Electric Machinery--Section D. Engineering Aspects of Practical Electric Machine Performance and Operation

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In this guide the basic essential features of electric machinery have been discussed; this material forms the basis for understanding the behavior of electric machinery of all types. In this Section our objective is to introduce practical issues associated with the engineering implementation of the machinery concepts which have been developed. Issues common to all electric machine types such as losses, cooling, and rating are discussed.


Consideration of machine losses is important for three reasons: (1) Losses determine the efficiency of the machine and appreciably influence its operating cost; (2) losses determine the heating of the machine and hence the rating or power output that can be obtained without undue deterioration of the insulation; and (3) the voltage drops or current components associated with supplying the losses must be properly accounted for in a machine representation. Machine efficiency, like that of transformers or any energy-transforming device, is given by:

(Eq. 1)

(Eq. 2)

(Eq. 3)

Rotating machines in general operate efficiently except at light loads. For example, the full-load efficiency of average motors ranges from 80 to 90 percent for motors on the order of 1 to 10 kW, 90 to 95 percent for motors up to a few hundred kW, and up to a few percent higher for larger motors.

The forms given by Eqs. 2 and 3 are often used for electric machines, since their efficiency is most commonly determined by measurement of losses instead of by directly measuring the input and output under load. Efficiencies determined from loss measurements can be used in comparing competing machines if exactly the same methods of measurement and computation are used in each case. For this reason, the various losses and the conditions for their measurement are precisely defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). The following discussion summarizes some of the various commonly considered loss mechanisms.

Ohmic Losses Ohmic, or I^2R losses, are found in all windings of a machine. By convention, these losses are computed on the basis of the dc resistances of the winding at 75°C. Actually the I^2 R loss depends on the effective resistance of the winding under the operating frequency and flux conditions. The increment in loss represented by the difference between dc and effective resistances is included with stray load losses, discussed below. In the field windings of synchronous and dc machines, only the losses in the field winding are charged against the machine; the losses in external sources supplying the excitation are charged against the plant of which the machine is a part. Closely associated with I^2R loss is the brush-contact loss at slip rings and commutators. By convention, this loss is normally neglected for induction and synchronous machines. For industrial-type dc machines the voltage drop at the brushes is regarded as constant at 2V total when carbon and graphite brushes with shunts (pigtails) are used.

Mechanical Losses Mechanical losses consist of brush and bearing friction, windage, and the power required to circulate air through the machine and ventilating system, if one is provided, whether by self-contained or external fans (except for the power required to force air through long or restricted ducts external to the machine). Friction and windage losses can be measured by determining the input to the machine running at the proper speed but unloaded and unexcited. Frequently they are lumped with core loss and determined at the same time.

Open-Circuit, or No-Load, Core Loss

Open-circuit core loss consists of the hysteresis and eddy-current losses arising from changing flux densities in the iron of the machine with only the main exciting winding energized. In dc and synchronous machines, these losses are confined largely to the armature iron, although the flux variations arising from slot openings will cause losses in the field iron as well, particularly in the pole shoes or surfaces of the field iron. In induction machines the losses are confined largely to the stator iron. Open-circuit core loss can be found by measuring the input to the machine when it is operating unloaded at rated speed or frequency and under the appropriate flux or voltage conditions, and then deducting the friction and windage loss and, if the machine is self-driven during the test, the no-load armature I2R loss (no-load stator I^2R loss for an induction motor). Usually, data are taken for a curve of core loss as a function of armature voltage in the neighborhood of rated voltage. The core loss under load is then considered to be the value at a voltage equal to rated voltage corrected for the armature resistance drop under load (a phasor correction for an ac machine). For induction motors, however, this correction is dispensed with, and the core loss at rated voltage is used. For efficiency determination alone, there is no need to segregate open-circuit core loss and friction and windage loss; the sum of these two losses is termed the no-load rotational loss.

Eddy-current loss varies with the square of the flux density, the frequency, and the thickness of laminations. Under normal machine conditions it can be expressed to a sufficiently close approximation as:

(Eq. 4)


lamination thickness Bmax -maximum flux density f = frequency Ke = proportionality constant

The value of Ke depends on the units used, volume of iron, and resistivity of the iron.

