It Won't Even Phase You
Phase is the timing relationship between two different sine waves. If two generators are connected across a given load in series, and if their armatures begin rotating together at exactly the same time and speed, two different alternating voltages will be produced. In the example to the left, one is a 4 Volt sine wave, and the second is a 3 Volt sine wave.
If we examine the picture closely, we find that both sine waves meet up at the 0o and 180o points. Furthermore, they both peak out at 90o and 270o respectively. We say, then, that both of the two waves produced by the two different generators are IN PHASE with each other. Whenever two waves are in phase, like these are, the voltage resulting from the two waves will not be the same as either of the two voltages. The resulting voltage will be the SUM of the two voltages. In this case, we have 3 and 4 volts being produced by the generators, and the resulting output voltage would be 3+4 or 7 Volts. This is because the energy in the two voltages work together, and combine to add up to 7 Volts. But what happens if the generators are NOT in phase?
Whenever two waves are combined out of phase, the resultant waveform is not so simple to figure out. Look at the picture on the right. The 3 Volt generator was started later than the 4 Volt generator. We say that the 3 Volt wave LAGS behind the 4 volt wave. In this case, the 3 Volt wave LAGS by 90o.
Voltages that are out of phase can not be added simply by adding them together, as we do with in phase waves. We must resort to a sort of "high math" called VECTOR ADDITION. To make it simpler to understand, Vector math simply means that we break out a piece of graph paper, and plot the 3 volt wave horizontally (left and right), while we plot the 4 volt wave vertically (up and down).
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