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What is Electrical Power Transformer and How Does a Transformer Work?

The process of transferring electricity efficiently and safely from generators, across power lines, and across the nation into our devices is a delicate balance. One of the key factors is voltage.


Transmission lines of the National Grid operate at a voltage between 4000-volts (v) and 275,000v however, if electricity was to be delivered to homes at this voltage, it could quickly harm everything it powered. Regional distributors bring electricity to homes at a lower voltage of 230 volts.

To reach a voltage that's suitable for use requires moving the voltage up and down via transformers, which are huge electrical grid devices that make use of a simple concept to create a significant impact.

Why we require transformers

The voltage is similar to the pressure of water. High voltage transmission lines indicates that charged electrons that comprise electricity are efficiently moving throughout the system, with less energy lost in the form of heat as they travel. But that same pressure is not enough for a phone that is charging. It's likely to overload the circuits of the phone and leave users with burning mess.

This is where transformers come into. Electricity is generated at a range of voltages throughout Great Britain, depending on the various types of generation. To get it to the place where there is demand without wasting energy as heat during the way an electric transformer connected to power generators with large capacities biomass power station or Beatrice offshore wind farms can increase the voltage to 275,000v or 400,000v. The voltage is determined by what component of the transmission network that the power station is linked to.

When electricity is brought through Pylons in a specific region in Great Britain, another transformer reduces the voltage to 132,000 volts to power regional distribution systems. Then, another transformer lowers the voltage to 11000v for villages and towns, prior to a final transformer reducing the voltage to level of 230v, which is suitable for commercial and residential.

The idea of keeping the voltage high helps in preventing the loss of energy to heat, however, it does another thing that is crucial to the electric current that is circulating across the nation.


Keep the voltage high to reduce the current

If voltage represents tension of water, the current represents the water molecules that move through pipes. In terms of electrical terminology, the term "current" refers to charged electrons which drive our lights and other devices.

When electrons travel through the cables of the electric grid, they encounter and this results in some of the electrical energy to go to heat. Finding the appropriate amount of electricity required across the country is about keeping the loss of energy to a minimum. In the event that the power is less than the voltage, less charged electrons are rubbing against resistance at any place in the system and therefore less energy going to waste.

For grids increasing the power voltage results in a decrease in current and reverse. How transformers accomplish this is a matter of coils.

Voltage of winding up and down

Transformers are powered by the principle of electromagnetic induction. It was which the British science researcher Michael Faraday first realised in 1831. He noticed that as the magnet was moved across the copper wires of a coil and a current flowed across the wires. This is the same principle that allows spinning turbines to produce electricity today.

Similar to when a current runs through a copper wire that is wrapped around the iron core the core is magnetic.

Faraday was a scientist who experimented with conducting currents through multiple copper coils. However, it was a scientist as well as Irish priest Fr. Nicholas Callan who in 1836 identified the basic principle that underlies most transformers in the world currently. He discovered that if two distinct pairs of copper wires are wound around the edges of the iron core, and the current of electricity flowed by one (the principal winding) then there is a magnetic field created which triggers the flow of electricity through the secondary winding.

But, the situation changes based on the number of times each wire is wrapped in the middle. When there's more turns on the second winding than in the primary, then the moment a charge is generated, the voltage rises. If there are less turnings in the secondary one than in the primary winding, the voltage drops.

Furthermore, Father Callan discovered that the rise or decrease in power is proportional to how much turns within the windings. Therefore, theoretically speaking when an electric current that has 5V of voltage is traversed via a principal winding that has 10 turns, and then creates the flow of current through a second winding having 20 turns and the voltage is also increase, in this instance to 10V.

The invention of Father Callan is referred to for its induction coil in which the two sets of windings connect to the same iron rod. Since then, the transformer has been subject to constant revision as well as optimisation, and has been adapted to various applications. But the fundamental principle of making use of electromagnetic induction to boost and decrease voltage has remained the same.

From power stations to homes


One of the most popular kinds of transformers is distribution transformers, which are typically located at the base of utility poles that are near homes. They perform the final step of lowering voltage in local distribution networks to 230 V when the electricity flows into business and homes.

They typically make use of an iron core that appears as hollow squares with windings wrapped around both sides. If a current is passed through the core, and is magnetized by it, the iron core is able to expand and contract, an action called magnetostriction. It may cause enough vibration to cause an audible sound.

In these types of transformers, it is safe for the current to flow via in the air that runs between both windings however, where higher power is utilized, for instance Power Station - the largest pumped storage facility in Scotland Different methods are required. The large power station-sized transformers are submerged into a specially insulation oil within a metal container. The oil is used to provide electrical insulation that prevents short circuits and also cools winds and the central core, which helps prevent destruction and even failure.

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