Variation of hysteresis loss can be expressed in equation form only on an empirical basis. The most commonly used relation is...

(Eq. 5)


where Kh is a proportionality constant dependent on the characteristics and volume of iron and the units used and the exponent n ranges from 1.5 to 2.5, a value of 2.0 often being used for estimating purposes in machines. In both Eqs. 4 and 5, frequency can be replaced by speed and flux density by the appropriate voltage, with the proportionality constants changed accordingly.

When the machine is loaded, the space distribution of flux density is significantly changed by the mmf of the load currents. The actual core losses may increase noticeably. For example, mmf harmonics cause appreciable losses in the iron near the air-gap surfaces. The total increment in core loss is classified as part of the stray load loss.

Stray Load Loss Stray load loss consists of the losses arising from nonuniform current distribution in the copper and the additional core losses produced in the iron by distortion of the magnetic flux by the load current. It is a difficult loss to determine accurately. By convention it is taken as 1.0 percent of the output for dc machines. For synchronous and induction machines it can be found by test.


The rating of electrical devices such as machines and transformers is often determined by mechanical and thermal considerations. For example, the maximum winding current is typically determined by the maximum operating temperature which the insulation can withstand without damage or excessive loss of life. Similarly the maximum speed of a motor or generator is typically determined by mechanical considerations related to the structural integrity of the rotor or the performance of the bearings. The temperature rise resulting from the losses considered in Section 1 is therefore a major factor in the rating of a machine.

The operating temperature of a machine is closely associated with its life expectancy because deterioration of the insulation is a function of both time and temperature. Such deterioration is a chemical phenomenon involving slow oxidation and brittle hardening and leading to loss of mechanical durability and dielectric strength.

In many cases the deterioration rate is such that the life of the insulation can be represented as an exponential ...

(Eq. 6)

...where A and B are constants and T is the absolute temperature. Thus, according to Eq. D.6, when life is plotted to a logarithmic scale against the reciprocal of absolute temperature on a uniform scale, a straight line should result. Such plots form valuable guides in the thermal evaluation of insulating materials and systems. A very rough idea of the life-temperature relation can be obtained from the old and more or less obsolete rule of thumb that the time to failure of organic insulation is halved for each 8 to 10°C rise.

The evaluation of insulating materials and insulation systems (which may include widely different materials and techniques in combination) is to a large extent a functional one based on accelerated life tests. Both normal life expectancy and service conditions will vary widely for different classes of electric equipment. Life expectancy, for example, may be a matter of minutes in some military and missile applications, may be 500 to 1000 h in certain aircraft and electronic equipment, and may range from 10 to 30 years or more in large industrial equipment. The test procedures will accordingly vary with the type of equipment. Accelerated life tests on models, called motorettes, are commonly used in insulation evaluation. Such tests, however, cannot be easily applied to all equipment, especially the insulation systems of large machines.

Insulation life tests generally attempt to simulate service conditions. They usually include the following elements:

Thermal shock resulting from heating to the test temperature.

  • Sustained heating at that temperature.
  • Thermal shock resulting from cooling to room temperature or below.
  • Vibration and mechanical stress such as may be encountered in actual service.
  • Exposure to moisture.
  • Dielectric testing to determine the condition of the insulation.

Enough samples must be tested to permit statistical methods to be applied in analyzing the results. The life-temperature relations obtained from these tests lead to the classification of the insulation or insulating system in the appropriate temperature class.

For the allowable temperature limits of insulating systems used commercially, the latest standards of ANSI, IEEE, and NEMA should be consulted. The three NEMA insulation-system classes of chief interest for industrial machines are class B, class F, and class H. Class B insulation includes mica, glass fiber, asbestos, and similar materials with suitable bonding substances. Class F insulation also includes mica, glass fiber, and synthetic substances similar to those in class B, but the system must be capable of withstanding higher temperatures. Class H insulation, intended for still higher temperatures, may consist of materials such as silicone elastomer and combinations including mica, glass fiber, asbestos, and so on, with bonding substances such as appropriate silicone resins. Experience and tests showing the material or system to be capable of operation at the recommended temperature form the important classifying criteria.

