Electronic – back-emf: counter-electromotive force


Could someone knowledgeable on the subject explain what exactly is this back emf?

How is it caused in a motor/generator, which components and which effects determines it?

Best Answer

Inductive components like motor winding resist sudden changes in current. That's because the magnetic field caused by the current needs time to build up or decrease. That means that when current is flowing and this is suddenly cut off, the winding will try to maintain that current, and becomes a power source generating a voltage to be able to do so. It gets its power from the built up magnetic field.
Since the winding is now a power source instead of a consumer the voltage is reversed for the same current flow direction. That also explains how the voltage on a coil can become higher than the power supply: instead of subtracting the voltage over it you add it to the power supply. That's why you need a flyback diode on for instance a relay coil: the diode will allow the back emf to flow back to the power supply without damaging the switching transistor.