Three-phase electric power

# Three-phase electric power

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Three-phase electric power is a common method of alternating-current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

electric power
Electric power
Electric power is the rate at which electric energy is transferred by an electric circuit. The SI unit of power is the watt.-Circuits:Electric power, like mechanical power, is represented by the letter P in electrical equations...

generation, transmission
Electric power transmission
Electric-power transmission is the bulk transfer of electrical energy, from generating power plants to Electrical substations located near demand centers...

, and distribution
Electric power distribution
File:Electricity grid simple- North America.svg|thumb|380px|right|Simplified diagram of AC electricity distribution from generation stations to consumers...

. It is a type of polyphase system
Polyphase system
A polyphase system is a means of distributing alternating current electrical power. Polyphase systems have three or more energized electrical conductors carrying alternating currents with a definite time offset between the voltage waves in each conductor. Polyphase systems are particularly useful...

and is the most common method used by grids worldwide to transfer power. It is also used to power large motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

s and other heavy loads. A three-phase
Three-phase
In electrical engineering, three-phase electric power systems have at least three conductors carrying voltage waveforms that are radians offset in time...

system is generally more economical than others because it uses less conductor material to transmit electric power than equivalent single-phase
Single-phase electric power
In electrical engineering, single-phase electric power refers to the distribution of alternating current electric power using a system in which all the voltages of the supply vary in unison. Single-phase distribution is used when loads are mostly lighting and heating, with few large electric motors...

or two-phase systems at the same voltage
Voltage
Voltage, otherwise known as electrical potential difference or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points — or the difference in electric potential energy per unit charge between two points...

.
The three-phase system was introduced and patented by Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

in 1887 and 1888.

In a three-phase system, three circuit conductors carry three alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

s (of the same frequency) which reach their instantaneous peak values at different times. Taking one conductor as the reference, the other two currents are delayed in time by one-third and two-thirds of one cycle of the electric current. This delay between phases has the effect of giving constant power transfer over each cycle of the current and also makes it possible to produce a rotating magnetic field in an electric motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

.

Three-phase systems may have a neutral
Ground and neutral
Since the neutral point of an electrical supply system is often connected to earth ground, ground and neutral are closely related. Under certain conditions, a conductor used to connect to a system neutral is also used for grounding of equipment and structures...

wire. A neutral wire allows the three-phase system to use a higher voltage while still supporting lower-voltage single-phase
Single-phase electric power
In electrical engineering, single-phase electric power refers to the distribution of alternating current electric power using a system in which all the voltages of the supply vary in unison. Single-phase distribution is used when loads are mostly lighting and heating, with few large electric motors...

appliances. In high-voltage distribution situations, it is common not to have a neutral wire as the loads can simply be connected between phases (phase-phase connection).

Three-phase has properties that make it very desirable in electric power systems:
• The phase currents tend to cancel out one another, summing to zero in the case of a linear balanced load. This makes it possible to eliminate or reduce the size of the neutral conductor; all the phase conductors carry the same current and so can be the same size, for a balanced load.
• Power transfer into a linear balanced load is constant, which helps to reduce generator and motor vibrations.
• Three-phase systems can produce a magnetic field that rotates in a specified direction, which simplifies the design of electric motors.

Three is the lowest phase order to exhibit all of these properties.

Most household loads are single-phase. In North America and a few other places, three-phase power generally does not enter homes. Even in areas where it does, it is typically split out at the main distribution board
Distribution board
A distribution board is a component of an electricity supply system which divides an electrical power feed into subsidiary circuits, while providing a protective fuse or circuit breaker for each circuit, in a common enclosure...

and the individual loads are fed from a single phase. Sometimes it is used to power electric stoves and electric clothes dryers.

The three phases are typically indicated by colors which vary by country. See the table for more information.

## Generation and distribution

At the power station
Power station
A power station is an industrial facility for the generation of electric energy....

