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Upon completion of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Describe the principle of magnetic induction as it applies to ac generators.
  • Describe the differences between the two basic types of ac generators.
  • List the advantages and disadvantages of the two types of ac generators.
  • Describe exciter generators within alternators; discuss construction and purpose.
  • Compare the types of rotors used in ac generators, and the applications of each type to different prime movers.
  • Explain the factors that determine the maximum power output of an ac generator, and the effect of these factors in rating generators.
  • Explain the operation of multiphase ac generators and compare with single-phase.
  • Describe the relationships between the individual output and resultant vectorial sum voltages in multiphase generators.
  • Explain, using diagrams, the different methods of connecting three-phase alternators and transformers.
  • List the factors that determine the frequency and voltage of the alternator output.
  • Explain the terms voltage control and voltage regulation in ac generators, and list the factors that affect each quantity.
  • Describe the purpose and procedure of parallel generator operation.


Most of the electrical power used aboard Navy ships and aircraft as well as in civilian applications is ac. As a result, the ac generator is the most important means of producing electrical power. Ac generators, generally called alternators, vary greatly in size depending upon the load to which they supply power. For example, the alternators in use at hydroelectric plants, such as Hoover Dam, are tremendous in size, generating thousands of kilowatts at very high voltage levels. Another example is the alternator in a typical automobile, which is very small by comparison. It weighs only a few pounds and produces between 100 and 200 watts of power, usually at a potential of 12 volts.

Many of the terms and principles covered in this chapter will be familiar to you. They are the same as those covered in the chapter on dc generators. You are encouraged to refer back, as needed, and to refer to any other source that will help you master the subject of this chapter. No one source meets the complete needs of everyone.


Regardless of size, all electrical generators, whether dc or ac, depend upon the principle of magnetic induction. An emf is induced in a coil as a result of (1) a coil cutting through a magnetic field, or (2) a magnetic field cutting through a coil. As long as there is relative motion between a conductor and a magnetic field, a voltage will be induced in the conductor. That part of a generator that produces the magnetic field is called the field. That part in which the voltage is induced is called the armature. For relative motion to take place between the conductor and the magnetic field, all generators must have two mechanical parts - a rotor and a stator. The ROTor is the part that ROTates; the STATor is the part that remains STATionary. In a dc generator, the armature is always the rotor. In alternators, the armature may be either the rotor or stator.

Q.1 Magnetic induction occurs when there is relative motion between what two elements? answer.gif (214 bytes)


The rotating-armature alternator is similar in construction to the dc generator in that the armature rotates in a stationary magnetic field as shown in figure 3-1, view A. In the dc generator, the emf generated in the armature windings is converted from ac to dc by means of the commutator. In the alternator, the generated ac is brought to the load unchanged by means of slip rings. The rotating armature is found only in alternators of low power rating and generally is not used to supply electric power in large quantities.

Figure 3-1. - Types of ac generators.

32NE0428.GIF (6476 bytes)


The rotating-field alternator has a stationary armature winding and a rotating-field winding as shown in figure 3-1, view B The advantage of having a stationary armature winding is that the generated voltage can be connected directly to the load.

A rotating armature requires slip rings and brushes to conduct the current from the armature to the load. The armature, brushes, and slip rings are difficult to insulate, and arc-overs and short circuits can result at high voltages. For this reason, high-voltage alternators are usually of the rotating-field type. Since the voltage applied to the rotating field is low voltage dc, the problem of high voltage arc-over at the slip rings does not exist.

The stationary armature, or stator, of this type of alternator holds the windings that are cut by the rotating magnetic field. The voltage generated in the armature as a result of this cutting action is the ac power that will be applied to the load.

The stators of all rotating-field alternators are about the same.

The stator consists of a laminated iron core with the armature windings embedded in this core as shown in figure 3-2. The core is secured to the stator frame.

Figure 3-2. - Stationary armature windings.

32NE0429.GIF (26194 bytes)

Q.2 What is the part of an alternator in which the output voltage is generated? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.3 What are the two basic types of alternators? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.4 What is the main advantage of the rotating field alternator? answer.gif (214 bytes)

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