Category: Motor history

Background and history of DC motors

This summer was just too busy. My children are growing up, playing sports – softball, basketball, and ultimate frisbee, getting married, and having children of their own. As such, Mrs. “Motorsarefun” wanted to see the boys play their sports, our daughter perform in the latest Distinguished Young Women program, and visit our new grandchild. Fall, winter, and spring do allow more time to write and reflect on things other than work, children, and grandchildren. It has been said that if you wanted to make time for it, you would. I have no excuse.

Did want to write a very brief history on DC motors since I have noticed that there are a lot of people that are looking for information on building DC motors, watching a few videos, and downloading the PowerPoint on how to build a fast DC motor. Not many have taken the time to visit the “History of Electric Motors” page. Thought I’d pen a few words about that.

If you have visited this blog much, you know that at the basic level electric motors convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. Mainly this is done by way of two interacting magnetic fields. One of the magnetic fields is stationary and the other magnetic field is attached to a moving part. DC motors have the potential for high torque, they are easy to scale down, and can be regulated or “throttled” by adjusting the supply voltage. Surprisingly, DC motors are not only the simplest they are the oldest electric motors. Also, they are simple to build.

In the early 1800’s there were several inventors that discovered principles related to electromagnetic induction (EMI). Some of these inventors were Hans Christian Oersted, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Michael Faraday, Joseph Henry and William Sturgeon. By around 1820 Oersted and Andre Marie Ampere discovered that an electric current produces a magnetic field. This was a real breakthrough and it led to greater experimentation and innovative thinking for the next 15 years. After a lot of experimenting took place, the first, simple DC rotary motor was invented in a lab but not for commercial use.

One of our future blogs will introduce the first person that has been identified as the inventor of the electric motor.


Quote for the Day:  “If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”– George Burns.

Where are these mystery motors?

What does a hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, computer, and a blueray player have in common? They all contain electric motors. However, if you ask your friends or parents if they have seen an electric motor most will say they don’t see them on a daily basis like they see a light bulb or a smartphone. The main reason is that an electric motor is usually found inside appliances like a hair dryer or a blender. If you do take a walk through your home, you’ll probably find as many as 20 or 25 motors hidden in electrical devices, appliances, and toys.

A motor turns electrical energy into mechanical energy. As such, a motor can take electricity and turn it into mechanical advantage that can be used by us in our everyday living.

Once we understand that a motor uses electricity to function, we can then introduce the second requirement for a motor and that is magnetism. An electric motor uses both magnetism and electric currents to work. You can classify motors in various ways. One of the major classifications has to do with the types of motors and the current they use – the first is called Alternating Current (AC) and the second one is called Direct Current (DC). In this site we mainly consider and build those that use DC motors driven by batteries or what is called a “brick.” A brick is an electrical device designed by Electrical Engineers that converts AC to DC.

Michael Faraday, an English scientist, began his career in chemistry. Eventually he made his greatest contributions to technology and science in the study of electricity, particularly electrolysis. In 1821 he invented and built the first electric motor. Joseph Henry was also working with motors. Faraday and Henry have both been credited with building the first electric motors.

To sum up – motors are used everywhere and we cannot live without them. They are used in cars (to help start them or as fans for air conditioning) or in many appliances and toys. So, even though many people cannot identify where motors are located, the electric motor has become a very useful and practical invention.