When the temperature class of the insulation is established, the permissible observable temperature rises for the various parts of industrial-type machines can be found by consulting the appropriate standards. Reasonably detailed distinctions are made with respect to type of machine, method of temperature measurement, machine part involved, whether the machine is enclosed, and the type of cooling (air-cooled, fan-cooled, hydrogen-cooled, etc.). Distinctions are also made between general-purpose machines and definite or special-purpose machines. The term general-purpose motor refers to one of standard rating "up to 200 hp with standard operating characteristics and mechanical construction for use under usual service conditions without restriction to a particular application or type of application." In contrast a special-purpose motor is "designed with either operating characteristics or mechanical construction, or both, for a particular application." For the same class of insulation, the permissible rise of temperature is lower for a general-purpose motor than for a special-purpose motor, largely to allow a greater factor of safety where service conditions are unknown. Partially compensating the lower rise, however, is the fact that general-purpose motors are allowed a service factor of 1.15 when operated at rated voltage; the service factor is a multiplier which, applied to the rated output, indicates a permissible loading which may be carried continuously under the conditions specified for that service factor.

Examples of allowable temperature rises can be seen from Table 1. The table applies to integral-horsepower induction motors, is based on 40°C ambient temperature, and assumes measurement of temperature rise by determining the increase of winding resistances.

Table 1 Allowable temperature rise, ° Ct.

The most common machine rating is the continuous rating defining the output (in kilowatts for dc generators, kilo-voltamperes at a specified power factor for ac generators, and horsepower or kilowatts for motors) which can be carried indefinitely without exceeding established limitations. For intermittent, periodic, or varying duty, a machine may be given a short-time rating defining the load which can be carried for a specific time. Standard periods for short-time ratings are 5, 15, 30, and 60 minutes. Speeds, voltages, and frequencies are also specified in machine ratings, and provision is made for possible variations in voltage and frequency. Motors, for example, must operate successfully at voltages 10 percent above and below rated voltage and, for ac motors, at frequencies 5 percent above and below rated frequency; the combined variation of voltage and frequency may not exceed 10 percent. Other performance conditions are so established that reasonable short-time overloads can be carried. Thus, the user of a motor can expect to be able to apply for a short time an overload of, say, 25 percent at 90 percent of normal voltage with an ample margin of safety.

The converse problem to the rating of machinery, that of choosing the size of machine for a particular application, is a relatively simple one when the load requirements remain substantially constant. For many motor applications, however, the load requirements vary more or less cyclically and over a wide range. The duty cycle of a typical crane or hoist motor offers a good example. From the thermal viewpoint, the average heating of the motor must be found by detailed study of the motor losses during the various parts of the cycle. Account must be taken of changes in ventilation with motor speed for open and semi-closed motors. Judicious selection is based on a large amount of experimental data and considerable experience with the motors involved. For estimating the required size of motors operating at substantially constant speeds, it is sometimes assumed that the heating of the insulation varies as the square of the load, an assumption which obviously overemphasizes the role of armature IZR loss at the expense of the core loss. The rms ordinate of the power-time curve representing the duty cycle is obtained by the same technique used to find the rms value of periodically varying currents, and a motor rating is chosen on the basis of the result; i.e.,

(Eq. 7)

where the constant k accounts for the poorer ventilation at standstill and equals approximately 4 for an open motor. The time for a complete cycle must be short compared with the time for the motor to reach a steady temperature.

[1. Commercially available motors are generally found in standard sizes as defined by NEMA. NEMA Standards on Motors and Generators specify motor rating as well as the type and dimensions of the motor frame. ]

Although crude, the rms-kW method is used fairly often. The necessity for rounding the result to a commercially available motor size 1 obviates the need for precise computations. Special consideration must be given to motors that are frequently started or reversed, for such operations are thermally equivalent to heavy overloads. Consideration must also be given to duty cycles having such high torque peaks that motors with continuous ratings chosen on purely thermal bases would be unable to furnish the torques required. It is to such duty cycles that special-purpose motors with short-time ratings are often applied. Short-time-rated motors in general have better torque-producing capability than motors rated to produce the same power output continuously, although, of course, they have a lower thermal capacity. Both these properties follow from the fact that a short-time-rated motor is designed for high flux densities in the iron and high current densities in the copper. In general, the ratio of torque capacity to thermal capacity increases as the period of the short-time rating decreases. Higher temperature rises are allowed in short-time-rated motors than for general-purpose motors. A motor with a 150-kW, 1-hr, 50°C rating, for example, may have the torque ability of a 200-kW continuously rated motor; it will be able to carry only about 0.8 times its rated output, or 120 kW continuously, however. In many cases it will be the economical solution for a drive requiring a continuous thermal capacity of 120 kW but having torque peaks which require the capability of a 200-kW continuously rated motor.


