How electrical motors drive the world!
Without electrical motors, the world would have been a different place!
We are surrounded by machines which makes our day-to-day lives easier. Engineers are always inventing new machines which can take over another mundane activity from humans. One component, which makes a ubiquitous presence in most of these machines is an electric motor. Let’s have a look at how a world without this simple but elegant machine would be unimaginable.
Starting with our washing machines, dishwashers, ventilators to vacuum cleaners have an electric motor as its driving force. Believe it or not, even our mobile phones have the tiniest electric motor without which vibration mode would be impossible. Stair-lifts which help us climb up and down buildings are also driven by electric motors.
Industries and power plants
All industries and power plants depend on electric motors to keep their supply chain running. Conveyor belts that transport raw materials, cranes that lift and store materials, pumps or compressors which are applied in the production process, utilizes an electric motor. Installation of offshore platforms and power hubs is performed with electrical motor-driven heavy cranes. It was one of my best experiences as an engineer to work on the world’s biggest crane vessel named Sleipnir. The cranes combined have more than 200 electric motors which make the heaviest lift possible.
With the world trying hard to reduce carbon emissions, the automotive industry turned to electric motors to help us travel. Trains in developed countries already utilize electric locomotives whereas developing nations are in a transition converting their diesel locomotives to electric. The trend has also been caught up in maritime with ships employing electric propulsion. Research is also looking into helping us fly with electric motors driving airplane propellers!
The country of the Netherlands depends on the operation of electric motors for the survival of its land and people. With one-third of the country under sea level, it depends on electrically driven pumps to keep its land dry and prevent flooding. Traditionally this was the job of windmills but the invention of electric motors put them out of service. This is a wonderful example that highlights the continuous reliability offered by this machine.
Why electric motor?
Certainly one would wonder, why the electric motor is so successful. It is high efficiency and cheap design which makes it a favorite. The efficiency of electric motors can go up to 99% making it the most efficient rotating machine. They also produce less noise and emissions when compared to a fossil fuel-based combustion engine.
So what does an electric motor do? The basic function of an electric motor is to convert electrical energy to mechanical energy which results in rotation. Although the purpose remains the same, the type of electric motor is chosen based on the application it has to drive. These types arise due to the difference in the physical construction of the electrical motor. Some of the types of electric motors are:
Induction motor: The most widely used motor in the world. Most of the applications described above use an induction motor.
Permanent magnet motor: Uses a permanent magnet instead of an electromagnet. It is still in development and is sought to compete with the induction motor in all commercial applications.
Direct current motor: DC motors were the first form of motors developed. They are still used in high torque(power) applications like train locomotives, elevators, and hoists
Stepper motor: Small motors used for precise motion controls. Applications are robotics, computer printers, CD-drives, scanners, etc.
With energy transition being discussed more than ever, the applications of electric motors are only going to increase. The invention of the electric motor cannot be bestowed on one person but it has been the contribution of many scientists and engineers. I take this opportunity to commemorate those engineers whose contributions have given us this awesome and robust machine without which the world would have looked different!!!