How does electricity make a motor turn?

Get to grips with the basics of electromagnetism

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Electric motors use magnets to convert electricity into motion. Electrons have weak magnetic properties, but these usually cancel each other out. An electric current, however, forces unpaired electrons inside a metal wire to line up, allowing them to join forces and create a coherent magnetic field. How does electricity make a motor turn?

This field is very weak, but by wrapping the wire into a coil its strength is multiplied – this is an electromagnet. Inside an electric motor, permanent magnets are set onto a ring surrounding a coil of wire. When the appliance’s switch is flicked on, electrons flow through the wire, turning it into an electromagnet.

The attractive and repulsive forces of the permanent magnets around it make the electromagnet spin. This circular motion is then used to power anything from a fan to an electric car.

Answered by Alexandra Cheung

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