What is a Transformer?


A transformer is an inductive electrical device for changing the voltage of alternating current.

How does a transformer work?

A transformer consists of two magnetically coupled coils. Alternating current in one (called the "primary") creates a changing magnetic field which induces a current in the second coil (the "secondary"). A core made of iron or ferrite generally connects the two coils, but higher frequency devices can work without a ferrous core.

What is a transformer used for?

Transformers have two primary functions: Voltage transformation and isolation:

  • The voltage of the secondary can be higher or lower than the voltage that drives the primary and is determined by the ratio of turns of wire in the two coils.
  • Isolation refers to the fact that the coils are connected only by a magnetic field, so they can be independent of a common ground.

Primary applications are for power and for signal isolation / impedance transformation.

An autotransformer is a transformer with a single coil with intermediate "taps" to effect the changed outgoing voltages. They do not provide isolation.

Transformer capacity is rated in kilovolt-amps (KVA): The volts x amps / 1000.


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