A Guide to How Eddy-Current Brakes Work

An object in motion produces kinetic energy. The amount is equal to half its mass multiplied by its velocity squared.

Double the mass means double the energy. However, double the velocity equals four times the latter.

The kinetic energy must go somewhere else to stop a moving object. Mechanical brakes achieve this goal using friction. Rubbing two surfaces together converts it to heat, halting them. 

However, using friction for massive and fast objects presents several issues. It is where eddy current brakes enter the scene. If you want to learn how they work, keep reading below.

The Technology Behind Eddy Current Brakes

Eddy current brakes rely on electromagnetism to stop moving objects. It dissipates kinetic energy as heat through looping electric currents inside a conductor.

These are eddy currents. Changing magnetic fields induce an opposite magnetic field. It swirls inside the material instead of flowing away as an electrical current would with a wire.

Following Lenz’s law, these currents don’t have a random direction. Instead, they flow opposite of the initial magnetic field.

The moving conductor faces a drag force from the opposite direction, proportional to its velocity. The flowing current generates heat from kinetic energy through the electrical resistance. They try to stop whatever’s causing them, allowing us to use the eddy current technology for brakes.

The result is a clean deceleration, unlike a sudden force from friction. Eddy current brakes are low-maintenance since they need no physical contact between components to produce braking energy. The materials don’t wear out as fast as in a mechanical brake.

Eddy Current Brake Design

How does an electric brake create eddy currents? One design uses a non-ferromagnetic conductive disc, which rotates perpendicularly in a toroidal magnetic field.

The rotation of the disc induces eddy currents. As a result, the power generated dissipates throughout the material, creating a braking torque force.

The eddy current braking technology usually uses electromagnets. However, unlike permanent magnets, these types can change. As a result, the braking effect can vary as well.

Applications of Eddy Current Brakes

One caveat of eddy current brakes is that they can’t produce a holding torque. As such, they commonly exist alongside a mechanical feature. 

You’ll find this combination in several applications, such as the gym. Modern exercise equipment uses this technology to vary resistance levels. Unfortunately, it also helps avoid abrupt shifts in pace, potentially harming the users.

You’ll also see eddy current brakes in the amusement park. Huge, heavy machines need a secure braking system to keep the experience fun and safe. With this technology, roller coasters can slow down at designated spots and stop quickly and safely when needed.

Power tools and industrial equipment also rely on this technology for emergency shut-off purposes. For example, Eddy currents can bring a high-powered machine to a sudden stop.

Learn More About Eddy Current Brakes

Eddy current brakes offer a safer experience for everyone, even in our daily lives. As a result, several industries use this technology as a crucial part of their safety measures.

There are also more types of brakes for other applications. Are you looking for eddy current brakes? To learn more, contact us today.

Posted in Industrial Brakes and Clutches.