AC Generator Vs. DC Generator

An electric generator produces electricity by spinning a coil of wire, called an armature or rotor, within a magnetic field. There are two types of electric generators: alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC).

  1. The Difference

    • A DC generator produces an electrical current that flows in only one direction, hence the term "direct current." The current produced by an AC generator, also called an alternator, constantly switches directions.


    • Each terminal of a DC generator's armature connects to a different segment of the commutator, which is a two-segmented metal ring. As the armature spins, so does the commutator, which transmits the electrical current to two graphite connectors called brushes. Each brush touches a different segment of the commutator every half rotation of the armature, thereby keeping the polarity of the electrical current positive and the current flowing in the same direction.


    • Instead of a two-segmented commutator, an AC generator has two metal slip rings which spin with the armature. Each terminal of the armature connects to a different slip ring. However, unlike a commutator, each slip ring transmits electrical current to just one brush, rather than a different brush every half rotation. A slip ring's polarity changes when the armature turns from one pole of the generator's magnet to the other, causing the electrical current to reverse directions.

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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images

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