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Motor bearing current phenomenon
3rd Quarter 2011, Electrical switching & drive systems & components

Yaskawa application note.


Since the introduction of PWM inverters, it has been recognised that PWM inverters introduce motor shaft voltages and bearing currents. The bearing damage in inverter-driven motors is mainly caused by the shaft voltage and bearing currents created by the common-mode voltage and its sharp edges. All inverters generate common-mode voltages relative to the power source ground that cause coupling currents through the parasitic capacitances inside the motor. The main source of bearing currents is the capacitance-coupling currents that return via the motor bearings back to ground.

This paper discusses the relationship among common-mode voltage, motor shaft voltage and bearing currents using parasitic capacitances and its mathematical representation inside the motor.

Common-mode voltage in inverter-driven AC machines

In a three-phase AC system, the common-mode voltage can be defined as the voltage difference between the power source ground and the neutral point of a three-phase load. If the load is an AC motor, the neutral point of the load means the stator neutral of the motor. It is important to define the common-mode voltage in mathematical terms in order to compare its characteristics among different types of source and load combinations.

In three-phase AC loads, the phase to ground voltages can be written as the sum of the voltage from phase to the neutral point of the load and the neutral point of the load to the system ground. As per the definition, the common-mode voltage is the voltage across the neutral point of the load and the system ground.

Readers interested in a full mathematical analysis of the subject together with some recommended approaches to prevent bearing current damage in AC machines can find the complete application note at

Supplied By: Varispeed (Div. of Hudaco Trading)
Tel: +27 11 312 5252
Fax: +27 11 312 5262
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