AC Waveform | Sinusoidal Waveform | Basic Electronics| Periodic Waveform | Sine Waves | Electronics4you|

An alternating function or AC Waveform on the other hand is defined as one that varies in both magnitude and direction in more or less an even manner with respect to time making it a “Bi-directional” waveform. An AC function can represent either a power source or a signal source with the shape of an AC waveform generally following that of a mathematical sinusoid as defined by:- A(t) = Amax x sin(2πƒt).

The term AC or to give it its full description of Alternating Current, generally refers to a time-varying waveform with the most common of all being called a Sinusoid better known as a Sinusoidal Waveform. Sinusoidal waveforms are more generally called by their short description as Sine Waves. Sine waves are by far one of the most important types of AC waveform used in electrical engineering.

The shape obtained by plotting the instantaneous ordinate values of either voltage or current against time is called an AC Waveform. An AC waveform is constantly changing its polarity every half cycle alternating between a positive maximum value and a negative maximum value respectively with regards to time with a common example of this being the domestic mains voltage supply we use in our homes.

This means then that the AC Waveform is a “time-dependent signal” with the most common type of time-dependant signal being that of the Periodic Waveform. The periodic or AC waveform is the resulting product of a rotating electrical generator. Generally, the shape of any periodic waveform can be generated using a fundamental frequency and superimposing it with harmonic signals of varying frequencies and amplitudes but that’s for another tutorial.

Alternating voltages and currents can not be stored in batteries or cells like direct current can, it is much easier and cheaper to generate them using alternators and waveform generators when needed. The type and shape of an AC waveform depends upon the generator or device producing them, but all AC waveforms consist of a zero voltage line that divides the waveform into two symmetrical halves. The main characteristics of an AC Waveform are defined as:

The time taken for an AC Waveform to complete one full pattern from its positive half to its negative half and back to its zero baseline again is called a Cycle and one complete cycle contains both a positive half-cycle and a negative half-cycle. The time taken by the waveform to complete one full cycle is called the Periodic Time of the waveform, and is given the symbol “T”.

The number of complete cycles that are produced within one second (cycles/second) is called the Frequency, symbol ƒ of the alternating waveform. Frequency is measured in Hertz, ( Hz ) named after the German physicist Heinrich Hertz.

Then we can see that a relationship exists between cycles (oscillations), periodic time and frequency (cycles per second), so if there are ƒ number of cycles in one second, each individual cycle must take 1/ƒ seconds to complete.

In alternating current (AC, also ac), the flow of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current (DC, also dc), the flow of electric charge is only in one direction. The abbreviations AC and DC are often used to mean simply alternating and direct, as when they modify current or voltage.

AC is the form in which electric power is delivered to businesses and residences. The usual waveform of an AC power circuit is a sine wave. In certain applications, different waveforms are used, such as triangular or square waves. Audio and radio signals carried on electrical wires are also examples of alternating current. In these applications, an important goal is often the recovery of information encoded (or modulated) onto the AC signal.

  • AC power supply frequencies

The frequency of the electrical system varies by country; most electric power is generated at either 50 or 60 hertz. Some countries have a mixture of 50 Hz and 60 Hz supplies, notably electricity power transmission in Japan.

A low frequency eases the design of electric motors, particularly for hoisting, crushing and rolling applications, and commutator-type traction motors for applications such as railways. However, low frequency also causes noticeable flicker in arc lamps and incandescent light bulbs. The use of lower frequencies also provided the advantage of lower impedance losses, which are proportional to frequency. The original Niagara Falls generators were built to produce 25 Hz power, as a compromise between low frequency for traction and heavy induction motors, while still allowing incandescent lighting to operate (although with noticeable flicker). Most of the 25 Hz residential and commercial customers for Niagara Falls power were converted to 60 Hz by the late 1950s, although some[which?] 25 Hz industrial customers still existed as of the start of the 21st century. 16.7 Hz power (formerly 16 2/3 Hz) is still used in some European rail systems, such as in Austria, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Off-shore, military, textile industry, marine, computer mainframe, aircraft, and spacecraft applications sometimes use 400 Hz, for benefits of reduced weight of apparatus or higher motor speeds.

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