, an electrical generator
Electrical generator
In electricity generation, an electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. A generator forces electric charge to flow through an external electrical circuit. It is analogous to a water pump, which causes water to flow...

converts mechanical power into a set of three AC
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

electric current
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

s, one from each coil (or winding) of the generator. The windings are arranged such that the currents vary sinusoidally
Sine wave
The sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical function that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation. It occurs often in pure mathematics, as well as physics, signal processing, electrical engineering and many other fields...

at the same frequency but with the peaks and troughs of their wave forms
Wave
In physics, a wave is a disturbance that travels through space and time, accompanied by the transfer of energy.Waves travel and the wave motion transfers energy from one point to another, often with no permanent displacement of the particles of the medium—that is, with little or no associated mass...

offset to provide three complementary currents with a phase separation of one-third cycle (120° or
{{About|general three-phase concepts|the basic mathematics and principles of three-phase electricity|three-phase}}

Three-phase electric power is a common method of
alternating-current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

electric power
Electric power
Electric power is the rate at which electric energy is transferred by an electric circuit. The SI unit of power is the watt.-Circuits:Electric power, like mechanical power, is represented by the letter P in electrical equations...

generation, transmission
Electric power transmission
Electric-power transmission is the bulk transfer of electrical energy, from generating power plants to Electrical substations located near demand centers...

, and distribution
Electric power distribution
File:Electricity grid simple- North America.svg|thumb|380px|right|Simplified diagram of AC electricity distribution from generation stations to consumers...

. It is a type of polyphase system
Polyphase system
A polyphase system is a means of distributing alternating current electrical power. Polyphase systems have three or more energized electrical conductors carrying alternating currents with a definite time offset between the voltage waves in each conductor. Polyphase systems are particularly useful...

and is the most common method used by grids worldwide to transfer power. It is also used to power large motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

s and other heavy loads. A three-phase
Three-phase
In electrical engineering, three-phase electric power systems have at least three conductors carrying voltage waveforms that are radians offset in time...

system is generally more economical than others because it uses less conductor material to transmit electric power than equivalent single-phase
Single-phase electric power
In electrical engineering, single-phase electric power refers to the distribution of alternating current electric power using a system in which all the voltages of the supply vary in unison. Single-phase distribution is used when loads are mostly lighting and heating, with few large electric motors...

or two-phase systems at the same voltage
Voltage
Voltage, otherwise known as electrical potential difference or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points — or the difference in electric potential energy per unit charge between two points...

.
The three-phase system was introduced and patented by Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

in 1887 and 1888.

In a three-phase system, three circuit conductors carry three alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

s (of the same frequency) which reach their instantaneous peak values at different times. Taking one conductor as the reference, the other two currents are delayed in time by one-third and two-thirds of one cycle of the electric current. This delay between phases has the effect of giving constant power transfer over each cycle of the current and also makes it possible to produce a rotating magnetic field in an electric motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

.

Three-phase systems may have a neutral
Ground and neutral
Since the neutral point of an electrical supply system is often connected to earth ground, ground and neutral are closely related. Under certain conditions, a conductor used to connect to a system neutral is also used for grounding of equipment and structures...

wire. A neutral wire allows the three-phase system to use a higher voltage while still supporting lower-voltage single-phase
Single-phase electric power
In electrical engineering, single-phase electric power refers to the distribution of alternating current electric power using a system in which all the voltages of the supply vary in unison. Single-phase distribution is used when loads are mostly lighting and heating, with few large electric motors...

appliances. In high-voltage distribution situations, it is common not to have a neutral wire as the loads can simply be connected between phases (phase-phase connection).

Three-phase has properties that make it very desirable in electric power systems:
• The phase currents tend to cancel out one another, summing to zero in the case of a linear balanced load. This makes it possible to eliminate or reduce the size of the neutral conductor; all the phase conductors carry the same current and so can be the same size, for a balanced load.
• Power transfer into a linear balanced load is constant, which helps to reduce generator and motor vibrations.
• Three-phase systems can produce a magnetic field that rotates in a specified direction, which simplifies the design of electric motors.

Three is the lowest phase order to exhibit all of these properties.

Most household loads are single-phase. In North America and a few other places, three-phase power generally does not enter homes. Even in areas where it does, it is typically split out at the main distribution board
Distribution board
A distribution board is a component of an electricity supply system which divides an electrical power feed into subsidiary circuits, while providing a protective fuse or circuit breaker for each circuit, in a common enclosure...

and the individual loads are fed from a single phase. Sometimes it is used to power electric stoves and electric clothes dryers.

The three phases are typically indicated by colors which vary by country. See the table for more information.

