A synchronous electric motor is an AC motor in which, at steady state, the rotation of the shaft is synchronized with the frequency of the supply current; the rotation period is exactly equal to an integral number of AC cycles.
Synchronous motors contain multiphase AC electromagnets on the stator of the motor that create a magnetic field which rotates in time with the oscillations of the line current. The rotorwith permanent magnets or electromagnets turns in step with the stator field at the same rate and as a result, provides the second synchronized rotating magnet field of any AC motor. A synchronous motor is only considered doubly fed if it is supplied with independently excited multiphase AC electromagnets on both the rotor and stator.
The synchronous motor and induction motor are the most widely used types of AC motor. The difference between the two types is that the synchronous motor rotates at a rate locked to the line frequency. The synchronous motor does not rely on current induction to produce the rotor's magnetic field. By contrast, the induction motor requires "slip", the rotor must rotate slightly slower than the AC current alternations, to induce current in the rotor winding. Small synchronous motors are used in timing applications such as in synchronous clocks, timers in appliances, tape recorders and precision servomechanisms in which the motor must operate at a precise speed; speed accuracy is that of the power line frequency, which is carefully controlled in large interconnected grid systems.
Synchronous motors are available in sub-fractional self-excited sizes to high-horsepower industrial sizes. In the fractional horsepower range, most synchronous motors are used where precise constant speed is required. These machines are commonly used in analog electric clocks, timers and other devices where correct time is required. In high-horsepower industrial sizes, the synchronous motor provides two important functions. First, it is a highly efficient means of converting AC energy to work. Second, it can operate at leading or unity power factor and thereby provide power-factor correction.
A permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM) uses permanent magnets embedded in the steel rotor to create a constant magnetic field. The stator carries windings connected to an AC supply to produce a rotating magnetic field. At synchronous speed the rotor poles lock to the rotating magnetic field. Permanent magnet synchronous motors are similar to brushless DC motors.
Because of the constant magnetic field in the rotor these cannot use induction windings for starting. These motors require a variable-frequency power source to start.
The main difference between a permanent magnet synchronous motor and an asynchronous motor is the rotor. Some studies seem to indicate that NdFeB permanent magnet synchronous motors are around 2 percent more efficient than the highest-efficiency (IE3) asynchronous motors—using the same stator laminations and similar variable-frequency speed controllers.
Permanent magnet motors have been used as gearless elevator motors since 2000.