Electromagnetic Induction Law and its Applications

Electromagnetic induction law and it's applications

Electromagnetic Induction was discovered by Michael Faraday on 29 August 1831. The induction of an electromotive force by the motion of a conductor across a magnetic field or by a change in magnetic flux in a magnetic field is called ‘Electromagnetic Induction’. This post lays down the laws, formula and principles of electromagnetic induction. It is also provided in pdf format.

Electromagnetic induction

Suppose while shopping you go cashless and  your parents use cards. The shopkeeper always scans or swipes the card. Shopkeeper does not take a photo of the card or tap it.  Why does he swipe/scan it? And how does this swiping deduct money from the card? This happens because of the ‘Electromagnetic Induction’.

Can moving objects produce electric currents? How to determine a relationship between electricity and magnetism? Can you imagine the scenario if there were no computers, no telephones, no electric lights. The experiments of Faraday has led to the generation of generators and transformers.

Electromagnetic Induction

The induction of an electromotive force by the motion of a conductor across a magnetic field or by a change in magnetic flux in a magnetic field is called ‘Electromagnetic Induction’.

This either happens when a conductor is set in a moving magnetic field (when utilizing AC power source) or when a conductor is always moving in a stationary magnetic field.

This law of electromagnetic induction was found by Michael Faraday. He organized a leading wire according to the setup given underneath, connected to a gadget to gauge the voltage over the circuit. So when a bar magnet passes through the snaking, the voltage is measured in the circuit. The importance of this is a way of producing electrical energy in a circuit by using magnetic fields and not just batteries anymore. The machines like generators,  transformers also the motors work on the principle of electromagnetic induction.

Faraday’s law of Electromagnetic Induction

Faradays Law of Electromagnetic Induction

  • First law:  Whenever a conductor is placed in a varying magnetic field, EMF induces and this emf is called an induced emf and if the conductor is a closed circuit than the induced current flows through it.
  • Second law: The magnitude of the induced EMF is equal to the rate of change of flux linkages.

Based on his experiments we now have Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction according to which the amount of voltage induced in a coil is proportional to the number of turns and the changing magnetic field of the coil.

So now, the induced voltage is as follows:

e = N × dΦdt


e is the induced voltage
N is the number of turns in the coil
Φ is the magnetic flux
t is the time

Lenz’s law of Electromagnetic Induction

Lenz law of electromagnetic induction states that, when an emf induces according to Faraday’s law, the polarity (direction) of that induced emf is such that it opposes the cause of its production.

According to Lenz’s law

E = -N (dΦ/ dt)   (volts)

Eddy currents

By Lenz law of electromagnetic induction, the current swirls in such a way as to create a magnetic field opposing the change. Because of the tendency of eddy currents to oppose, eddy currents cause a loss of energy. Eddy currents transform more useful forms of energy, such as kinetic energy, into heat, which isn’t generally useful. In many applications, the loss of useful energy is not particularly desirable, but there are some practical applications. Like:

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  • In the brakes of some trains. During braking, the brakes expose the metal wheels to a magnetic field which generates eddy currents in the wheels. The magnetic interaction between the applied field and the eddy currents slows the wheels down. The faster the wheels spin, the stronger is the effect, meaning that as the train slows the braking force is reduces, producing a smooth stopping motion.
  • There are few galvanometers having a fixed core which are of nonmagnetic metallic material. When the coil oscillates, the eddy currents that generate in the core oppose the motion and bring the coil to rest.
  • Induction furnace can be used to prepare alloys, by melting the metals. The eddy currents generated in the metals produce high temperature enough to melt it.
electromagnetic induction

An electric generator

A electric motor is a device for transforming electrical energy into mechanical energy; an electric generator does the reverse, using mechanical energy to generate electricity. At the heart of both motors and generators is a wire coil in a magnetic field. In fact, the same device can be used as a motor or a generator.

When the device is used as a motor, a current is passed through the coil. The interaction of the magnetic field with the current causes the coil to spin. To use the device as a generator, the coil can be spun, inducing a current in the coil.