The cooling problem in electric apparatus in general increases in difficulty with increasing size. The surface area from which the heat must be carried away increases roughly as the square of the dimensions, whereas the heat developed by the losses is roughly proportional to the volume and therefore increases approximately as the cube of the dimensions. This problem is a particularly serious one in large turbine generators, where economy, mechanical requirements, shipping, and erection all demand compactness, especially for the rotor forging. Even in moderate size machines, for example, above a few thousand kVA for generators, a closed ventilating system is commonly used. Rather elaborate systems of cooling ducts must be provided to ensure that the cooling medium will effectively remove the heat arising from the losses.

For turbine generators, hydrogen is commonly used as the cooling medium in the totally enclosed ventilating system. Hydrogen has the following properties which make it well suited to the purpose: m Its density is only about 0.07 times that of air at the same temperature and pressure, and therefore windage and ventilating losses are much less.

m Its specific heat on an equal-weight basis is about 14.5 times that of air. This means that, for the same temperature and pressure, hydrogen and air are about equally effective in their heat-storing capacity per unit volume, but the heat transfer by forced convection between the hot parts of the machine and the cooling gas is considerably greater with hydrogen than with air.

The life of the insulation is increased and maintenance expenses decreased because of the absence of dirt, moisture, and oxygen.

The fire hazard is minimized. A hydrogen-air mixture will not explode if the hydrogen content is above about 70 percent.

The result of the first two properties is that for the same operating conditions the heat which must be dissipated is reduced and at the same time the ease with which it can be carried off is increased.

The machine and its water-cooled heat exchanger for cooling the hydrogen must be sealed in a gas-tight envelope. The crux of the problem is in sealing the bearings.

The system is maintained at a slight pressure (at least 0.5 psi) above atmospheric so that gas leakage is outward and an explosive mixture cannot accumulate in the machine.

At this pressure, the rating of the machine can be increased by about 30 percent above its aircooled rating, and the full-load efficiency increased by about 0.5 percent. The trend is toward the use of higher pressures (15 to 60 psi). Increasing the hydrogen pressure from 0.5 to 15 psi increases the output for the same temperature rise by about 15 percent; a further increase to 30 psi provides about an additional 10 percent.

An important step which has made it possible almost to double the output of a hydrogen-cooled turbine-generator of given physical size is the development of conductor cooling, also called inner cooling. Here the coolant (liquid or gas) is forced through hollow ducts inside the conductor or conductor strands. Examples of such conductors can be seen in Fig. 1. Thus, the thermal barrier presented by the electric insulation is largely circumvented, and the conductor losses can be absorbed directly by the coolant. Hydrogen is usually the cooling medium for the rotor conductors.

Either gas or liquid cooling may be used for the stator conductors. Hydrogen is the coolant in the former case, and transit oil or water is commonly used in the latter. A sectional view of a conductor-cooled turbine generator is given in Fig. 2. A large hydroelectric generator in which both stator and rotor are water-cooled is shown in Figs. 1 and 9.

Figure 1 Cross sections of bars for two-layer stator windings of turbine-generators. Insulation system consists of synthetic resin with vacuum impregnation. (a) Indirectly cooled bar with tubular strands; (b) water-cooled bars, two-wire-wide mixed strands, (c) water-cooled bars, four-wire-wide mixed strands. (Brown Boveri Corporation.)

Figure 2 Cutaway view of a two-pole 3600 r/min turbine rated at 500 MVA, 0.90 power factor, 22 kV, 60 Hz, 45 psig H2 pressure. Stator winding is water-cooled; rotor winding is hydrogen-cooled. (General Electric Company.)


