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GCSE Physics. Magnetism and Electromagnetism. Lesson 6 - Transformers. Aims: To recall the structure of a transformer, and understand that a transformer changes the size of an alternating voltage by having different numbers of turns on the input and output sides.

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gcse physics

GCSE Physics

Magnetism and Electromagnetism

lesson 6 transformers
Lesson 6 - Transformers
  • Aims:
  • To recall the structure of a transformer, and understand that a transformer changes the size of an alternating voltage by having different numbers of turns on the input and output sides.
  • To know and be able to use the relationship between input (primary) and output (secondary) voltages and the turns ratio for a transformer :

What is a transformer?

Where are transformers used?

What do we call a transformer that increases voltage?

What do we call a transformer that decreases voltage?

A device used to increase or decrease voltage.

In the national grid and household appliances.

A step-up transformer.

A step-down transformer.

  • A transformer has two electromagnetic coils.
  • When the electricity changes in the first coil an electric voltage is created across the second coil.
  • Transformers are used to change the voltage and current of the electricity that comes from BELCO.
  • A transformer can change the voltage and current of an electrical supply.
  • Some devices need low voltage and some need some need high voltage.
  • Only a.c. voltage can be transformed from one voltage to another, this is why mains electricity needs to be a.c.
  • To understand a transformer we need to learn more about coils and cores.

Remember this?

An electric voltage is only induced when the magnet is moving. We need a changing magnetism to make electricity.

what is what

Output a.c. voltage

What is what ?

Input a.c. voltage

Input or primary coil

Output or secondary coil

A soft iron ‘O’ core

what is what1
What is what ?

The output or secondary voltage

Number of primary coils

Number of secondary coils

The input or primary voltage

input side
Input side

The primary voltage creates a magnetic field when its current passes through the coil.

The a.c. voltage means that the magnetism through the coil is always changing.

output side
Output side

The magnetism from the primary coil is passed through the iron to the secondary coil.

Because the magnetism is changing a voltage is induced in the secondary coil.

The size of the output voltage depends on the size of the two coils.

Changing the magnetism is just like moving a magnet, only easier!

soft iron core
Soft iron core
  • Iron is a soft magnetic material, this means that it is very easy to magnetize and very easy to demagnetize.
  • In a transformer the direction of electricity is changing many times each second.
  • Every fraction of a second the core needs to change its magnetism. We use iron because it can change its magnetism from one direction to another very easily.
  • Transformers change the voltage and current of an a.c. electrical supply.
  • In the following experiment mains electricity at 220 volts enters the circuit.
  • After leaving the transformer the voltage has been reduced to approximately 11 volts.
input circuit
Input circuit

The voltage enters the circuit through the thick 220 volt wire and passes through the coil with 3600 turns.

output circuit
Output circuit

The voltage is induced in the smaller part of the transformer that only has 300 turns of wire. It then travels through the thinner wires to the 11 volt lamp.

step up and step down

Step up and Step down

… and an equation to learn!


This a step-down transformer because there are

less turnsin the secondary coil than the primary coil.

Is this a step-up or a step-down transformer?






This a step-up transformer because there are

more turns in the secondary coil than the primary coil.

Is this a step-up or a step-down transformer?





transformer formula
Transformer formula

The formula for calculating voltages and coils in a transformer has four variables!

which way up

V1 N1

V2 N2


Which way up?

The formula is about variables – it does not matter which way up you remember the symbols.

transformer example 1
Transformer example 1

A step-down transformer is required to transform 240 V a.c. to 12 V a.c. for a model railway. If the primary coil has 1000 turns, how many turns should the secondary have?

V2 / V1 = T2 / T1

T2 = T1× (V2 / V1)

T2 = 1000 × (12/240)

T2 = 50 turns

transformer example 2
Transformer example 2

A transformer is designed to have 2500 primary turns and 5000 secondary turns. What is the output voltage if the input voltage is 120 V ?

V2 / V1 = T2 / T1

V2 = V1× (T2 / T1)

V2 = 120V × (5000/2500)

V2 = 240 V

transformer example 3

V2 N2

V1 N1





V2 x V1




V2 x 920

Transformer example 3

A transformer has 200 turns on its primary coil and 50 turns on its secondary coil. The input voltage is 920 V. What is the output voltage?

= 230V

transformer example 4

N2 V2

N1 V1





N2 x N1




N2 x 100

Transformer example 4

A transformer has 100 turns on its primary coil. It has an input voltage of 35V and an output voltage of 175 V. How many turns are on the secondary coil?

= 500 turns


Voltage across primary (Vp)

No. of turns on primary (Np)

Voltage across secondary (Vs)

No. of turns on secondary (Ns)


Transformers are used to _____ __ or step down _______. They only work on AC because an ________ current in the primary coil causes a constantly alternating _______ ______. This will “_____” an alternating current in the secondary coil.

Words – alternating, magnetic field, induce, step up, voltage

We can work out how much a transformer will step up or step down a voltage:

If a transformer is 100% efficient, the power produced in the secondary coil should equal the power input of the primary coil.
power transmission
Power Transmission

long transmission line



power station


looks like:



power dissipated in an electricity distribution system
Power Dissipated in an Electricity Distribution System


120 Watt

Light bulb

We can figure out the current required by a single bulb using P = VI so

I = P/V = 120 Watts/12 Volts = 10 Amps (!)

Estimate resistance of power lines:

0.001 Ω/m  2105 m = 20 Ohms

Power Plant

on Colorado River

12 Volt

Connection Box

Power dissipate/waste in transmission a line is

P = I2R = 102 20 = 2,000 Watts!!

“Efficiency” is

e = 120 Watts/2120 Watts = 5.6%!!!

What could we change in order to do better?

the tradeoff
The Tradeoff
  • The thing that kills us most is the high current through the (fixed resistance) transmission lines
  • Need less current
    • it’s that square in I2R that has the most dramatic effect
  • But our appliance needs a certain amount of power
    • P = VI so less current demands higher voltage

Solution is high voltage transmission

    • Repeating the above calculation with 12,000 Volts delivered to the house draws only
    • I = 120 Watts/12 kV = 0.01 Amps for one bulb,
    • giving
    • P = I2R = (0.01)220 = 2010-4 Watts,
    • so
    • P = 0.002 Watts of power dissipated in transmission line
    • Efficiency in this case is e = 120 Watts/120.004 = 99.996%
  • An average of 120 kW is delivered to a suburb 10 km away. The transmission lines have a total resistance of 0.40 Ω. Calculate the power loss if the transmission voltage is:
  • 240 V
  • 24000V





P = IV

Power loss:

  • But having high voltage in each household is a recipe for disaster
    • sparks every time you plug something in
    • risk of fire
    • not cat-friendly
  • Need a way to step-up/step-down voltage at will
    • can’t do this with DC, so go to AC
a way to provide high efficiency safe low voltage
A way to provide high efficiency, safe low voltage:

step-up to 500,000 V


back to 5,000 V

~5,000 Volts

step-down to 220 V

High Voltage Transmission Lines

Low Voltage to Consumers

power transmission1
Power Transmission
  • Electric power is usually transmitted over high voltage power lines.
  • Copper wire has a resistance and over long runs some energy will be lost to the surroundings as heat.
  • A low current (high voltage) minimizes this loss.