## Generation and distribution

{{double image|right|Hawkins Electrical Guide - 3phase Elementary 6wire.jpg|300|Hawkins Electrical Guide - 3phase Elementary 3wire.jpg|100|Left: Elementary six-wire three-phase alternator, with each phase using a separate pair of transmission wires. Right: Elementary three-wire three-phase alternator, showing how the phases can share only three wires.
}}

At the power station
Power station
A power station is an industrial facility for the generation of electric energy....

, an electrical generator
Electrical generator
In electricity generation, an electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. A generator forces electric charge to flow through an external electrical circuit. It is analogous to a water pump, which causes water to flow...

converts mechanical power into a set of three AC
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

electric current
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

s, one from each coil (or winding) of the generator. The windings are arranged such that the currents vary sinusoidally
Sine wave
The sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical function that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation. It occurs often in pure mathematics, as well as physics, signal processing, electrical engineering and many other fields...

at the same frequency but with the peaks and troughs of their wave forms
Wave
In physics, a wave is a disturbance that travels through space and time, accompanied by the transfer of energy.Waves travel and the wave motion transfers energy from one point to another, often with no permanent displacement of the particles of the medium—that is, with little or no associated mass...

offset to provide three complementary currents with a phase separation of one-third cycle (120° or
{{About|general three-phase concepts|the basic mathematics and principles of three-phase electricity|three-phase}}

Three-phase electric power is a common method of
alternating-current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

electric power
Electric power
Electric power is the rate at which electric energy is transferred by an electric circuit. The SI unit of power is the watt.-Circuits:Electric power, like mechanical power, is represented by the letter P in electrical equations...

generation, transmission
Electric power transmission
Electric-power transmission is the bulk transfer of electrical energy, from generating power plants to Electrical substations located near demand centers...

, and distribution
Electric power distribution
File:Electricity grid simple- North America.svg|thumb|380px|right|Simplified diagram of AC electricity distribution from generation stations to consumers...

. It is a type of polyphase system
Polyphase system
A polyphase system is a means of distributing alternating current electrical power. Polyphase systems have three or more energized electrical conductors carrying alternating currents with a definite time offset between the voltage waves in each conductor. Polyphase systems are particularly useful...

and is the most common method used by grids worldwide to transfer power. It is also used to power large motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

s and other heavy loads. A three-phase
Three-phase
In electrical engineering, three-phase electric power systems have at least three conductors carrying voltage waveforms that are radians offset in time...

system is generally more economical than others because it uses less conductor material to transmit electric power than equivalent single-phase
Single-phase electric power
In electrical engineering, single-phase electric power refers to the distribution of alternating current electric power using a system in which all the voltages of the supply vary in unison. Single-phase distribution is used when loads are mostly lighting and heating, with few large electric motors...

or two-phase systems at the same voltage
Voltage
Voltage, otherwise known as electrical potential difference or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points — or the difference in electric potential energy per unit charge between two points...

.
The three-phase system was introduced and patented by Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

in 1887 and 1888.

In a three-phase system, three circuit conductors carry three alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

s (of the same frequency) which reach their instantaneous peak values at different times. Taking one conductor as the reference, the other two currents are delayed in time by one-third and two-thirds of one cycle of the electric current. This delay between phases has the effect of giving constant power transfer over each cycle of the current and also makes it possible to produce a rotating magnetic field in an electric motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

.

Three-phase systems may have a neutral
Ground and neutral
Since the neutral point of an electrical supply system is often connected to earth ground, ground and neutral are closely related. Under certain conditions, a conductor used to connect to a system neutral is also used for grounding of equipment and structures...

wire. A neutral wire allows the three-phase system to use a higher voltage while still supporting lower-voltage single-phase
Single-phase electric power
In electrical engineering, single-phase electric power refers to the distribution of alternating current electric power using a system in which all the voltages of the supply vary in unison. Single-phase distribution is used when loads are mostly lighting and heating, with few large electric motors...

appliances. In high-voltage distribution situations, it is common not to have a neutral wire as the loads can simply be connected between phases (phase-phase connection).

Three-phase has properties that make it very desirable in electric power systems:
• The phase currents tend to cancel out one another, summing to zero in the case of a linear balanced load. This makes it possible to eliminate or reduce the size of the neutral conductor; all the phase conductors carry the same current and so can be the same size, for a balanced load.
• Power transfer into a linear balanced load is constant, which helps to reduce generator and motor vibrations.
• Three-phase systems can produce a magnetic field that rotates in a specified direction, which simplifies the design of electric motors.

