What Are Alternators and How Do They Work?

When dealing with electrical power or charging systems, the alternator is a major component that is crucial for the overall functionality of the application. Alternators are quite similar to generators in their conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy, but rather than creating direct current, alternators supply alternating current. Alternators may be found in a number of environments, commonly powering the systems of vehicles like automobiles and aircraft. To better understand the use and importance of alternators, we will discuss them in more detail below.

Within an automobile, as an example, the engine will operate a drive belt that in turn rotates a pulley connected to the alternator to generate power. The alternators in an automobile actually supply direct current voltage with the use of a rectifier, ensuring that the vehicle battery can be charged for starting the engine. When the vehicle is already running, however, the alternator will supply various electrical systems with power.

While alternators vary in their basic design based on the needs of the application, most feature similar components that allow for their standard operations. Generally, the three major components of an alternator include the rotor, stator, and rectifier. The rotor is the component that is spun with the help of the drive belt pulley system when the engine is up and running. Alternator rotors always consist of an internal electromagnetic, that is formed from conducting wiring wound around a solid piece of magnetic metal. As voltage is induced to the conductive wire, a magnetic field will begin to form with a distinct North and South pole similar to a permanent magnet.

The rotor itself is placed with the stator of the alternator, and the stator acts as the stationary component. Although the rotor is spinning within the stator, it actually never comes into physical contact. A standard stator will feature three distinct coil windings, each of which are connected by their ends. These windings are placed around the iron shaft with even spacing, generally being placed at intervals of 120 degrees. Additionally, on each end of the shaft is a brush and a slip ring.

With a stationary coil of wire placed within the stator, induced voltage occurs as the magnetic field moves past the coil. To increase the amount of voltage that is induced in the assembly, the speed of which the magnetic field adjusts should also be sped up. With this basic concept of electric induction, one can see how the spinning rotor within the stator will cause an induced voltage across stator windings as a result of the spinning magnetic field.

 As the electrical power generated by the alternator assembly starts as alternating current, it must be transformed into direct current so that it may be used by the battery and other systems. This is conducted with the use of a rectifier that contains multiple diodes that only permit current to flow in a single direction. As AC voltage passes through a diode, the output becomes DC voltage, albeit a bumpy type that is not the most optimal. To ensure a DC voltage that is optimal, current is passed through a trio of diodes and a voltage regulator. With the voltage regulator, the electromagnet energizing voltage is adjusted to be fairly constant.

With these various parts, an alternator can create a consistent amount of power that permits the standard functionality of various batteries and systems that vehicles rely on. If you are in the market for top-quality alternator parts such as an alternator and coupler assembly, electronic circuits, adapter alternator components, and various other electrical components, we have you covered here on Aviation Gamut. As an AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accredited enterprise, we go above and beyond to ensure high-quality products with every order. Explore our website as you see fit, and utilize our online RFQ forms to quickly request quotes for your comparisons with ease. Once we receive a completed submission, a dedicated account manager will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less to present a customized solution.


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