Electromotive force


Electromotive force

Electromotive force is the electrical action produced by a non-electrical sourceA device that converts other forms of energy into electrical energy (a "transducer"), such as a battery (converting chemical energy) or generator (converting mechanical energy), provides an emf as its output. Sometimes an analogy to water "pressure" is used to describe electromotive force. (The word "force" in this case is not used to mean force of interaction between bodies, as may be measured in pounds or newtons.)

In electromagnetic induction, emf can be defined around a closed loop of conductor as the electromagnetic work that would be done on an electric charge (an electron in this instance) if it travels once around the loop. For a time-varying magnetic flux linking a loop, the electric potential scalar field is not defined due to a circulating electric vector field, but an emf nevertheless does work that can be measured as a virtual electric potential around the loop

In the case of a two-terminal device (such as an electrochemical cell) which is modeled as a Thévenin's equivalent circuit, the equivalent emf can be measured as the open-circuit potential difference or "voltage" between the two terminals. This potential difference can drive an electric current if an external circuit is attached to the terminals.

Devices that can provide emf include electrochemical cells, thermoelectric devices, solar cells, photodiodes, electrical generators, transformers and even Van de Graaff generators. In nature, emf is generated whenever magnetic field fluctuations occur through a surface. The shifting of the Earth's magnetic field during a geomagnetic storm induces currents in the electrical grid as the lines of the magnetic field are shifted about and cut across the conductors.

In the case of a battery, the charge separation that gives rise to a voltage difference between the terminals is accomplished by chemical reactions at the electrodes that convert chemical potential energy into electromagnetic potential energy. 


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Journal of Analytical Electrochemistry