Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

The transformer

In section 4.3 we discussed the advantages of transmitting power over electrical lines using high voltages and low currents. However, we don't want our wall sockets to operate at 10000 volts! For this reason, the electric company uses a device called a transformer, (g), to convert to lower voltages and higher currents inside your house. The coil on the input side creates a magnetic field. Transformers work with alternating current, so the magnetic field surrounding the input coil is always changing. This induces an electric field, which drives a current around the output coil.

If both coils were the same, the arrangement would be symmetric, and the output would be the same as the input, but an output coil with a smaller number of coils gives the electric forces a smaller distance through which to push the electrons. Less mechanical work per unit charge means a lower voltage. input - Conservation of energy, however, guarantees that the amount of high voltage power on the output side must equal the amount put in originally, low current IinVin=IoutVout, so this reduced voltage must be accompanied by an increased current.

 (g) A transformer.

Last Update: 2009-06-21