While a dc motor is running, it acts somewhat like a direct current generator. There is a magnetic field from the field poles, and a loop of wire is turning and cutting this magnetic field. For the moment, disregard the fact that there is current flowing through the loop of wire from the battery. As the loop sides cut the magnetic field, a voltage is induced in them, the same as it was in the loop sides of the dc generator. This induced voltage causes current to flow in the loop.
Now, consider the relative direction between this current and the current that causes the motor to run. First, check the direction the current flows as a result of the generator action taking place (view A of the first illustration in the previous tutorial). (Apply the left-hand rule for generators which was discussed in the last chapter.)
Using the left hand, hold it so that the forefinger points in the direction of the magnetic field (north to south) and the thumb points in the direction that the black side of the armature moves (up). Your middle finger then points out of the paper (toward you), showing the direction of current flow caused by the generator action in the black half of the armature. This is in the direction opposite to that of the battery current. Since this generator-action voltage is opposite that of the battery, it is called "counter emf." (The letters emf stand for electromotive force, which is another name for voltage.) The two currents are flowing in opposite directions. This proves that the battery voltage and the DCmotor counter emf are opposite in polarity.
At the beginning of this discussion, we disregarded armature current while explaining how counter emf was generated. Then, we showed that normal armature current flowed opposite to the current created by the DCmotor counter emf. We talked about two opposite currents that flow at the same time. However, this is a bit oversimplified, as you may already suspect. Actually, only one current flows. Because the DCmotor counter emf can never become as large as the applied voltage, and because they are of opposite polarity as we have seen, the counter emf effectively cancels part of the armature voltage. The single current that flows is armature current, but it is greatly reduced because of the counter emf.
In a dc motor, there is always a counter emf developed. This counter emf cannot be equal to or greater than the applied battery voltage; if it were, the motor would not run. The counter emf is always a little less. However, the counter emf opposes the applied voltage enough to keep the armature current from the battery to a fairly low value. If there were no such thing as counter emf, much more current would flow through the armature, and the motor would run much faster. However, there is no way to avoid the counter emf.