How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works
 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
 
Question 592

How does an internal voltage regulator type auto alternator work and are they any better than an external regulator type? - H
An alternator is a device that uses rotary motion to generate electricity. As the car engine turns, it spins a magnet (the rotor) in the alternator and this spinning magnet induces electric currents in a set of stationary wire coils (the stator). The alternator's ability to generate electric currents by spinning a magnet past stationary wires is an example of electromagnetic induction. Induction is a general phenomenon in which a moving or changing magnetic field creates an electric field, which in turn pushes electric charges through a conducting material. Overall, some of the engine's mechanical energy is converted into electric energy.

The amount of energy given to each electric charge that flows through the wires in the stator depends on the speed with which the magnet turns and the strength of that magnet. Whether it's internal or external, the voltage regulator monitors this energy per charge—also known as the voltage—to make sure that it's correct. If not, it adjusts the strength of the alternator's magnet. It can do this because the alternator's magnet is actually an electromagnet and its strength depends on how much current is flowing through its wire coils. The voltage regulator carefully adjusts the current flowing through the electromagnet in order to obtain the proper output voltage from the alternator. Actually, the alternator itself produces alternating current, so a set of solid-state diodes converts this alternating current into direct current. A car's electric system, particularly its battery, operates on direct current. Since the alternator's operation is the same whether the voltage regulator is inside it or external to it, neither version should be better than the other.

         

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