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Homopolar motor

DIY simple homopolar motor made with a drywall screw, a battery cell, a wire, and a disk magnet. The magnet is on top of
the screw head. The screw and magnet make contact with the
bottom of the battery cell and are held together by the magnets
attraction. The screw and magnet spin, with the screw tip acting
as a bearing.

Electromagnetic rotation experiment of Faraday, ca. 1821[2]

A homopolar motor is a direct current electric motor

with two magnetic poles, the conductors of which always cut unidirectional lines of magnetic ux by rotating a conductor around a xed axis that is parallel to the
magnetic eld. The resulting EMF (Electromotive Force)
being continuous in one direction, the homopolar motor
needs no commutator but still requires slip rings.[1] The
name homopolar indicates that the electrical polarity of
the conductor and the magnetic eld poles do not change
(i.e., that it does not require commutation).

from a chemical battery. These experiments and inventions formed the foundation of modern electromagnetic
technology. In his excitement, Faraday published results
without acknowledging his work with either Wollaston or
Davy. The resulting controversy within the Royal Society strained his mentor relationship with Davy and may
well have contributed to Faradays assignment to other activities, which consequently prevented his involvement in
electromagnetic research, for several years.[6][7]

B. G. Lamme described in 1912 a homopolar machine

rated 2,000 kW, 260 V, 7,700 A and 1,200 rpm with 16
slip rings operating at a peripheral velocity of 67 m/s. A
1 History
unipolar generator rated 1,125 kW, 7.5 V 150,000 A, 514
installed in a U.S. steel mill for pipe
The homopolar motor was the rst electrical motor to be rpm built in 1934 was
built. Its operation was demonstrated by Michael Faraday
in 1821 at the Royal Institution in London.[3][4]
In 1821, soon after the Danish physicist and chemist
Hans Christian rsted discovered the phenomenon of
electromagnetism, Humphry Davy and British scientist
William Hyde Wollaston tried, but failed, to design an
electric motor.[5] Faraday, having discussed the problem
with the two men, went on to build two devices to produce
what he called electromagnetic rotation. One of these,
now known as the homopolar motor, caused a continuous circular motion that was engendered by the circular
magnetic force around a wire that extended into a pool of
mercury wherein was placed a magnet. The wire would
then rotate around the magnet if supplied with current

2 Principle of operation
The homopolar motor is driven by the Lorentz force: as it
moves through a magnetic eld, the conductor is pushed
through a magnetic eld by opposing forces. This force
induces a torque around the axis of rotation.[9] Because
the axis of rotation is parallel to the magnetic eld, and
the opposing magnetic elds do not change polarity, no
commutation is required for the conductor to keep turning. This simplicity is achieved at the cost of not being
able to have more than one coil turn, which makes this

congured homopolar motor unsuited for most useful applications. Homopolar motors have advantages and disadvantages and have not been fully developed.
Like most electro-mechanical machines, a homopolar
motor is reversible: if the conductor is turned mechanically, then it will operate as a homopolar generator, producing a direct current voltage between the two terminals
of the conductor. The direct current produced is an eect
of the homopolar nature of the design.

Building a simple homopolar motor

A homopolar motor is very easy to build. A permanent

magnet is used to provide the external magnetic eld in
which the conductor will turn, and a battery causes a current to ow along a conducting wire. It is not necessary
for the magnet to move, or even to be in contact with the
rest of the motor; its sole purpose is to provide a magnetic
eld that will interact with the magnetic eld induced by
the current in the wire. One can attach the magnet to
the battery and allow the conducting wire to rotate freely
while closing the electric circuit by touching both the top
of the battery and the magnet attached to the bottom of
the battery. The wire and the battery may become hot if
operated continuously.[10][11]

Homopolar motor 3D
Homopolar motor 2D
Current, magnetic eld lines and Lorentz force on
Homopolar motor
Play media

Ball bearing motor

See also
Homopolar generators
Barlows wheel


7 References
[1] Lynn, L. (1949). Knowlton, A.E., ed. Standard Handbook for Electrical Engineers (8th ed.). McGraw-Hill.
|chapter= ignored (help)
[2] Faraday, Michael (1844). Experimental Researches in
Electricity 2. ISBN 0-486-43505-9. See plate 4.
[3] Michael Faraday, New Electro-Magnetic Apparatus,
Quarterly Journal of Science, Literature and the Arts 12,
186-187 (1821). Scanned pages
[4] Michael Faraday, Description of an Electro-magnetic
Apparatus for the Exhibition of Rotatory Motion, Quarterly Journal of Science, Literature and the Arts 12, 283285 (1821). Scanned pages Original illustration (plate) of
the homopolar motor, referred to on p. 283 of Faradays
second article. Index of Quarterly Journal for Faraday,
[5] Archives Biographies: Michael Faraday, The Institution
of Engineering and Technology.
[6] Hamiltons A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday, Giant
of the Scientic Revolution (2004) pp. 16571, 183, 187
[7] Cantors Michael Faraday, Sandemanian and Scientist
(1991) pp. 2313.
[8] Lynn, p. 842
[9] See, e.g., Richard P. Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on
Physics, vol. II, section 17-2, (Reading, MA: AddisonWesley, 1964). ISBN 0-201-02117-X
[10] How the build the simplest electric motor, from Evil
Mad Scientist Laboratories, Aug. 7, 2006
[11] How to make a homopolar motor, from Dangerously Fun,
Jan. 31, 2007

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