Drawing of sailor looking at a tach on a motor.


You probably have been warned not to bring your watch near an a.c. or d.c. generator, because the presence of the MAGNETIC FIELD may magnetize your watch. Or you may have seen how a compass needle behaves when a street car or an electric train approaches.

The use of electricity to obtain a MAGNETIC FIELD has so many common applications that we are apt to overlook its importance. The widespread use of electromagnets demonstrates their importance in our daily lives.

Electromagnets have two big advantages in their favor. First, you can turn them ON and OFF as you wish. That is not possible with permanent magnets. Bells, lifting devices, relays, and telegraph sounders use magnets that can be turned on and off.

The second advantage is the added field strength possible with electromagnets. And the STRENGTH of the field can be REGULATED by controlling the flow of current through the coils.

You can detect the presence of a magnetic field around a wire connected to the terminals of a battery. Just dip


the wire into a pile of iron filings. (See figure 45.) Some of the filings will "stick" to the wire as they do the permanent magnets.
Magnetism produced by a current.
Figure 45.-Magnetism produced by a current.
Disconnecting one end of the wire from the battery stops the current flow and the filings fall off. When you connect the wire to the battery again, the magnetic effect is restored. This little experiment shows that a CONDUCTOR CARRYING A CURRENT IS SURROUNDED BY A MAGNETIC FIELD.

You may observe more of the field about a conductor by sprinkling iron filings on a piece of cardboard through which the conductor passes. Actually, you are observing a cross-section of the magnetic field. You see a CIRCULAR FIELD, with the greatest concentration of filings near the center, where the field is strongest.


Magnetic field about a conductor.
Figure 46.-Magnetic field about a conductor.
The small compasses placed in the field show that the magnetic flow also has DIRECTION.

In figure 47A, the CURRENT is flowing DOWN, and the compasses indicate the flux to be moving in a COUNTER-CLOCKWISE direction.

When the CURRENT is REVERSED, the needles of the compasses turn around, indicating that the FIELD is ALSO REVERSED.

It boils down to this-a conductor carrying a current is surrounded by a magnetic field, whose DIRECTION depends on the direction of the current flow.

Direction of the field about a conductor.
Figure 47.-Direction of the field about a conductor.

You can always find the direction of the field-grasp the conductor in your LEFT HAND with your THUMB pointing in the DIRECTION the CURRENT is flowing. Your FINGER S will POINT in the direction of the field around the conductor. This rule is demonstrated in figure 48.
Left-hand rule.
Figure 48.-Left-hand rule.
In some diagrams of electrical equipment it is necessary to "cut" conductors so that you view them from the ends. In such cases, it is impossible to use arrows to indicate the direction of current flow. Instead., you use a system of dots and crosses.

The DOT (figure 49A) indicates the current to be flowing OUT of the conductor (TOWARD you) . The CROSS indicates the current to be flowing INTO the conductor (AWAY from you) . Think of the DOT as the "point" of the arrow coming OUT of the wire, and the cross as the "tail" of the arrow ENTERING the conductor.


Symbols used to indicate direction of current flow.
Figure 49.-Symbols used to indicate direction of current flow.
The two drawings at the bottom of figure 49 shows the direction of the field with the "dot" and "cross" system of indicating current flow.
Magnetic polarity of a loop.
Figure 50.-Magnetic polarity of a loop.


When a conductor is twisted into a loop and connected to a battery, as indicated in 50, the MAGNETIC FIELD ABOUT the loop will have north and south poles. Notice the direction of the field about the loop. It enters at the left and leaves at the right. Since magnetic lines of force enter at the south pole and leave at the north pole, the LEFT side of the loop will have SOUTH magnetism and the RIGHT side NORTH magnetism.


Several turns of wire, placed side by side, form a coil. The INDIVIDUAL MAGNETIC FIELD of each turn combines with fields of the other turns to give the coil north and south poles. In figure 51, the lines of force enter at the

Magnetic field of a coil.
Figure 51.-Magnetic field of a coil.
south poles. In figure 51, the lines of force enter at the south pole and leave at north pole, just as they do with permanent magnets.