The resultant flux in the magnetic circuit of a machine is established by the combined mmf of all the windings on the machine. For the conventional dc machine, the bulk of the effective mmf is furnished by the field windings. For the transformer, the net excitation may be furnished by either the primary or the secondary winding, or a portion may be furnished by each. A similar situation exists in ac machines.

Furnishing excitation to ac machines has two different operational aspects which are of economic importance in the application of the machines.

4.1 Power Factor in AC Machines

The power factor at which ac machines operate is an economically important feature because of the cost of reactive kilo-voltamperes. Low power factor adversely affects system operation in three principal ways.

(1) Generators, transformers, and transmission equipment are rated in terms of kVA rather than kW because their losses and heating are very nearly determined by voltage and current regardless of power factor.

The physical size and cost of ac apparatus are roughly proportional to kVA rating. The investment in generators, transformers, and transmission equipment for supplying a given useful amount of active power therefore is roughly inversely proportional to the power factor.

(2) Low power factor means more current and greater I^2R losses in the generating and transmitting equipment.

(3) A further disadvantage is poor voltage regulation.

Factors influencing reactive-kVA requirements in motors can be visualized readily in terms of the relationship of these requirements to the establishment of magnetic flux. As in any electromagnetic device, the resultant flux necessary for motor operation must be established by a magnetizing component of current. It makes no difference either in the magnetic circuit or in the fundamental energy conversion process whether this magnetizing current be carried by the rotor or stator winding, just as it makes no basic difference in a transformer which winding carries the exciting current. In some cases, part of it is supplied from each winding. If all or part of the magnetizing current is supplied by an ac winding, the input to that winding must include lagging reactive kVA, because magnetizing current lags voltage drop by 90 °. In effect, the lagging reactive kVA set up flux in the motor.

The only possible source of excitation in an induction motor is the stator input. The induction motor therefore must operate at a lagging power factor. This power factor is very low at no load and increases to about 85 to 90 percent at full load, the improvement being caused by the increased real-power requirements with increasing load.

With a synchronous motor, there are two possible sources of excitation: alternating current in the armature or direct current in the field winding. If the field current is just sufficient to supply the necessary mmf, no magnetizing-current component or reactive kVA are needed in the armature and the motor operates at unity power factor. If the field current is less, i.e., the motor is underexcited, the deficit in mmf must be made up by the armature and the motor operates at a lagging power factor.

If the field current is greater, i.e., the motor is overexcited, the excess mmf must be counterbalanced in the armature and a leading component of current is present; the motor then operates at a leading power factor.

Because magnetizing current must be supplied to inductive loads such as transformers and induction motors, the ability of overexcited synchronous motors to supply lagging current is a highly desirable feature which may have considerable economic importance. In effect, overexcited synchronous motors act as generators of lagging reactive kilo-voltamperes and thereby relieve the power source of the necessity for supplying this component. They thus may perform the same function as a local capacitor installation. Sometimes unloaded synchronous machines are installed in power systems solely for power-factor correction or for control of reactive-kVA flow. Such machines, called synchronous condensers, may be more economical in the larger sizes than static capacitors.

Both synchronous and induction machines may become self-excited when a sufficiently heavy capacitive load is present in their stator circuits. The capacitive current then furnishes the excitation and may cause serious overvoltage or excessive transient torques. Because of the inherent capacitance of transmission lines, the problem may arise when synchronous generators are energizing long unloaded or lightly loaded lines. The use of shunt reactors at the sending end of the line to compensate the capacitive current is sometimes necessary. For induction motors, it is normal practice to avoid self-excitation by limiting the size of any parallel capacitor when the motor and capacitor are switched as a unit.

4.2 Turbine-Generator Excitation Systems

As the available ratings of turbine-generators have increased, the problems of supplying the dc field excitation (amounting to 4000 A or more in the larger units) have grown progressively more difficult. A common excitation source is a shaft-driven dc generator whose output is supplied to the alternator field through brushes and slip rings. Alternatively, excitation may be supplied from a shaft-driven alternator of conventional design as the main exciter. This alternator has a stationary armature and a rotating-field winding. Its frequency may be 180 or 240 Hz. Its output is fed to a stationary solid-state rectifier, which in turn supplies the turbine-generator field through slip rings.

