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A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled wires. A changing current in the first circuit (the primary) creates a changing magnetic field; in turn, this magnetic field induces a changing voltage in the second circuit (the secondary). By adding a load to the secondary circuit, one can make current flow in the transformer, thus transferring energy from one circuit to the other.
A key application of transformers is to reduce the current before transmitting electrical energy over long distances through wires. Most wires have resistance and so dissipate electrical energy at a rate proportional to the square of the current through the wire. By transforming electrical power to a high-voltage, and therefore low-current form for transmission and back again afterwards, transformers enable the economic transmission of power over long distances. Consequently, transformers have shaped the electricity supply industry, permitting generation to be located remotely from points of demand. All but a fraction of the world's electrical power has passed through a series of transformers by the time it reaches the consumer.
Transformers are some of the most efficient electrical 'machines', with some large units able to transfer 99.75% of their input power to their output. Transformers come in a range of sizes from a thumbnail-sized coupling transformer hidden inside a stage microphone to huge gigavolt-ampere-rated units used to interconnect portions of national power grids. All operate with the same basic principles, though a variety of designs exist to perform specialized roles throughout home and industry.
The transformer is based on two principles: first, that an electric current can produce a magnetic field (electromagnetism) and, second, that a changing magnetic field within a coil of wire induces a voltage across the ends of the coil (electromagnetic induction). By changing the current in the primary coil, one changes the strength of its magnetic field; since the secondary coil is wrapped around the same magnetic field, a voltage is induced across the secondary.
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