The north pole of a coil can be found easily, if you know the direction the current is flowing. Figure 52 shows you how. Wrap your LEFT hand about the coil with your


Left-hand rule for coils.
Figure 52.-Left-hand rule for coils.
FINGERS pointing in the direction of the current flow. Your THUMB POINTS toward the NORTH POLE.


The MAGNETIC FIELD STRENGTH of a coil is determined by two things-the AMOUNT of CURRENT flowing through the individual turns, and the NUMBER of turns. The more turns and the larger the current, the greater the strength of the coil.

The field strength is expressed in AMPERE-TURNS. ONE AMPERE TURN is one loop of wire carrying one ampere of current. Two loops of wire carrying a half-ampere of current is also one ampere-turn.

Equal ampere-turns. 5x10=50 ampere turns on left, 2.5X20=50 ampere turns on right.
Figure 53.-Equal ampere-turns.

In other words, the PRODUCT of the CURRENT times the NUMBER OF TURNS gives you the strength of the coil in AMPERE-TURNS.

Here are two examples. Coil A with 10 turns carrying 5 amperes has a strength of-

5 X 10 = 50 ampere turns,

Coil B with 20 turns carrying 2.5 amperes has the SAME strength-

2.5 X 20 = 50 ampere-turns.

A very strong coil can be made by using MANY TURNS of fine wire carrying a small current. And an equally strong coil can be made by using only a few turns carrying a high current.


The RELUCTANCE of SOFT IRON is low, compared to that of air. And soft iron also has a low RESIDUAL MAGNETISM. Put those two properties of soft iron together, and you have the reasons for using soft iron cores in electromagnets.

The iron core CONCENTRATES the magnetic flux into a SMALL USEFUL AREA, but does not increase the ampere-turn strength of the coil. It simply holds most of the flux inside the coil, increasing the useful magnetism.

Iron core electromagnet.
Figure 54.-Iron core electromagnet.

The core of an electromagnet is usually made of BUNDLES of SOFT IRON wires. If steel were used, a great deal of energy would be required to magnetize the cores. And when the current was turned off, the core would remain magnetized (HIGH residual magnetism).

Both conditions are undesirable, since you want the electromagnet to assume FULL STRENGTH the instant the current is turned on, and lose it IMMEDIATELY when the current is turned off.

You will hear more about iron cores of electromagnets when transformers are discussed.


Electromagnets have an almost endless list of applications in electric motors, generators, bells, telephones, telegraphs, and in thousands of other electrical devices. Radios use a number of electromagnets, for example in the earphone and loudspeaker.

Shipboard radio has a special application-RELAYS. They are used to control the operation of transmitters and receivers from remote points on your ship. The system used to "key" your transmitter is an example of this. You know that you may touch the hand key any place without getting a serious shock. Why? Because

Basic parts of a simple relay.
Figure 55.-Basic parts of a simple relay.

an electromagnet in the form of a RELAY is used to open and close a high voltage circuit.


A basic relay has three major parts-an ELECTROMAGNET, a movable iron bar called an ARMATURE, and CONTACT POINTS. See figure 55. The spring attached to the armature holds the contacts open when no voltage is being applied to the electromagnet.

When a voltage is applied to the electromagnet, the magnetic field draws the armature toward the core, closing the contact points. Removing the current demagnetizes the magnet, and the spring pulls the armature upward, breaking the circuit again.

A typical arrangement for "keying" a transmitter is indicated in figure 56. The hand key is supplied with a

A simple transmitter keying circuit.
Figure 56.-A simple transmitter keying circuit.
low voltage to energize the electromagnet. The connecting wires from the operator's station to the transmitter may be several hundred feet long. The relay itself is usually located inside the transmitter cabinet so that none of the high voltage wire need be strung about the ship.

A relay not only makes it possible to keep high voltages away from the key, but also permits the installation of the transmitter in some out-of-the-way space instead of in the radio room.

Most relays are not as simple in design as those given in figures 55 and 56. Many have two or more sets of contact points. Some have a set of contacts above and another below, so that when one circuit is closed the other is opened.

Still other relays have a DELAYED-ACTION mechanism built into them to prevent the circuit from being opened or closed until a definite amount of time has elapsed.


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