At first glance, solenoids seem like magical pieces of technology.
After all, a solenoid somehow converts electrical energy to mechanical energy using a coil of wire and an electromagnetic field.
Solenoids play a critical role in our everyday lives. There are solenoids in our vehicles and our sprinkler systems. In most cases, solenoids are used to activate a switch.
But how do solenoids actually work? Let’s find out.
The discovery of electromagnetism was one of the most crucial discoveries in scientific history. Electromagnetism research showed that passing an electric current through a wire will create a magnetic field.
This was an extremely important discovery. Previously, magnets couldn’t be turned on or off: they were always on.
Electromagnetism showed us that we could activate magnetic currents and harness that magnetic energy for various purposes.
A solenoid is simply the coil of wires wrapped around a piston. An electric current is passed through the coil of wires to create a magnetic field, and that magnetic field pushes the positive and negative ends of the piston to create mechanical energy.
A solenoid, at its most basic level, is simply a coil of wires wrapped around a piston. There are two broad types of solenoids, including:
This is what you’ll find in a vehicle’s ignition system. The solenoid acts as a relay and touches two metal contacts together to close the circuit and start your car.
The solenoid is activated by a small burst of electric current from your car’s battery – which is sent when you turn your key in the ignition. After the engine starts, the solenoid becomes inactive – although the two contacts remain closed while the vehicle is in operation.
A solenoid valve is attached to a plunger that blocks air or liquid. When the solenoid is activated by electric current, that valve opens, allowing air or fluid to flow. Unlike electric solenoids, solenoid valves require a constant current of electricity to remain open. As soon as that electric current ends, the valve closes and the liquid or air is once again blocked.
You might think solenoids have a limited range of applications. However, you’ve probably already interacted with at least some type of solenoid today.
Popular solenoid uses include:
-Vehicle ignition systems
-Automated locking mechanisms on hotels, offices, and high-security areas
-Medical equipment, including dialysis machines and dosing machines
-Industrial processes, including many machines that require rotation, holding, or pinching motions.
-Home usage, including sprinkler systems and air conditioning units
Ram Products currently offers two continuous duty steel body solenoids, including:
These solenoids can be used to perform a variety of tasks. In general, these solenoids are used to normally open contacts and can be paired with an on/off disconnect switch.
Some people learned about solenoids in high school physics class and never thought about them again. But the truth is: solenoids are all around us and play a critical role in many daily processes.