For an ideal transformer, the magnetizing current is assumed to be negligible. For a real transformer, some magnetizing current must flow when voltage is applied to the winding in order to establish a flux in the core.

The voltage induced in the winding by the flux restrains the magnetizing current. It was shown earlier that the magnetizing current is not really sinusoidal, but contains many odd harmonics in addition to the fundamental frequency.

If we neglect the harmonics and concentrate on the fundamental frequency, the magnetizing current in the winding lags the applied voltage by 90°. In a two-winding transformer, this is equivalent to placing a reactance Xm, called the magnetizing reactance, in parallel with the transformer terminals.

The peak value of the magnetizing current is determined from the B-H curve of the core, which we have seen is very nonlinear. Therefore, the magnetizing reactance is not a constant but is voltage dependent; however, if the peak flux density is kept well below the point of saturation, Xm can be approximated by a constant reactance in most engineering calculations.

It is generally desirable to maximize Xm in order to minimize the magnetizing current. We saw earlier that inductance is inversely proportional to the reluctance of the core along the flux path and the reluctance of an air gap is several thousand times the reluctance of the same distance through the steel.

Therefore, even tiny air gaps in the flux path can drastically increase the core’s reluctance and decrease Xm. A proper core design must therefore eliminate all air gaps in the flux path.

Since any flux that is diverted must flow between the laminations through their surfaces, it is vital that these surfaces lie perfectly flat against each other. All ripples or waves must be eliminated by compressing the core laminations together tightly.

This also points out why the oxide layers on the lamination surfaces must be extremely thin: since these layers have essentially the same permeability as air and since the flux that is diverted from the air gaps must then travel through these oxide layers, the core’s reluctance would greatly increase if these layers were not kept extremely thin.

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