A German physicist Heinrich Lenz performed his own experiments on electromagnetic induction and deduced a law to determine the direction of the induced current. This law is known as Lenz’s law.
Lenz’s law states that the direction of the induced current is such that it always opposes the cause responsible for its production.
Faraday discovered that when magnetic flux linked with a coil changes, an electric current is induced in the circuit. Here the flux change is the cause while the induction of current is the effect. Lenz’s law says that the effect always opposes the cause. Therefore, the induced current would flow in a direction so that it could oppose the flux change.
To understand Lenz’s law, let us consider two illustrations in which we find the direction of the induced current in a circuit.
Consider a uniform magnetic field, with its field lines perpendicular to the plane of the paper and pointing inwards. These field lines are represented by crosses (x) as shown in Figure 4.6(a). A rectangular metallic frame ABCD is placed in this magnetic field, with its plane perpendicular to the field. The arm AB is movable so that it can slide towards right or left.
If the arm AB slides to our right side, the number of field lines (magnetic flux) passing through the frame ABCD increases and a current is induced. As suggested by Lenz’s law, the induced current opposes this flux increase and it tries to reduce it by producing another magnetic field pointing outwards i.e., opposite to the existing magnetic field.
The magnetic lines of this induced field are represented by red-colored circles in the Figure 4.6(b). From the direction of the magnetic field thus produced, the direction of the induced current is found to be anti-clockwise by using right-hand thumb rule
The leftward motion of arm AB decreases magnetic flux. The induced current, this time, produces a magnetic field in the inward direction (red-colored crosses) i.e., in the direction of the existing magnetic field (Figure 4.6(c)). Therefore, the flux decrease is opposed by the flow of induced current. From this, it is found that induced current flows in clockwise direction.
Let us move a bar magnet towards the solenoid, with its north pole pointing the solenoid as shown in Figure 4.7(b). This motion increases the magnetic flux of the coil which in turn, induces an electric current. Due to the flow of induced current, the coil becomes a magnetic dipole whose two magnetic poles are on either end of the coil.
In this case, the cause producing the induced current is the movement of the magnet. According to Lenz’s law, the induced current should flow in such a way that it opposes the movement of the north pole towards coil. It is possible if the end nearer to the magnet becomes north pole (Figure 4.7(b)). Then it repels the north pole of the bar magnet and opposes the movement of the magnet. Once pole ends are known, the direction of the induced current could be found by using right hand thumb rule.
When the bar magnet is withdrawn, the nearer end becomes south pole which attracts north pole of the bar magnet, opposing the receding motion of the magnet (Figure 4.7(c)).
Thus the direction of the induced current can be found from Lenz’s law.
The truth of Lenz’s law can be established on the basis of the law of conservation of energy.
The explanation is as follows: According to Lenz’s law, when a magnet is moved either towards or away from a coil, the induced current produced opposes its motion. As a result, there will always be a resisting force on the moving magnet. Work has to be done by some external agency to move the magnet against this resisting force. Here the mechanical energy of the moving magnet is converted into the electrical energy which in turn, gets converted into Joule heat in the coil i.e., energy is converted from one form to another.
On the contrary to Lenz’s law, let us assume that the induced current helps the cause responsible for its production. Now when we push the magnet little bit towards the coil, the induced current helps the movement of the magnet towards the coil.
Then the magnet starts moving towards the coil without any expense of energy. This, then, becomes a perpetual motion machine. In practice, no such machine is possible. Therefore, the assumption that the induced current helps the cause is wrong.