicates the polarity and direction of a magnetic field circling a conductor carrying direct current. I indicates the direction of electron flow. Note: The convention for flow of electricity is from + to –, the reverse of the actual flow. (b) Direction of magnetic field for a coil or solenoid.

The process of magnetizing and demagnetizing an iron-core solenoid using a current being applied to a surrounding coil can be shown graphically as a plot of the magnetizing field strength and the resultant magnetization of the material, called a hysteresis loop show in the following picture. It will be found that the point where the field is reduced to zero, a small amount of magnetization, called remnance, remains.

Graph of the magnetic hysteresis loop resulting from magnetization and demagnetization of iron.Graph of the magnetic hysteresis loop resulting from magnetization and demagnetization of iron. The dashed line is a plot of the induction from the initial magnetization. The solid line shows a reversal of the field and a return to the initial magnetization value.R is the remaining magnetization (remnance) when the field is reduced to zero.

Inductors and Transformers

Inductors are passive components in which voltage leads current by nearly 90° over a wide range of frequencies. Inductors are usually coils of wire wound in the form of a cylinder. The current through each turn of wire creates a magnetic field that passes through every turn of wire in the coil. When the current changes, a voltage is induced

in the wire and every other wire in the changing magnetic field. The voltage induced in the same wire that carries the changing current is determined by the inductance of the coil, and the voltage induced in the other wire is determined by the mutual inductance between the two coils. A transformer has at least two coils of wire closely coupled by the common magnetic core, which contains most of the magnetic field within the transformer.

Inductors and transformers vary widely in size,weighing less than1gor more than 1 ton, and have specifications ranging nearly as wide.

Losses in Inductors and Transformers

Inductors have resistive losses because of the resistance of the copper wire used to wind the coil. An additional loss occurs because the changing magnetic field causes eddy currents to flow in every conductive material in the magnetic field. Using thin magnetic laminations or powdered magnetic material reduces these currents.

Losses in inductors are measured by the Q, or quality, factor of the coil at a test frequency. Losses in transformers are sometimes given as a specific insertion loss in decibels. Losses in power transformers are given as core loss in watts when there is no load connected and as a regulation in percent, measured as the relative voltage drop for each secondary winding when a rated load is connected.

Transformer loss heats the transformer and raises its temperature. For this reason, transformers are rated in watts or volt-amperes and with a temperature code designating the maximum hotspot temperature allowable for continued safe long-term operation. For example, class A denotes 105°C safe operating temperature. The volt-ampere rating of a power transformer must be always larger than the dc power output from the rectifier circuit connected because volt-amperes, the product of the rms currents and rms voltages in the transformer, are larger by a factor of about 1.6 than the product of the dc voltages and currents.

Inductors also have capacitance between the wires of the coil, which causes the coil to have a self-resonance between the winding capacitance and the self-inductance of the coil. Circuits are normally designed so that this resonance is outside of the frequency range of interest. Transformers are similarly limited. They also have capacitance to the other winding(s), which causes stray coupling. An electrostatic shield between windings reduces this problem.

Air-Core Inductors

Air-core inductors are used primarily in radio frequency applications because of the need for values of inductance in the microhenry or lower range. The usual construction is a multilayer coil made self-supporting with adhesive-covered wire. An inner diameter of 2 times coil length and an outer diameter 2 times as large yields maximum Q, which is also proportional to coil weight.

Ferromagnetic Cores

Ferromagnetic materials have a permeability much higher than air or vacuum and cause a proportionally higher inductance of a coil that has all its magnetic flux in this material. Ferromagnetic materials in audio and power transformers or inductors usually are made of silicon steel laminations stamped in the forms of letters E or I show in the following picture. At higher frequencies, powdered ferric oxide is used. The continued magnetization and remagnetization of silicon steel and similar materials in opposite directions does not follow the same path in both directions but encloses an area in the magnetization curve and causes a hysteresis loss at each pass, or twice per ac cycle.

Physical construction of a power transformerPhysical construction of a power transformer

(a) E-shaped device with the low- and high-voltage windings stacked as shown, (b) construction using a box core with physical separation between the low- and high-voltage windings.

All ferromagnetic materials show the same behavior; only the numbers for permeability, core loss, saturation flux density, and other characteristics are different. The properties of some common magnetic materials and alloys are given in the following table.

Properties of Magnetic Materials and Magnetic AlloysProperties of Magnetic Materials and Magnetic Alloys


Transformers and coils radiate magnetic fields that can induce voltages in other nearby circuits. Similarly, coils and transformers can develop voltages in their windings when subjected to magnetic fields from another transformer, motor, or power circuit. Steel mounting frames or chassis conduct these fields, offering less reluctance than air.

The simplest way to reduce the stray magnetic field from a power transformer is to wrap a copper strip as wide as the coil of wire around the transformer enclosing all three legs of the core. Shielding of inductors and magnetic properties occurs by having a short circuit turn in the stray magnetic field outside of the core.

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