An electric motor is a device using electrical energy to produce mechanical energy, nearly always by the interaction of magnetic fields and current-carrying conductors. The reverse process, that of using mechanical energy to produce electrical energy, is accomplished by a generator or dynamo.Traction motors used on vehicles often perform both tasks.
Electric motors are found in a myriad of applications such as industrial fans, blowers and pumps, machine tools, household appliances, power tools, and computer disk drives, among many other applications. Electric motors may be operated by direct current from a battery in a portable device or motor vehicle, or from alternating current from a central electrical distribution grid. The smallest motors may be found in electric wristwatches. Medium-size motors of highly standardized dimensions and characteristics provide convenient mechanical power for industrial uses. The very largest electric motors are used for propulsion of large ships, and for such purposes as pipeline compressors, with ratings in the thousands of kilowatts. Electric motors may be classified by the source of electric power, by their internal construction, and by application.
The physical principle of production of mechanical force by the interaction of an electric current and a magnetic field was known as early as 1821. Electric motors of increasing efficiency were constructed throughout the 19th century, but commercial exploitation of electric motors on a large scale required efficient electrical generators and electrical distribution networks.