Construction wise, an alternator consists of field poles placed on the rotating fixture of the machine i.e. rotor as shown in the figure above. The rotor rotates in the stator. The field poles get projected on the rotor body. The armature conductors are housed on the stator. An alternating three-phase voltage represented by aa’, bb’, cc’ is induced in the armature conductors thus resulting in the generation of three-phase electrical power. All modern electrical power generating stations use this technology for generation of three-phase power, and as a result, the alternator or synchronous generator has become a subject of great importance and interest for power engineers.
An alternator is basically a type of AC generator which also known as synchronous generator. The field poles are made to rotate at synchronous speed Ns = 120 f/P for effective power generation. Where, f signifies the alternating current frequency and the P represents the number of poles.
In most practical construction of alternator, it is installed with a stationary armature winding and a rotating field unlike in the case of DC generator where the arrangement is exactly opposite. This modification is made to cope with the very high power of the order of few 100 Megawatts produced in an AC generator contrary to that of a DC generator. To accommodate such high power the conductor weighs and dimensions naturally have to be increased for optimum performance. For this reason is it beneficial to replace these high power armature windings by low power field windings, which is also consequently of much lighter weight, thus reducing the centrifugal force required to turn the rotor and permitting higher speed limits.
There are mainly two types of rotor used in construction of alternator,
- Salient pole type.
- Cylindrical rotor type.
Salient Pole Type
The term salient means protruding or projecting. The salient pole type of rotor is generally used for slow speed machines having large diameters and relatively small axial lengths. The poles, in this case, are made of thick laminated steel sections riveted together and attached to a rotor with the help of joint.
An alternator as mentioned earlier is mostly responsible for generation of very high electrical power. To enable that, the mechanical input given to the machine in terms of rotating torque must also be very high. This high torque value results in oscillation or hunting effect of the alternator or synchronous generator. To prevent these oscillations from going beyond bounds the damper winding is provided in the pole faces as shown in the figure. The damper windings are basically copper bars short-circuited at both ends are placed in the holes made in the pole axis. When the alternator is driven at a steady speed, the relative velocity of the damping winding with respect to the main field will be zero. But as soon as it departs from the synchronous speed there will be relative motion between the damper winding and the main field which is always rotating at synchronous speed. This relative difference will induce the current in them which will exert a torque on the field poles in such a way as to bring the alternator back to synchronous speed operation.
The salient feature of pole field structure has the following special feature-
- They have a large horizontal diameter compared to a shorter axial length.
- The pole shoes covers only about 2/3rd of pole pitch.
- Poles are laminated to reduce eddy current loss.
- The salient pole type motor is generally used for low-speed operations of around 100 to 400 rpm, and they are used in power stations with hydraulic turbines or diesel engines.
Salient pole alternators driven by water turbines are called hydro-alternators or hydro generators.
Cylindrical Rotor Type
The cylindrical rotor is generally used for very high speed operation and employed in steam turbine driven alternators like turbogenerators. The machines are built in a number of ratings from 10 MVA to over 1500 MVA. The cylindrical rotor type machine has a uniform length in all directions, giving a cylindrical shape to the rotor thus providing uniform flux cutting in all directions. The rotor, in this case, consists of a smooth solid steel cylinder, having a number of slots along its outer periphery for hosting the field coils.
The cylindrical rotor alternators are generally designed for 2-pole type giving very high speed of
Or 4-pole type running at a speed of
Where, f is the frequency of 50 Hz.
The cylindrical rotor synchronous generator does not have any projections coming out from the surface of the rotor, rather central polar area is provided with slots for housing the field windings as we can see from the diagram above. The field coils are so arranged around these poles that flux density is maximum on the polar central line and gradually falls away as we move out towards the periphery. The cylindrical rotor type machine gives better balance and quieter-operation along with lesser windage losses.