How does a fan motor work? — JM, Toronto, Ontario
A fan motor is an induction motor, with an aluminum rotor that spins inside a framework of stationary electromagnets. Aluminum is not a magnetic metal and it only becomes magnetic when an electric current flows through it. In the fan, currents are induced in the aluminum rotor by the action of the electromagnets. Each of these electromagnets carries an alternating current that it receives from the power line and its magnetic poles fluctuate back and forth as the direction of current through it fluctuates back and forth. These electromagnets are arranged and operated so that their magnetic poles seem to rotate around the aluminum rotor. These moving/changing magnetic poles induce currents in the aluminum rotor, making that rotor magnetic, and the rotor is dragged along with the rotating magnetic poles around it. After a few moments of starting, the spinning rotor almost keeps up with the rotating magnetic poles. The different speed settings of the fan correspond to different arrangements of the electromagnets, making the poles rotate around the aluminum rotor at different rates.