The mighty power lines that criss-cross our countryside or wiggle unseen beneath city streets carry electricity at enormously high voltages from power plants to our homes. It’s not unusual for a power line to be rated at 300,000 to 750,000 volts—and some lines operate at even higher voltages. But the appliances in our homes use voltages thousands of times smaller—typically just 110 to 250 volts. If you tried to power a toaster or a TV set from an electricity pylon, it would instantly explode! (Don’t even think about trying, because the electricity in overhead lines will almost certainly kill you.) So there has to be some way of reducing the high voltage electricity from power plants to the lower voltage electricity used by factories, offices, and homes. The piece of equipment that does this, humming with electromagnetic energy as it goes, is called a transformer. Let’s take a closer look at how it works!

The transformer substation construction project in Hoanh Bo District, Quang Ninh Province, is being carried out by CTC

1. Why do we use high voltages?

Your first question is probably this: if our homes and offices are using photocopiers, computers, washing machines, and electric shavers rated at 110–250 volts, why don’t power stations simply transmit electricity at that voltage? Why do they use such high voltages? To explain that, we need to know a little about how electricity travels.
As electricity flows down a metal wire, the electrons that carry its energy jiggle through the metal structure, bashing and crashing about and generally wasting energy like unruly schoolchildren running down a corridor. That’s why wires get hot when electricity flows through them (something that’s very useful in electric toasters and other appliances that use heating elements). It turns out that the higher the voltage electricity you use, and the lower the current, the less energy is wasted in this way. So the electricity that comes from power plants is sent down the wires at extremely high voltages to save energy.

The underground 22kV cable line and transformer substation project (1250+2500+4000)KVA supplying electricity to the Vietnam Buwon 4 factory are being implemented by CTC

But there’s another reason too. Industrial plants have huge factory machines that are much bigger and more energy-hungry than anything you have at home. The energy an appliance uses is directly related (proportional) to the voltage it uses. So, instead of running on 110–250 volts, power-hungry machines might use 10,000–30,000 volts. Smaller factories and machine shops may need supplies of 400 volts or so. In other words, different electricity users need different voltages. It makes sense to ship high-voltage electricity from the power station and then transform it to lower voltages when it reaches its various destinations. (Even so, centralized power stations are still very inefficient. About two thirds of the energy that arrives at a power plant, in the form of raw fuel, is wasted in the plant itself and on the journey to your home

2. How does a transformer work?

A transformer is based on a very simple fact about electricity: when a fluctuating electric current flows through a wire, it generates a magnetic field (an invisible pattern of magnetism) or “magnetic flux” all around it. The strength of the magnetism (which has the rather technical name of magnetic flux density) is directly related to the size of the electric current. So the bigger the current, the stronger the magnetic field.
Now there’s another interesting fact about electricity too. When a magnetic field fluctuates around a piece of wire, it generates an electric current in the wire. So if we put a second coil of wire next to the first one, and send a fluctuating electric current into the first coil, we will create an electric current in the second wire. The current in the first coil is usually called the primary current and the current in the second wire is (surprise, surprise) the secondary current. What we’ve done here is pass an electric current through empty space from one coil of wire to another. This is called electromagnetic induction because the current in the first coil causes (or “induces”) a current in the second coil. We can make electrical energy pass more efficiently from one coil to the other by wrapping them around a soft iron bar (sometimes called a core)

To make a coil of wire, we simply curl the wire round into loops or (“turns” as physicists like to call them). If the second coil has the same number of turns as the first coil, the electric current in the second coil will be virtually the same size as the one in the first coil. But (and here’s the clever part) if we have more or fewer turns in the second coil, we can make the secondary current and voltage bigger or smaller than the primary current and voltage.
One important thing to note is that this trick works only if the electric current is fluctuating in some way. In other words, you have to use a type of constantly reversing electricity called alternating current (AC) with a transformer. Transformers do not work with direct current (DC), where a steady current constantly flows in the same direction.

3. Transformers in practice

If you’ve got some of these transformer chargers at home (normal ones or induction chargers), you’ll have noticed that they get warm after they’ve been on for a while. Because all transformers produce some waste heat, none of them are perfectly efficient: less electrical energy is produced by the secondary coil than we feed into the primary, and the waste heat accounts for most of the difference. On a small home cellphone charger, the heat loss is fairly minimal (less than that from an old-fashioned, incandescent light bulb) and not usually something to worry about.
In practice, most large transformers have built-in cooling systems that use air, liquid (oil or water), or both to remove any waste heat. Typically, the main part of the transformer (the core, and the primary and secondary windings) is immersed in an oil tank with a heat exchanger, pump, and cooling fins attached. Hot oil is pumped from the top of the transformer through the heat exchanger (which cools it down) and back into the bottom, ready to repeat the cycle. Sometimes the oil moves around a cooling circuit by convection alone without the use of a separate pump. Some transformers have electric fans that blow air past the heat exchanger’s cooling fins to dissipate heat more effectively.

The transformer manufacturing plant of CTC in Vietnam

CTC specializes in providing products such as Oil Transformer, Amorphous Transformer, Dry Transformer, Reactor Coil, and other electrical equipment. With 15 years of experience in the field of electricity and transformer manufacturing, we are confident that we can provide you with the optimal solution