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The permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM) can be thought of as a cross between an AC induction motor and a brushless DC motor (BLDC). They have rotor structures similar to BLDC motors which contain permanent magnets. However, their stator structure resembles that of its ACIM cousin, where the windings are constructed in such a way as to produce a sinusoidal flux density in the airgap of the machine. As a result, they perform best when driven by sinusoidal waveforms. However, unlike their ACIM relatives, PMSM motors perform poorly with open-loop scalar V/Hz control, since there is no rotor coil to provide mechanical damping in transient conditions. Field Oriented Control is the most popular control technique used with PMSMs. As a result, torque ripple can be extremely low, on par with that of ACIMs. However, PMSM motors provide higher power density for their size compared to ACIMs. This is because with an induction machine, part of the stator current is required to "induce" rotor current in order to produce rotor flux. These additional currents generate heat within the motor. However, the rotor flux is already established in a PMSM by the permanent magnets on the rotor.
Most PMSMs utilize permanent magnets which are mounted on the surface of the rotor. This makes the motor appear magnetically "round", and the motor torque is the result of the reactive force between the magnets on the rotor and the electromagnets of the stator. This results in the optimum torque angle being 90 degrees, which is obtained by regulating the d-axis current to zero in a typical FOC application. However, some PMSMs have magnets that are buried inside of the rotor structure. These motors are called Interior Permanent Magnet, or IPM motors. As a result, the radial flux is more concentrated at certain spatial angles than it is at others. This gives rise to an additional torque component called reluctance torque, which is caused by the change of motor inductance along the concentrated and non-concentrated flux paths. This causes the optimum FOC torque angle to be greater than 90 degrees, which requires regulating the d-axis current to be a fixed negative ratio of the q-axis current. This negative d-axis current also results in field weakening, which reduces the flux density along the d-axis, which in turn partially lowers the core losses. As a result, IPM motors boast even higher power output for a given frame size. These motors are becoming increasingly popular as traction motors in hybrid vehicles, as well as variable speed applications for appliances and HVAC.
The saliency exhibited by IPM motors can also provide an additional benefit in sensorless control applications. In many cases, the saliency signature is strong enough that it can be used to determine rotor position at standstill and low speed operating conditions. Some sensorless FOC designs use saliency mapping at low speeds, and then transition to a back-EMF observer model as the motor speeds up.