Three is the lowest phase order to exhibit all of these properties.

Most household loads are single-phase. In North America and a few other places, three-phase power generally does not enter homes. Even in areas where it does, it is typically split out at the main distribution board
Distribution board
A distribution board is a component of an electricity supply system which divides an electrical power feed into subsidiary circuits, while providing a protective fuse or circuit breaker for each circuit, in a common enclosure...

and the individual loads are fed from a single phase. Sometimes it is used to power electric stoves and electric clothes dryers.

The three phases are typically indicated by colors which vary by country. See the table for more information.

## Generation and distribution

{{double image|right|Hawkins Electrical Guide - 3phase Elementary 6wire.jpg|300|Hawkins Electrical Guide - 3phase Elementary 3wire.jpg|100|Left: Elementary six-wire three-phase alternator, with each phase using a separate pair of transmission wires. Right: Elementary three-wire three-phase alternator, showing how the phases can share only three wires.
}}

At the power station
Power station
A power station is an industrial facility for the generation of electric energy....

, an electrical generator
Electrical generator
In electricity generation, an electric generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. A generator forces electric charge to flow through an external electrical circuit. It is analogous to a water pump, which causes water to flow...

converts mechanical power into a set of three AC
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

electric current
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

s, one from each coil (or winding) of the generator. The windings are arranged such that the currents vary sinusoidally
Sine wave
The sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical function that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation. It occurs often in pure mathematics, as well as physics, signal processing, electrical engineering and many other fields...

at the same frequency but with the peaks and troughs of their wave forms
Wave
In physics, a wave is a disturbance that travels through space and time, accompanied by the transfer of energy.Waves travel and the wave motion transfers energy from one point to another, often with no permanent displacement of the particles of the medium—that is, with little or no associated mass...

offset to provide three complementary currents with a phase separation of one-third cycle (120° or {{frac
Sine wave
The sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical function that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation. It occurs often in pure mathematics, as well as physics, signal processing, electrical engineering and many other fields...

). The generator frequency
Utility frequency
The utility frequency, line frequency or mains frequency is the frequency at which alternating current is transmitted from a power plant to the end-user. In most parts of the world this is 50 Hz, although in the Americas it is typically 60 Hz...

is typically 50 or 60 Hz
Hertz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

, varying by country.
{{further|Mains power systems}}

Large power generators provide an electric current at a potential which can be a few hundred volts or up to about 30 kV. At the power station, transformer
Transformer
A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer's coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core and thus a varying magnetic field...

s step this voltage up to one suitable for transmission
Electric power transmission
Electric-power transmission is the bulk transfer of electrical energy, from generating power plants to Electrical substations located near demand centers...

.

After numerous further conversions in the transmission and distribution network, the power is finally transformed to the standard utilization voltage for lighting and equipment. Single-phase loads are connected from one phase to neutral or between two phases. Three-phase loads such as larger motors must be connected to all three phases of the supply.

## Three-wire versus four-wire

Three-phase circuits occur in two varieties. In one case, there are only three energized ("hot") wires; in the other case, there are three hot wires plus a neutral
Ground and neutral
Since the neutral point of an electrical supply system is often connected to earth ground, ground and neutral are closely related. Under certain conditions, a conductor used to connect to a system neutral is also used for grounding of equipment and structures...

wire. Four-wire circuits offer flexibility, since a load may be connected "line-to-line" or "line-to-neutral"; three-wire circuits offer economy, since the neutral conductor is eliminated. Commonly, distribution voltage circuits are four-wire, while higher voltage transmission circuits are three-wire. Transmission lines often feature a ground wire, but this is solely for fault and lightning protection and is not connected to deliver electrical power.

Single-phase loads may be connected to a three-phase system in two ways. Either a load may be connected across two of the live conductors, or a load can be connected from a live phase conductor to the neutral conductor.
Single-phase loads should be distributed evenly between the phases of the three-phase system for efficient use of the supply transformer and supply conductors. If the line-to-neutral voltage is a standard load voltage, for example 230 volt on a 400 volt three-phase system, single-phase loads can connect to a phase and the neutral. Loads can be distributed over three phases to balance the load. Where the line-to-neutral voltage is not the standard voltage for example 347 volts produced by a 600 V system, single-phase loads are connected through a step-down transformer
Transformer
A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer's coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core and thus a varying magnetic field...

