DC Motors: Types, Working Principles, Applications, and a Brief History

Motors that are currently used in various fields and have application prospects include DC motors, AC motors, permanent magnet synchronous motors, linear motors, servo motors, and switched reluctance motors. Are you curious about how direct current motors power everything from your car’s window to sophisticated robotics?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore their various types, delve into the working principles that make them tick, uncover their historical evolution, and discover the wide-ranging applications that rely on their capabilities.

What is DC Motors?

DC motor is an electrical machine designed to convert electrical energy from a direct current (DC) power source into mechanical energy or rotational torque. These motors play a fundamental role in various industries and applications, offering precise control over speed range and direction.

Historical Evolution of DC Motors

DC motors

It began in the early 1800s when Michael Faraday and Joseph Henry independently discovered the principles of electromagnetic rotation, which are the foundation of motor technology.

In 1832, British scientist William Sturgeon invented the commutator, a crucial component that marked the first practical use of a DC motor.

Following Sturgeon’s invention, Thomas Davenport, an American blacksmith, built and patented the first practical DC motor in 1837. His models were used in small-scale applications and were the first motors to be used commercially.

The real breakthrough came in the 1870s with the work of Zénobe Gramme, a Belgian inventor who improved the design of the commutator. His enhancements significantly increased the efficiency and reliability of DC motors, leading to their widespread adoption in industrial applications.

By the turn of the 20th century, DC motors had begun to power everything from household appliances to factory machinery, thanks to their ability to provide high torque and precise speed control. The introduction of the armature winding technique by Nikola Tesla further improved the performance of these motors.

Throughout the 20th century, advancements in materials science and electronic control technology have continuously refined the design and efficiency of DC motors. Today, they are more compact, efficient, and powerful than ever, playing a crucial role in many aspects of modern life.

what is dc motors

Basic Components Of A DC Motor


The stationary part of the motor that generates a magnetic field. It consists of field windings or permanent magnets.


The rotor is the rotating part of the motor, often combined with the armature, which includes windings that carry the input current. As current flows through these windings, a secondary magnetic field is generated.


A commutator, attached to the armature, alternates the direction of the current in the windings. As the armature spins, the commutator periodically reverses the current’s direction, ensuring that the magnetic forces oppose and continue to push the rotor.


Also in brushed DC motor, brushes are conductive components that maintain electrical contact with the commutator, allowing current to flow into the rotor windings.

Working Principles of DC Motors

There is a ring-shaped permanent magnet fixed inside the DC motor, and the current passes through the coil on the rotor to generate ampere force. When the coil on the rotor is parallel to the magnetic field, the direction of the magnetic field will change as it continues to rotate. Therefore, at this time, the brushes at the end of the rotor are in alternate contact with the converter piece, so the direction of the current on the coil also changes, and the direction of the Lorentz force generated remains unchanged, so the motor can keep rotating in one direction.

You must grasp two fundamental principles of how DC motors operate:

Faraday’s Law and Electromagnetic Induction

Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction states that a changing magnetic field induces an electromotive force (EMF) or voltage in a conductor. In the context of DC motor, this principle underlies the generation of torque.

As current flows through the armature windings, it creates a magnetic field, and the interaction between this field and the magnetic field of the stator generates rotational motion.

Lorentz Force and Commutation

The Lorentz force principle plays a crucial role in DC motor operation. It states that when a current-carrying conductor is placed in a magnetic field, a force is exerted on the conductor.

In a DC motor, commutation is the process of switching the direction of current flow in the armature windings to maintain continuous rotation. This precise control over the direction of the magnetic field ensures the rotor turns in the desired direction.

Types of DC Motors

DC motors come in diverse types, each tailored to specific applications and scenarios. Let’s explore prominent types of motors:

Brushed DC Motors

Structure and Components: Brushed motors comprise a rotor (armature), stator, commutator, and brushes. The brushes maintain electrical contact with the commutator, allowing for continuous rotation.

Working Principle: When current flows through the armature, it interacts with the magnetic field produced by the stator, generating torque and causing the rotor to turn.

Applications: Brushed DC motors find use in applications demanding simplicity and cost-effectiveness, such as household appliances and automotive systems.

Brushless DC Motors (BLDC)

Design and Components: BLDC motors consist of a stationary stator and a rotor with permanent magnets. They lack brushes and commutators.

Working Principle: BLDC motors employ electronic commutation, where the direction of the magnetic field is controlled electronically. This design enhances efficiency and reduces wear.

Applications: BLDC motors are ideal for applications requiring high efficiency, precision, and reliability, such as electric vehicles and industrial automation.

Series DC Motors

Characteristics: Series DC motors have the armature and field windings connected in series. They provide high torque at low speeds.

Application: It is suitable for applications like electric forklifts and tractors.

Shunt DC Motors

Characteristics: Shunt DC motors have armature and field windings connected in parallel (shunt). They offer good speed regulation

Application: They often apply to constant-speed applications, such as conveyor belts.

Compound DC Motors

Characteristics: Compound DC motors combine the characteristics of both series-wound and shunt-wound motors. They have a series winding for high starting torque and a shunt winding for speed regulation.

Application: These motors are versatile and find use in various industrial applications.

Permanent Magnet DC Motors (PMDC)

Characteristics: PMDC motors have permanent magnets on the stator, creating a fixed magnetic field. They are simple and efficient.

Application: They are suitable for smaller applications like electric toys and household appliances.

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DC motor is a fundamental component of modern mechanical and electrical systems, driving a multitude of applications with their versatile and efficient operation. By understanding the underlying working principles of DC motor, you can better appreciate how these devices convert electrical energy into mechanical motion. As technology evolves, we can anticipate even more remarkable applications for these versatile and enduring devices.


What distinguishes brushed DC motors from brushless DC motors?

Brushed DC motors and brushless DC motors (BLDC) are different by their fundamental design and operation. In a brushed DC motor, the rotor features windings, and it relies on a commutator and brushes for current switching.

These brushes maintain electrical contact with the commutator, allowing for continuous rotation. Conversely, brushless DC motors eliminate brushes and commutators, employing electronic commutation instead.

The rotor in a BLDC motor typically contains permanent magnets, and the direction of the magnetic field is controlled electronically.

This design enhances efficiency, reduces maintenance, and offers precise control over speed and direction, making BLDC motors ideal for various modern applications.

Why are brushless DC motors preferred in electric vehicles (EVs)?

BLDC motors offer higher efficiency, lower maintenance, and longer lifespan compared to brushed DC motors, making them ideal for EV propulsion.

What is the primary difference between AC and DC motors?

The primary difference between AC and DC motors is the type of electric current they use. AC motors run on alternating current, where the direction of current changes periodically, while DC motors operate on direct current with a continuous, unidirectional flow of electricity.

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