An electric generator turns the energy of motion into electrical energy. In this sense it is the opposite of a motor, which turns electrical energy into motion. It can use any type of fuel to operate. Electric generators are used to either store electricity in batteries or to run equipment directly. Many serve as a backup source of electricity in times of electric blackouts. Others use them to provide electricity when travelling away from the electrical grid. Generators are fairly simple pieces of machinery. You can build one at home.
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In the 19th Century almost all permanent magnet electric generators were homemade. In the year 1831, Michael Faraday discovered that changing magnetic fields can generate electricity. Utilising this discovery, he hand-built the world's first electric generator, using permanent magnets. Various scientists produced various homemade generators after him, but it was not until 1871 that the first generator with commercial possibilities was created.
A homemade electric generator can be made with two aluminium disks, steel strips, magnets, magnet wire, and a number of smaller iron disks. Mount an even number of magnets on one aluminium frame by drilling holes for them and attaching them with wide steel strips at the back. Wrap coils made of magnet wire around smaller iron disks and bolt them to the other disc. All that is necessary besides these elements is some way of making the magnet disk spin.
There are many different ways to make the magnets spin and produce electricity. You can use wind power to turn the magnet disk by attaching propeller blades to it. You can use water falling onto a water wheel to turn the magnets as well. Just attach the water wheel to the magnet disk and set the wheel in a stream, letting the water turn it. If the magnet plate is hooked up to the axle of a fuel motor then burning gas, diesel, or propane can be used to drive it. You can also simply bolt a handle to the magnet plate and turn it into a hand crank generator.
Neodymium magnets are the most powerful magnets of the modern age and are superior choices for use in a homemade permanent magnet generator. Neodymiun magnets can generate powerful forces between themselves and nearby metal objects. These forces can be powerful enough to crush fingers. Keep them away from metal objects and use sturdy work gloves when building devices involving them.
If your homemade generator is going to be used to charge a battery or run a direct current device, then you will need to change the alternating current produced by the generator into direct current. Purchase or construct a full wave rectifier and place it between the homemade generator and the device it is charging or running. This will change the alternating current into direct current.
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