Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Kevin Chen
Inductors and conductors are vital electronic components. Even though they look similar, they are very different. In this article, we are going to break down the differences between inductors vs transformers.
What is an inductor?
An inductor is a coil of wire that has a magnetic field. This magnetic field is created by the current flowing through the wire. An inductor is also called an electromagnet when there is current flowing through it. The direction of the electric field is opposite to the direction of the magnetic field in an inductor.
An inductor can be used to store energy in a circuit because of its electric and magnetic fields. When current flows through an inductor, energy is stored in its magnetic field. When a circuit with an inductor is opened, energy flows back into the circuit as current, thus giving it a spike in voltage.
What is a transformer?
A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another. A transformer has two windings of wire that have different magnetic fields. The current flowing through the windings creates a magnetic field around the transformer, which is used to change the voltage in the other circuit.
In an inductor, the current creates a magnetic field around it. This magnetic field can be used to change the voltage in a circuit connected to it. In a transformer, current flowing through both windings creates an electric field that changes the voltage in the other circuit connected to it.
Uses: Inductors vs transformers
Inductors and transformers differ in their application areas. Inductors are used in electrical power systems, where they are used to store energy. Transformers are used in electronic equipment, where they are used to change voltage.
Design: Inductors vs transformers
Inductors and transformers differ in their design. Inductors are made up of coils of wire (or a single coil) that are wound around a core. The windings are connected to each other through the core. Transformers use a form of magnetic coupling, where the windings are connected to each other through the core of iron or copper.
The main difference between inductive and transformer circuits is that transformers can be used with AC (alternating current), while inductors cannot.
Types of transformers: Inductors vs transformers
Inductors can be divided into different types:
These are a class of transformers where the primary winding is composed of magnetic materials. These materials are usually iron-based, such as iron powder or ferrite.
Non-magnetic inductors are used in applications that require low current or low power. They have lower efficiency than their magnetic counterparts.
-Air core inductors: These are used in applications where the inductor has to be of low weight and size. They are also used in applications where the inductor has to be placed close to a ground plane.
Coil form inductors
These are used in applications where the inductance is required for high current and high power. They are also used in applications that require low weight and size.
Helical form inductors
These are used in applications that require high efficiency.
In order to get higher efficiency, helical forms of inductors are more preferred over coil form of inductors because they have lower winding losses, higher voltage rating, and better ripple rejection capability.
The most common types of transformers include
-Single-phase transformers: These are used in applications where low power and low current is required.
-Three-phase transformers: These are used in applications that require high power and high current.
-Four phase transformers: These are used in applications that require high power, higher current, and medium voltage.
-Zirconium oxide (ZrO) transformer cores: Zirconium oxide transformer cores have higher resistivity than iron or copper, which is useful for reducing the losses of transmission lines. They are also typically more expensive than iron or copper core transformers, but they have better insulation properties and lower thermal losses.
–Step-down transformer: These are used in applications that require high power and low current.
-Step-up transformer: These are used in applications that require high power and high current.
Can I use an inductor as a transformer?
No. Inductors are not suitable as transformers, because they only work with AC current.
Inductor and transformer are both used to transform the voltage of one circuit to another.
In order for an inductor to be used as a transformer, it must be able to carry the same amount of current that the circuit is designed for. If it does not have enough current capacity, then there will be a voltage drop across the inductor, which will result in an increase in resistance in the circuit.
Because of this, an inductor cannot be used as a transformer because it would have too much resistance and not enough current capacity. However, with the correct type of winding on a transformer though, there will not be any problem with having too much resistance.
Buying inductors and transformers
When buying inductors and transformers, there are several factors that you have to consider.
-Transformer and inductor core material: Iron and steel core transformers are more common than aluminium core inductors. Aluminum core transformers are more common than iron or steel core inductors.
-Core material temperature: The higher the temperature of the core material, the higher the thermal resistance of that material. This reduces the power loss in an inductor or transformer. For example, a 75 °C ferrite has a thermal resistance of 10 °C/W while a 150 °C ferrite has a thermal resistance of only 6 °C/W.
-Core material thickness:The thicker the core material, the larger the diameter it will take to fit into a given housing. The lower the thickness, the smaller the required diameters.
-Core material type: Ferrite cores are cheaper and more commonly available than powdered iron cores.
-Inductor to core coupling capacitance: This governs the amount of stray capacitance that can be added to the inductor or transformer without affecting the performance.
-Inductor to core coupling resistance: This governs the amount of stray resistance that can be added to the inductor or transformer without affecting the performance.
-Inductor tolerance: Inductors are precision parts and so it is important to make sure that you buy a quality product with good tolerances.
I hope that you now know the differences between inductors and transformers. And in case you want to buy one, just use the information in this guide.
In case you are looking for inductors and transformers in China, let ICRFQ be your trading partner. We are a sourcing agent of electronics in China. Inductors and transformers are some of the products that we deal with.
Contact us and we will help to deliver quality inductors.
If you want to find more Electronic Components Distributors, please check out the following articles:
- The Art of Sourcing: How We Identify and Partner with Top IC Manufacturers - November 24, 2023
- Essential Electronics Test Equipment You Should Know About - November 24, 2023
- How To Finish PCBA Design Process Quickly? - November 24, 2023