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Alternating Current


 Most of the electric power produced in

the world is AC
– Everything from home appliances to the
largest motors found in the industry
 AC has several advantages over DC
– Make it a better choice for the large-scale
production of electric power
Advantages of AC

 Single greatest advantage

– AC current can be transformed and DC
current cannot
 A transformer permits voltage to be stepped
up or down
 High-voltage transmission requires less
current to produce the same amount of
AC Waveforms

 Square waveforms
– AC reverses its direction of flow
 Periodic intervals
– AC waveforms can vary
 Depending on how the current is produced

AC flows first in one direction and then in the other.

Square wave AC.
Square wave AC produced with a switch and two batteries.
AC Waveforms (cont’d.)

 Triangle waves
– Linear wave: voltage rises at a constant
rate with respect to time
 Sine waves
– Produced by all rotating machines
– Contains a total of 360 electric degrees
– Voltage at any point along the waveform
is equal to the maximum, or peak, value
times the sine of the angle of rotation
Triangle wave.
Rotating Machine
Wire loop cutting lines of flux.
Sine wave.
Instantaneous values of voltage along a sine wave.
Sine Wave Values

 Measurements
– Peak-to-peak values
 Measured from maximum value in positive
direction to maximum value in negative
– Peak values
 Measured from zero to highest value obtained
in either positive or negative direction
 One half of the peak-to-peak value
Sine Wave Values
– RMS values
 Root-mean-square
 Square root of the mean of the square of
instantaneous currents
– Average values
 Average values of voltage and current are
actually DC values
 Must be found when a sine wave AC voltage
is changed into DC with a rectifier
Sine wave values.
Sine Wave Values (cont’d.)
 Wavelength (λ)
– Distance the radiating field or signal can
travel during one cycle of alternating voltage
 λ = speed of light in meters per second/

Wavelength is the distance traveled by the signal during one cycle.

Resistive Loads

 Contain pure resistance (e.g., electric

heating equipment)
 Characterized by the facts that:
– They produce heat
– The current and voltage are in phase with
each other
In a pure resistive circuit, the voltage and current are in phase with each other.
Power in an AC Circuit

 True power, or watts

– Produced only when both current and voltage
are either positive or negative

Power in a pure resistive AC circuit.

Skin Effect in AC Circuits

 AC induces eddy currents into the

– Eddy currents cause electrons to be repelled
toward the outer surface of the conductor

In a DC circuit,
the electrons
travel through the
entire conductor.
In an AC circuit, the electrons are forced to the outside of the
conductor. This is called skin effect.
 Most of the electric power generated
in the world is AC
– Can be transformed and DC cannot
– Reverses direction of flow at periodic
– Most common AC waveform is the sine
 360 degrees in one complete sine wave
 One complete waveform is called a cycle

 Number of complete cycles that occur in one

second is called the frequency
Summary (cont’d.)
 Sine waves
– Produced by rotating machines
– Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz)
– Instantaneous voltage at any point on a
sine wave is equal to the peak, or
maximum, voltage times the sine of the
angle of rotation
– Peak-to-peak voltage is the amount of
voltage measured from the positive-most
peak to the negative-most peak
Summary (cont’d.)

– Peak value is the maximum amount of

voltage attained by the waveform
– RMS value of voltage will produce as
much power as a like amount of DC
– Average value of voltage is used when an
AC sine wave is changed into DC
Summary (cont’d.)

 Pure resistive circuit

– Current and voltage are in phase
 True power, or watts
– Produced only when current and voltage
are both positive or both negative
 Resistance in AC circuits
– Characterized by the fact that the
resistive part will produce heat
Summary (cont’d.)

 Three basic types of AC loads:

resistive, inductive, and capacitive
 Electrons in an AC circuit
– Forced toward the outside of the
conductor by eddy current induction in
the conductor itself
 Skin effect is proportional to frequency
– Can be reduced by using conductors with
a large surface area