Applications of Magnetism

Motors, Generators, and Transformers


Believe it or not but motors are powered by magnetism! A motor works by a side of a magnet pushing on the opposite side of an electromagnet. An electromagnet is a different kind of magnet where it is powered by electricity. When electricity flows through a wire, a magnetic field is produced. A magnetic field is a space full of magnetism. When the opposite sides of the magnets push on each other, they move away from each other causing the electromagnet to turn. As it turns, it charges the motor causing the motor to turn. Now you can use your motor to do all sorts of things like power a flashlight!


Generators do the opposite of what motors do. Instead of making electricity into work, generators make work into electricity! Generators produce alternating currents. Alternating currents are when electricity changes the direction it is going. In order to start a generator, you need a handle or crank to rotate a metal rod in the center of the generator.  When the metal rod rotates, it creates electrical energy which powers a tool so you can use it!


Transformers make the voltage of a changing current go up or down. Transformers that make it go up are called "Step-up transformers". You could guess what a transformer that makes the voltage go down is called. Right! A transformer that decreases the voltage of something is called a "Step-down transformer". Voltage is the measure of how much electricity is running through something. If you are ever in a really bad storm and your power goes out, you might hear your mom or dad say "Looks like a transformer blew". The types of transformers that would be in your neighborhood would be a step-down transformer. Now you might ask, "Why would you need to decrease the voltage in your neighborhood?" Well voltage can be very powerful and if you don't decrease the voltage, your house could be damaged. You would use a step-up transformer when you send out the voltage to your houses. Then the step-down transformers decrease it even more so it can be safe for your house.