.

In a symmetrical three-phase system, the system neutral has the same magnitude of voltage to each of the three-phase conductors. The voltage between line conductors (Vl) is √3 times the phase conductor to neutral voltage (Vp). That is: Vl = √3Vp.

In some multiple-unit residential buildings of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, three-phase power is supplied to the building but individual units have only single-phase power formed from two of the three supply phases. Lighting and convenience receptacles are connected from either phase conductor to neutral, giving the usual 120 V required by typical North American appliances. In the split-phase system, high-power loads are connected between the opposite "hot" poles, giving a voltage of 240 V. In some cases, they may be connected between phases of a three-phase system, giving a voltage of 208 V. This practice is common enough that 208 V single-phase equipment is readily available in North America. Attempts to use the more common 120/240 V equipment intended for split-phase distribution may result in poor performance since 240 V heating and lighting equipment will only produce 75% of its rating when operated at 208 V. Motors rated at 240 V will draw higher current at 208 V; some motors are dual-labelled for both voltages.

Where three-phase at low voltage is otherwise in use, it may still be split out into single-phase service cables through joints in the supply network or it may be delivered to a master distribution board
Distribution board
A distribution board is a component of an electricity supply system which divides an electrical power feed into subsidiary circuits, while providing a protective fuse or circuit breaker for each circuit, in a common enclosure...

(breaker panel) at the customer's premises. Connecting an electrical circuit from one phase to the neutral generally supplies the country's standard single phase voltage (120 V AC or 230 V AC) to the circuit.

The currents returning from the customers' premises to the supply transformer all share the neutral wire. If the loads are evenly distributed on all three phases, the sum of the returning currents in the neutral wire is approximately zero. Any unbalanced phase loading on the secondary side of the transformer will use the transformer capacity inefficiently.

If the supply neutral of a three-phase system with line-to-neutral connected loads is broken, the voltage balance on the loads will no longer be maintained. The neutral point will tend to drift toward the most heavily loaded phase, causing undervoltage conditions on that phase and overvoltage on a lightly loaded phase; the lightly loaded phases may approach the line-to-line voltage, which exceeds the line-to-neutral voltage by a factor of √3, causing overheating and failure of many types of loads.

For example, if several houses are connected through a 240 V transformer, which is connected to one phase of the three-phase system, each house might be affected by the imbalance on the three-phase system. If the neutral connection is broken somewhere in the system, all equipment in a house might be damaged due to over-voltage. A similar phenomenon can exist if the house neutral (connected to the center tap of the 240 V pole transformer) is disconnected. This type of failure event can be difficult to troubleshoot if the drifting neutral effect is not understood. With inductive and/or capacitive loads, all phases can suffer damage as the reactive current moves across abnormal paths in the unbalanced system, especially if resonance conditions occur. For this reason, neutral connections are a critical part of a power distribution network and must be made as reliable as any of the phase connections.

Where a mixture of single-phase 120-volt lighting and three-phase, 240-volt motors are to be supplied, a system called high-leg delta is used.

The most important class of three-phase load is the electric motor
Electric motor
An electric motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy.Most electric motors operate through the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors to generate force...

. A three-phase induction motor has a simple design, inherently high starting torque and high efficiency. Such motors are applied in industry for pumps, fans, blowers, compressors, conveyor drives, electric vehicles and many other kinds of motor-driven equipment. A three-phase motor is more compact and less costly than a single-phase motor of the same voltage class and rating and single-phase AC motors above 10 HP (7.5 kW) are uncommon. Three-phase motors also vibrate less and hence last longer than single-phase motors of the same power used under the same conditions.

Resistance heating loads such as electric boiler
Boiler
A boiler is a closed vessel in which water or other fluid is heated. The heated or vaporized fluid exits the boiler for use in various processes or heating applications.-Materials:...

s or space heating may be connected to three-phase systems. Electric lighting may also be similarly connected. These types of loads do not require the revolving magnetic field characteristic of three-phase motors but take advantage of the higher voltage and power level usually associated with three-phase distribution. Legacy single-phase fluorescent lighting systems also benefit from reduced flicker in a room if adjacent fixtures are powered from different phases.

