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The speed of a d.c. machine operated as a generator is fixed by the prime mover. For general-purpose operation, the prime mover is equipped with a speed governor so that the speed of the generator is practically constant. Under such condition, the generator performance deals primarily with the relation between excitation, terminal voltage and load. These relations can be best exhibited graphically by means of curves known as generator characteristics. These characteristics show at a glance the behaviour of the generator under different load conditions.
D.C. Generator Characteristics The following are the three most important characteristics of a d.c. generator:
1. Open Circuit Characteristic (O.C.C.):
This curve shows the relation between the generated e.m.f. at no-load (E0) and the field current (If) at constant speed. It is also known as magnetic characteristic or no-load saturation curve. Its shape is practically the same for all generators whether separately or self-excited. The data for O.C.C. curve are obtained experimentally by operating the generator at no load and constant speed and recording the change in terminal voltage as the field current is varied.
2. Internal or Total characteristic (E/Ia)
This curve shows the relation between the generated e.m.f. on load (E) and the armature current (Ia). The e.m.f. E is less than E0 due to the demagnetizing effect of armature reaction. Therefore, this curve will lie below the open circuit characteristic (O.C.C.). The internal characteristic is of interest chiefly to the designer. It cannot be obtained directly by experiment. It is because a voltmeter cannot read the e.m.f. generated on load due to the voltage drop in armature resistance. The internal characteristic can be obtained from external characteristic if winding resistances are known because armature reaction effect is included in both characteristics
3. External characteristic (V/IL):
This curve shows the relation between the terminal voltage (V) and load current (IL). The terminal voltage V will be less than E due to voltage drop in the armature circuit. Therefore, this curve will lie below the internal characteristic. This characteristic is very important in determining the suitability of a generator for a given purpose. It can be obtained by making simultaneous measurements of terminal voltage and load current (with voltmeter and ammeter) of a loaded generator.