An AC generator utilizes Faraday’s law of induction, spinning a coil at a constant rate in a magnetic field to induce an oscillating emf. The coil area and the magnetic field are kept constant, so, by Faraday’s law, the induced emf is given by:

electromagnetic induction

If the loop spins at a constant rate, . Using calculus, and taking the derivative of the cosine to get a sine (as well as bringing out a factor of ), it’s easy to show that the emf can be expressed as:

electromagnetic induction

The combination  represents the maximum value of the generated voltage (i.e., emf) and can be shortened to . This reduces the expression for the emf to:

In other words, a coil of wire spun in a magnetic field at a constant rate will produce AC electricity. In North America, AC electricity from a wall socket has a frequency of 60 Hz.

A coil turning in a magnetic field can also be used to generate DC power. A DC generator uses the same kind of split-ring commutator used in a DC motor. Unlike the AC generator, the polarity of the voltage generated by a DC generator is always the same. In a very simple DC generator with a single rotating loop, the voltage level would constantly fluctuate. The voltage from many loops is usually added together to obtain a relatively steady voltage.

Rather than using a spinning coil in a constant magnetic field, another way to utilize electromagnetic induction is to keep the coil stationary and to spin permanent magnets (providing the magnetic field and flux) around the coil. A good example of this is the way power is generated, such as at a hydro-electric power plant. The energy of falling water is used to spin permanent magnets around a fixed loop, producing AC power.

Back EMF in electric motors

You may have noticed that when something like a refrigerator or an air conditioner first turns on in your house, the lights dim momentarily. This is because of the large current required to get the motor inside these machines up to operating speed. When the motors are turning, much less current is necessary to keep them turning.

One way to analyze this is to realize that a spinning motor also acts like a generator. A motor has coils turning inside magnetic fields, and a coil turning inside a magnetic field induces an emf. This emf, known as the back emf, acts against the applied voltage. This causes the motor to spin in the first place, and reduces the current flowing through the coils. At operating speed, enough current flows to overcome any losses due to friction and to provide the necessary energy required for the motor to do work. This is generally much less current than is required to get the motor spinning in the first place.

If the applied voltage is V, then the initial current flowing through a motor with coils of resistance R is I = V / R. When the motor is spinning and generating a back emf, the current is reduced:

Mutual inductance

Faraday’s law tells us that a changing magnetic flux will induce an emf in a coil. The induced emf for a coil with N loops is:

Picture two coils next to each other, end to end. If the first coil has a current going through it,a magnetic field will be produced, and a magnetic flux will pass through the second coil. Changing the current in the first coil changes the flux through the second, inducing an emf in the second coil. This is known as mutual inductance, inducing an emf in one coil by changing the current through another. The induced emf is proportional to the change in flux,which is proportional to the change in current in the first coil. The induced emf can thus be written as:

The constant M is the mutual inductance, which depends on various factors, including the area and number of turns in coil 2, the distance between the two coils (the further apart, the less flux passes through coil 2), the relative orientation of the two coils, the number of turns / unit length in the first coil (because that’s what the magnetic field produced by the first coil depends on), and whether the two coils have cores made from ferromagentic material. In other words, M is rather complicated. What’s far more important in the equation above is that the emf induced in the second coil is proportional to the change in current in the first.

This effect can be put to practical use. One way to use it is in a transformer, which we’ll discuss below. Another is to use it in an ammeter. Conventional ammeters are incorporated directly into circuits, but ammeters don’t have to be placed in the current path for alternating current. If a loop connected to a meter is placed around a wire with an AC current in it, an emf will be induced in the loop because of the changing field from the wire, and that will produce a current in the loop, and meter, proportional to the current in the wire.

Self inductance

Coils can also induce emf’s in themselves. If a changing current is passed through a coil, a changing magnetic field will be produced, inducing an emf in the coil. Again, this emf is given by:

As with mutual inductance, the induced emf is proportional to the change in current. The induced emf can be written as:

The constant L is known as the inductance of the coil. It depends on the coil geometry, as well as on whether the coil has a core of ferromagnetic material.