Large rectifier
Rectifier
A rectifier is an electrical device that converts alternating current , which periodically reverses direction, to direct current , which flows in only one direction. The process is known as rectification...

systems may have three-phase inputs; the resulting DC is easier to filter (smooth) than the output of a single-phase rectifier. Such rectifiers may be used for battery charging, electrolysis
Electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

processes such as aluminium production or for operation of DC motors.

One example of a three-phase load is the electric arc furnace
Electric arc furnace
An electric arc furnace is a furnace that heats charged material by means of an electric arc.Arc furnaces range in size from small units of approximately one ton capacity up to about 400 ton units used for secondary steelmaking...

used in steelmaking
Steelmaking
Steelmaking is the second step in producing steel from iron ore. In this stage, impurities such as sulfur, phosphorus, and excess carbon are removed from the raw iron, and alloying elements such as manganese, nickel, chromium and vanadium are added to produce the exact steel required.-Older...

and in refining of ores.

In much of Europe, stoves are designed for a three-phase feed. Usually the individual heating units are connected between phase and neutral to allow for connection to a single-phase supply. In many areas of Europe, single-phase power is the only source available.

## Phase converters

Occasionally the advantages of three-phase motors make it worthwhile to convert single-phase power to three-phase. Small customers, such as residential or farm properties, may not have access to a three-phase supply or may not want to pay for the extra cost of a three-phase service but may still wish to use three-phase equipment. Such converters may also allow the frequency to be varied (resynthesis) allowing speed control. Some railway locomotives are moving to multi-phase motors driven by such systems even though the incoming supply to a locomotive is nearly always either DC or single-phase AC.

Because single-phase power goes to zero at each moment that the voltage crosses zero but three-phase delivers power continuously, any such converter must have a way to store energy for the necessary fraction of a second.

One method for using three-phase equipment on a single-phase supply is with a rotary phase converter
Rotary phase converter
A rotary phase converter, abbreviated RPC, is an electrical machine that produces three-phase electric power from single-phase electric power. This allows three phase loads to run using generator or utility-supplied single-phase electric power....

, essentially a three-phase motor with special starting arrangements and power factor
Power factor
The power factor of an AC electric power system is defined as the ratio of the real power flowing to the load over the apparent power in the circuit, and is a dimensionless number between 0 and 1 . Real power is the capacity of the circuit for performing work in a particular time...

correction that produces balanced three-phase voltages. When properly designed, these rotary converters can allow satisfactory operation of three-phase equipment such as machine tools on a single-phase supply. In such a device, the energy storage is performed by the mechanical inertia
Inertia
Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. It is proportional to an object's mass. The principle of inertia is one of the fundamental principles of classical physics which are used to...

(flywheel effect) of the rotating components. An external flywheel is sometimes found on one or both ends of the shaft.

A second method that was popular in the 1940s and 1950s was the transformer method. At that time, capacitors were more expensive than transformers, so an autotransformer
Autotransformer
An autotransformer is an electrical transformer with only one winding. The auto prefix refers to the single coil acting on itself rather than any automatic mechanism. In an autotransformer portions of the same winding act as both the primary and secondary. The winding has at least three taps where...

was used to apply more power through fewer capacitors. This method performs well and does have supporters, even today. The usage of the name transformer method separated it from another common method, the static converter, as both methods have no moving parts, which separates them from the rotary converters.

Another method often attempted is with a device referred to as a static phase converter. This method of running three-phase equipment is commonly attempted with motor loads though it only supplies ⅔ power and can cause the motor loads to run hot and in some cases overheat. This method does not work when sensitive circuitry is involved such as CNC devices or in induction and rectifier-type loads.

A three-phase generator can be driven by a single-phase motor. This motor-generator combination can provide a frequency changer function as well as phase conversion, but requires two machines with all their expense and losses. The motor-generator method can also form an uninterruptable power supply when used in conjunction with a large flywheel and a standby generator set.

Some devices are made which create an imitation three-phase from three-wire single-phase supplies. This is done by creating a third "subphase" between the two live conductors, resulting in a phase separation of 180° − 90° = 90°. Many three-phase devices can run on this configuration but at lower efficiency.

