Faraday's Law of Induction
Faraday's law of induction is a basic law of electromagnetism that predicts how a magnetic field will interact with an electric circuit to produce an electromotive force (EMF). It is the fundamental operating principle of transformers, inductors, and many types of electrical motors, generators, and solenoids.
Faraday’s experiments showed that the EMF induced by a change in magnetic flux depends on only a few factors. First, EMF is directly proportional to the change in flux ΔΦ. Second, EMF is greatest when the change in time Δt is smallest—that is, EMF is inversely proportional to Δt. Finally, if a coil has N turns, an EMF will be produced that is N times greater than for a single coil, so that EMF is directly proportional to N. The equation for the EMF induced by a change in magnetic flux is
This relationship is known as Faraday’s law of induction. The units for EMF are volts, as is usual.
The minus sign in Faraday’s law of induction is very important. The minus means that the EMF creates a current I and magnetic field B that oppose the change in flux ΔΦ—this is known as Lenz’ law. The direction (given by the minus sign) of the EMF is so important that it is called Lenz’ law after the Russian Heinrich Lenz (1804–1865), who, like Faraday and Henry, independently investigated aspects of induction. Faraday was aware of the direction, but Lenz stated it, so he is credited for its discovery (Figure 1).
Lenz’ law is a manifestation of the conservation of energy. The induced EMF produces a current that opposes the change in flux, because a change in flux means a change in energy. Energy can enter or leave, but not instantaneously. Lenz’ law is a consequence. As the change begins, the law says induction opposes and, thus, slows the change. In fact, if the induced EMF were in the same direction as the change in flux, there would be a positive feedback that would give us free energy from no apparent source—conservation of energy would be violated.