We’ve already discussed resistors and capacitors as circuit elements. Inductors, which are simply wire coils, often with ferromagnetic cores, are another kind of circuit element. One of the main differences between these is what happens to electrical energy in them. Resistors dissipate electrical energy in the form of heat; capacitors store the energy in an electric field between the capacitor plates; and inductors store the energy in the magnetic field in the coil. The energy stored in an inductor is:

In general, the energy density (energy per unit volume) in a magnetic field is:


Electricity is often generated a long way from where it is used, and is transmitted long distances through power lines. Although the resistance of a short length of power line is relatively low, over a long distance the resistance can become substantial. A power line of resistance R causes a power loss of I2R ; this is wasted as heat. By reducing the current, therefore, the I2R losses can be minimized.

At the generating station, the power generated is given by P = VI. To reduce the current while keeping the power constant, the voltage can be increased. Using AC power, and Faraday’s law of induction, there is a very simple way to increase voltage and decrease current (or vice versa), and that is to use a transformer. A transformer is made up of two coils, each with a different number of loops, linked by an iron core so the magnetic flux from one passes through the other. When the flux generated by one coil changes (as it does continually if the coil is connected to an AC power source), the flux passing through the other will change, inducing a voltage in the second coil. With AC power, the voltage induced in the second coil will also be AC.

In a standard transformer, the two coils are usually wrapped around the same iron core, ensuring that the magnetic flux is the same through both coils. The coil that provides the flux (i.e., the coil connected to the AC power source) is known as the primary coil, while the coil in which voltage is induced is known as the secondary coil. If the primary coil sets up a changing flux, the voltage in the secondary coil depends on the number of turns in the secondary:

Similarly, the relationship for the primary coil is:

Combining these gives the relationship between the primary and secondary voltage:

Energy (or, equivalently, power) has to be conserved, so:

If a transformer takes a high primary voltage and converts it to a low secondary voltage, the current in the secondary will be higher than that in the primary to compensate (and vice versa). A transformer in which the voltage is higher in the primary than the secondary (i.e., more turns in the primary than the secondary) is known as a step-down transformer. A transformer in which the secondary has more turns (and, therefore, higher voltage) is known as a step-up transformer.

Power companies use step-up transformers to boost the voltage to hundreds of kV before it is transmitted down a power line, reducing the current and minimizing the power lost in transmission lines. Step-down transformers are used at the other end, to decrease the voltage to the 120 or 240 V used in household circuits.

Transformers require a varying flux to work. They are therefore perfect for AC power, but do not work at all for DC power, which would keep the flux constant. The ease with which voltage and current can be tranformed in an AC circuit is a large part of the reason AC power, rather than DC, is distributed by the power companies.

Although transformers dramatically reduce the energy lost to I2R heating in power line, they don’t give something for nothing. Transformers will also dissipate some energy, in the form of:

  1. flux leakage – not all the magnetic flux from the primary passes through the secondary
  2. self-induction – the opposition of the coils to a changing flux in them
  3. heating losses in the coils of the transformer
  4. eddy currents

In the iron core of a transformer, electrons would swirl in cross-sectional planes. This current would heat up the transformer, wasting power as heat. To minimize power losses due to eddy currents, the iron core is usually made up of thin laminated slices, rather than one solid piece. Current is then confined within each laminated piece, significantly reducing the swirling tendency as well as the losses by heating.

Applications of Electromagnetic Induction

Based on his experiments we now have Faraday’s Law according to which the amount of voltage induced in a coil is proportional to the number of turns of the coil and the rate of changing magnetic field.

  • AC generator works on the principle of electromagnetic induction.
  • The working of electrical transformers are based on the electromagnetic induction.
  • The magnetic flow meter is based on the electromagnetic induction.


Electromagnetic Induction is a process in which a conductor is put in a particular position and magnetic field keeps varying or magnetic field is stationary and a conductor is moving. The above laws, formula, principles and examples provide an explanation on the various aspects of this subject.