Variable-frequency drives (also known as solid-state inverters
Inverter (electrical)
An inverter is an electrical device that converts direct current to alternating current ; the converted AC can be at any required voltage and frequency with the use of appropriate transformers, switching, and control circuits....

) are used to provide precise speed and torque control of three-phase motors. Some models can be powered by a single-phase supply. VFDs work by converting the supply voltage to DC and then converting the DC to a suitable three-phase source for the motor.

Digital phase converter
Digital phase converter
A digital phase converter creates a three phase power supply from a single phase supply. A digital signal processor is used to control power electronic devices to generate a third voltage, which along with the single-voltage from the supply creates a balanced three-phase power supply.AC power from...

s are designed for fixed-frequency operation from a single-phase source. Similar to a variable-frequency drive, they use a microprocessor to control solid-state power switching components to maintain balanced three-phase voltages.

## Alternatives to three-phase

• Split-phase electric power is used when three-phase power is not available and allows double the normal utilization voltage to be supplied for high-power loads.

• Two-phase electric power, like three-phase, gives constant power transfer to a linear load. For loads that connect each phase to neutral, assuming the load is the same power draw, the two-wire system has a neutral current which is greater than neutral current in a three-phase system. Also motors are not entirely linear, which means that despite the theory, motors running on three-phase tend to run smoother than those on two-phase. The generators in the Adams Power Plant at Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls, located on the Niagara River draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is the collective name for the Horseshoe Falls and the adjacent American Falls along with the comparatively small Bridal Veil Falls, which combined form the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the world and has...

which were installed in 1895 were the largest generators in the world at the time and were two-phase machines. True two-phase power distribution is basically obsolete. Special-purpose systems may use a two-phase system for control. Two-phase power may be obtained from a three-phase system (or vice versa) using an arrangement of transformer
Transformer
A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer's coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core and thus a varying magnetic field...

s called a Scott-T transformer
Scott-T transformer
A Scott-T transformer is a type of circuit used to derive two-phase current from a three-phase source or vice-versa. The Scott connection evenly distributes a balanced load between the phases of the source....

.

• Monocyclic power was a name for an asymmetrical modified two-phase power system used by General Electric
General Electric
General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

around 1897, championed by Charles Proteus Steinmetz
Charles Proteus Steinmetz
Charles Proteus Steinmetz was a German-American mathematician and electrical engineer. He fostered the development of alternating current that made possible the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States, formulating mathematical theories for engineers...

and Elihu Thomson
Elihu Thomson
Elihu Thomson was an American engineer and inventor who was instrumental in the founding of major electrical companies in the United States, the United Kingdom and France.-Early life:...

. This system was devised to avoid patent infringement. In this system, a generator was wound with a full-voltage single-phase winding intended for lighting loads and with a small fraction (usually ¼ of the line voltage) winding which produced a voltage in quadrature with the main windings. The intention was to use this "power wire" additional winding to provide starting torque for induction motors, with the main winding providing power for lighting loads. After the expiration of the Westinghouse patents on symmetrical two-phase and three-phase power distribution systems, the monocyclic system fell out of use; it was difficult to analyze and did not last long enough for satisfactory energy metering to be developed.

• High-phase-order systems for power transmission have been built and tested. Such transmission lines use six (two-pole, three-phase) or twelve (two-pole, six-phase) lines and employ design practices characteristic of extra-high-voltage transmission lines. High-phase-order transmission lines may allow transfer of more power through a given transmission line right-of-way without the expense of a high-voltage direct current
High-voltage direct current
A high-voltage, direct current electric power transmission system uses direct current for the bulk transmission of electrical power, in contrast with the more common alternating current systems. For long-distance transmission, HVDC systems may be less expensive and suffer lower electrical losses...

(HVDC) converter at each end of the line.

## Color codes

Conductors of a three-phase system are usually identified by a color code, to allow for balanced loading and to assure the correct phase rotation for induction motors. Colors used may adhere to International Standard IEC 60446
IEC 60446
International standard IEC 60446 defines basic safety principles for identifying electrical conductors by colours or numerals, for example in electricity distribution wiring.-Permitted colours:...

