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The machines are alternatively known as variable reluctance motors, reflecting the origins of

the technology being derived from VR stepper motors.

Principle of Operation
The motor is doubly salient with phase coils mounted around diametrically opposite stator
poles. Energisation of a phase will lead to the rotor moving into alignment with the stator
poles, so minimising the reluctance of the magnetic path. This is the same principle of
operation as the VR stepper motor. As a high performance variable speed drive, the motor's
magnetics are optimised for closed-loop operation. Rotor position information is used to
control phase energisation in an optimal way to achieve smooth, continuous torque and high
efficency. The theoretical equations governing the torque production mechanism have been
published countless times in the literature, so below is a simple graphical explanation. The
current waveforms are superimposed on the angular unsaturated phase inductance. The
maximum inductance corresponds to the minimum reluctance pole-aligned position. Positive
torque is only produced at angles when the inductance gradient is positive.
Single-Phase Motor

These are the simplest SR motors with fewest connections between machine and electronics.
The disadvantages lie in very high torque ripple and inability to start at all angular positions.
Maybe attractive for very high speed applications, but starting problems may preclude their
Two-Phase Motor
Problems of starting compared with single phase machines can be overcome by stepping the
air-gap, or providing asymmetry in the rotor poles. This machine may be of interest where the
cost of winding connections is important, but again high torque ripple may be detrimental.
Three-Phase Motor
Offers simplest solution to starting and torque ripple without resorting to high numbers of
phases. Hence has been the most popular topology in its 6/4 form. Alternative 3-phase
machines with doubled-up pole numbers can offer a better solution for lower speed
applications. But again watch-out for torque ripple especially in the voltage control single-pulse
operating mode.
Four-Phase Motor
Maybe popular for reducing torque ripple further, but the large number of power devices and
connections will probably limit four phase to a limited application field. Five- and six-phase
motors can offer better torque ripple reduction compared with four-phase and three-phase.

Commutation Control
Voltage or current control. Chopping or PWM. Depends on speed (available Volt-seconds) and
any servo performance criteria. The control electronics will now be performed digitally and
cost versus performance will be the main factor in selecting the most suitable circuit. ASICs
have been mooted as the best option for very high volume drives, but microcontrollers, and
more recently DSPs are proving to be the most popular control devices because of their
flexibility. Current feedback is required for low speed operation and PWM is now finding favour
because of acoustic noise issues. Rotor position feedback is required in some form and
traditionally this is done with a rotor mounted sensor. This is a major cost and reliability issue
and so a large amount of R&D effort has been placed in eliminating this sensor.
Major SR Issues
Rotor Position Sensing
As mentioned above, rotor-mounted position sensors are a liability. Not only do they introduce cost to the
motor, but they can also be a major source of poor performance and unreliability. Work world-wide has now
produced a number of viable schemes for sensorless operation. They all require monitoring of the phase
current and applied voltage (flux observation), then by using knowledge of the magnetic characteristics, the
rotor position is determined . This information is then used to optimise perfomance. It is interesting that the
most often touted negative issues of SR performance may all be reduced by the merging of control means
around real-time monitoring of the phase energisation in terms of flux-linkage and current coupled with
knowledge of the machine being controlled (or possibly a self-learning control mechanism).
Torque Ripple
SR machines have a significant torque ripple, especially when operated in single-pulse voltage control
mode. This is the price to pay for high efficiency. For many applications where the machine is operating at
fairly high speeds, this is not a problem since the mechanical time-constant is far longer than the fast rates of
change of instantaneous torque produced by the motor. There are applications where the torque ripple is a
major concern and a well publicised application by way of example here is automotive power assisted
steering (EPAS). The human being can sense very low levels of torque purturbation and so minimising not
only the peak-to-peak levels, but also angular rates of change are a high priority. Effort can be put into both
the machine design and the control strategies to help. Optimising the individual phase torque-angle
characteristic by salient pole shape profiling, longditudinal skewing of the rotor and angular phase current
profiling can all help to minimise the inherent torque ripple. Significant work has already been carried-out
by a number of institutions, noteably Arkon Unversity into ways of improving torque ripple performance.
Judging by the number of patents filed by TRW Inc on a electric power assisted steering system utilising a
variable reluctance machine, then healthy interest in using SR for torque ripple sensistive applications is still

Acoustic Noise
Yes SR motors can produce excessive amounts of acoustic noise. The operation of the motor
where the salient poles tend to align to minimise reluctance in normal operation leads to high
normal forces acting on the stator structure. Harmonics of these normal forces will resonate
the natural frequency resonant modes of the stator structure so producing acoustic noise.

However, once the mechanism of noise production is understood, then steps can be taken to
minimise the noise. The noise can be reduced by careful design on two fronts. Firstly the
mechanical design can be optimise to avoid significant resonances at common operating points
over the speed range and the structure can generally be 'stiffened-up' to minimise movement.
Secondly, the phase energisation can be modulated to reduce the frequency components of
the normal forces which cause the most sympathetic vibrations in the motor structure. Control
techniques understood to be beneficial are forms of current profiling during the phase
energisation. In its simplest form this can be a short period of freewheeling which if selected
correctly can reduce the higher harmonics of the normal force when the machine is operating
in the single-pulse mode voltage control mode. More complicated control measures entail
angular profiling of the individual phase currents to minimise the less desirable force and
torque harmonics using power converter switching frequencies above the human ear audible