Cooling and maintenance problems are inevitably associated with slip rings, commutators, and brushes. Many modern excitation systems have minimized these problems by minimizing the use of sliding contacts and brushes. As a result, some excitation systems employ shaft-driven ac alternators whose field windings are stationary and whose ac windings rotate. By the use of rotating rectifiers, dc excitation can be applied directly to the generator field winding without the use of slip rings.

Excitation systems of the latest design are being built without any sort of rotating exciter-alternator. In these systems, the excitation power is obtained from a special auxiliary transformer fed from the local power system. Alternatively it may be obtained directly from the main generator terminals; in one system a special armature winding is included in the main generator to supply the excitation power. In each of these systems the power is rectified using phase-controlled silicon controlled rectifiers (SCRs). These types of excitation system, which have been made possible by the development of reliable, high-power SCRs, are relatively simple in design and provide the fast response characteristics required in many modern applications.


With increasing concern for both the supply and cost of energy comes a corresponding concern for efficiency in its use. Although electric energy can be converted to mechanical energy with great efficiency, achieving maximum efficiency requires both careful design of the electric machinery and proper matching of machine and intended application.

Clearly, one means to maximize the efficiency of an electric machine is to minimize its internal losses, such as those described in Section 1. For example, the winding I^2R losses can be reduced by increasing the slot area so that more copper can be used, thus increasing the cross-sectional area of the windings and reducing the resistance.

Core loss can be reduced by decreasing the magnetic flux density in the iron of the machine. This can be done by increasing the volume of iron, but although the loss goes down in terms of watts per pound, the total volume of material (and hence the mass) is increased; depending on how the machine design is changed, there may be a point beyond which the losses actually begin to increase. Similarly, for a given flux density, eddy-current losses can be reduced by using thinner iron laminations.

One can see that there are trade-offs involved here; machines of more efficient design generally require more material and thus are bigger and more costly. Users will generally choose the "lowest-cost" solution to a particular requirement; if the increased capital cost of a high-efficiency motor can be expected to be offset by energy savings over the expected lifetime of the machine, they will probably select the high-efficiency machine. If not, users are very unlikely to select this option in spite of the increased efficiency.

Similarly, some types of electric machines are inherently more efficient than others. For example, single-phase capacitor-start induction motors (Section 9.2) are relatively inexpensive and highly reliable, finding use in all sorts of small appliances, e.g., refrigerators, air conditioners, and fans. Yet they are inherently less efficient than their three-phase counterparts. Modifications such as a capacitor-run feature can lead to greater efficiency in the single-phase induction motor, but they are expensive and often not economically justifiable.

To optimize the efficiency of use of electric machinery the machine must be properly matched to the application, both in terms of size and performance. Since typical induction motors tend to draw nearly constant reactive power, independent of load, and since this causes resistive losses in the supply lines, it is wise to pick the smallest-rating induction motor which can properly satisfy the requirements of a specific application. Alternatively, capacitative power-factor correction may be used.

Proper application of modern solid-state control technology can also play an important role in optimizing both performance and efficiency.

There are, of course, practical limitations which affect the selection of the motor for any particular application. Chief among them is that motors are generally available only in certain standard sizes. For example, a typical manufacturer might make fractional-horsepower ac motors rated at 1/8, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 hp (NEMA standard ratings). This discrete selection thus limits the ability to fine-tune a particular application; if the need is 0.8 hp, the user will undoubtedly end up buying a 1-hp device and settling for a somewhat lower than optimum efficiency. A custom-designed and manufactured 0.8-hp motor can be economically justified only if it is needed in large quantities.

It should be pointed out that an extremely common source of inefficiency in electric motor applications is the mismatch of the motor to its application. Even the most efficient 50-kW motors will be somewhat inefficient when driving a 20-kW load.

Yet mismatches of this type often occur in practice, due in great extent to the difficulty in characterizing operating loads and a tendency on the part of application engineers to be conservative to make sure that the system in question is guaranteed to operate in the face of design uncertainties. More careful attention to this issue can go a long way toward increasing the efficiency of energy use in electric machine applications.

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