An electrical relay is an electromagnetically operated electrical switch – an electromechanical switch. A relatively small current is used to create a magnetic field in a coil within a magnetic core and this is used to operate a switch that can control a much larger current.
The relay function can be better understood by explaining the following diagram given below.
The diagram shows an inner section diagram of a relay. An iron core is surrounded by a control coil. As shown, the power source is given to the electromagnet through a control switch and through contacts to the load. When current starts flowing through the control coil, the electromagnet starts energizing and thus intensifies the magnetic field. Thus the upper contact arm starts to be attracted to the lower fixed arm and thus closes the contacts causing a short circuit for the power to the load. On the other hand, if the relay was already de-energized when the contacts were closed, then the contact move oppositely and make an open circuit.
As soon as the coil current is off, the movable armature will be returned by a force back to its initial position. This force will be almost equal to half the strength of the magnetic force. This force is mainly provided by two factors. They are the spring and also gravity.
Relays are mainly made for two basic operations. One is low voltage application and the other is high voltage. For low voltage applications, more preference will be given to reduce the noise of the whole circuit. For high voltage applications, they are mainly designed to reduce a phenomenon called arcing.
Relay Basics : The basics for all the relays are the same. Take a look at a 4 – pin relay shown below. There are two colors shown. The green color represents the control circuit and the red color represents the load circuit. A small control coil is connected onto the control circuit. A switch is connected to the load. This switch is controlled by the coil in the control circuit. Now let us take the different steps that occur in a relay.
1) Energized Relay: As shown in the circuit, the current flowing through the coils represented by pins 1 and 3 causes a magnetic field to be aroused. This magnetic field causes the closing of the pins 2 and 4. Thus the switch plays an important role in the relay working. As it is a part of the load circuit, it is used to control an electrical circuit that is connected to it. Thus, when the electrical relay in energized the current flow will be through the pins 2 and 4.
2) De – Energized Relay (OFF): As soon as the current flow stops through pins 1 and 3, the relay switch opens and thus the open circuit prevents the current flow through pins 2 and 4. Thus the relay becomes de-energized and thus in off position.
In simple, when a voltage is applied to pin 1, the electromagnet activates, causing a magnetic field to be developed, which goes on to close the pins 2 and 4 causing a closed circuit. When there is no voltage on pin 1, there will be no electromagnetic force and thus no magnetic field. Thus, the switches remain open.