, older standards or to no standard at all and may vary even within a single installation. For example, in the U.S. and Canada, different color codes are used for grounded (earthed) and ungrounded systems.
 L1 L2 L3 Neutral Ground/protective earth Red (or brown){{ref|1|1}} White (or black){{ref|1|1}} (prev. yellow) Dark blue (or grey){{ref|1|1}} Black (or blue){{ref|1|1}} Green/yellow striped (green on very old installations) Red Black Blue White Green or bare copper Orange Brown Yellow White Green Brown Black Grey Blue Green/yellow striped{{ref|2|2}} Black or brown Black or brown Black or brown Blue Green/yellow striped{{ref|3|3}} Red Yellow Blue Black Green/yellow striped (green on installations before c. 1970) Red Yellow Blue Black Green Yellow Green Red Light blue Green/yellow striped Black White/Grey Brown Blue Yellow/green striped, older may be only yellow or bare copper Black Red Blue White, or grey Green, green/yellow striped,{{ref|7|7}} or a bare copper wire Brown Orange (delta), violet (wye) Yellow Grey, or white Green

In Australia and New Zealand, active conductors can be any color except green/yellow, green, yellow, black or light blue. Yellow is no longer permitted in the 2007 revision of wiring code ASNZS 3000. European color codes are used for all IEC or flex cables such as extension leads, appliance leads etc. and are equally permitted for use in building wiring per AS/NZS 3000:2007. The international standard green-yellow marking of protective-earth conductors was introduced to reduce the risk of confusion by color blind
Color blindness
Color blindness or color vision deficiency is the inability or decreased ability to see color, or perceive color differences, under lighting conditions when color vision is not normally impaired...

installers. About 7% to 10% of men cannot clearly distinguish between red and green, which is a particular concern in older schemes where red marks a live conductor and green marks protective earth or safety ground. In Europe, there still exist installations with older colors for protective earth but, since the early 1970s, all new installations use green/yellow according to IEC 60446
IEC 60446
International standard IEC 60446 defines basic safety principles for identifying electrical conductors by colours or numerals, for example in electricity distribution wiring.-Permitted colours:...

. See Paul Cook: Harmonised colours and alphanumeric marking. IEE Wiring Matters, Spring 2006. Since 1975, the U.S. National Electric Code has not specified coloring of phase conductors. It is common practice in many regions to identify 120/208Y conductors as black, red, and blue. Local regulations may amend the N.E.C. The U.S. National Electric Code has color requirements for grounded conductors, ground and grounded-delta 3-phase systems which result in one ungrounded leg having a higher voltage potential to ground than the other two ungrounded legs. Orange is only appropriate when the system has a grounded delta service, regardless of voltage. The U.S. National Electric Code does not specify coloring of phase conductors, other than orange for grounded delta. It is common practice in many regions to identify 277/480Y conductors as brown, orange and yellow (delta) or brown, violet and yellow (wye), with orange always being the center phase. Local practice may amend the N.E.C. The US N.E.C. rule 517.160 (5) states these colors are to be used for isolated power systems in health care facilities. Color of conductors does not identify voltage of a circuit, because there is no formal standard. In the U.S., a green/yellow striped wire may indicate an isolated ground
Isolated ground
Isolated ground means the use of a local ground connection with a supply, one of the common earthing arrangements used with domestic mains supplies....

.{{Citation needed|date=August 2007}} In most countries today, green/yellow striped wire may only be used for protective earth (safety ground) and may never be unconnected or used for any other purpose.

• Three-phase AC railway electrification
• Charging station
Charging station
An electric vehicle charging station, also called EV charging station, electric recharging point, charging point and EVSE , is an element in an infrastructure that supplies electric energy for the recharging of electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric-gasoline vehicles) or semi-static and mobile...

• Frequency converter
• High-leg delta
• Industrial & multiphase power plugs & sockets
• International Electro-Technical Exhibition - 1891
International Electro-Technical Exhibition - 1891
The 1891 International Electro-Technical Exhibition was held between 16 May and 19 October on the disused site of the three former “Westbahnhöfe” in Frankfurt am Main. The exhibition featured the first long distance transmission of high-power, three-phase electrical current, which was generated...

• John Hopkinson
John Hopkinson
John Hopkinson, FRS, was a British physicist, electrical engineer, Fellow of the Royal Society and President of the IEE twice in 1890 and 1896. He invented the three-wire system for the distribution of electrical power, for which he was granted a patent in 1882...

• Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky
• Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

• Y-Δ transform