Types & Components of Electric Circuits

Types & Components of Electric Circuits
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  • 0:01 What Is an Electric Circuit?
  • 0:50 Types of Electric Circuits
  • 2:17 Components of Electric…
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Learn about electrical components and types of circuits. By the end of this lesson, you'll be able to explain what components like bulbs, resistors, and capacitors do. You'll also be able to compare and contrast series vs. parallel circuits and DC vs. AC circuits.

What is an Electric Circuit?

Look around you. Everything you see that has to be plugged in contains electric circuits. Anything that has a battery also contains electric circuits. Our entire lives are surrounded by them, from televisions to computers, from cell phones to microwave ovens.

An electric circuit is a set of electrical components that are connected together in a loop with a power source, which allows current (electrons) to flow through them. We've used them to great effect, leading to a huge explosion in human progress. In the last century, we've created machines to do much of our manual labor, found ways to communicate worldwide, and even put a human on the Moon. Our world is completely different as a result.

Today we're going to talk about some of the types of electric circuits and various components you can include in one.

Types of Electric Circuits

There are different ways of categorizing electric circuits. One way is series versus parallel circuits. A series circuit is a circuit where the components are connected in one continuous loop. A parallel circuit is a circuit where the components are connected in separate branches. Most real life circuits are combinations of these two concepts, since each type has advantages. When something breaks in a series circuit, the whole circuit stops working. This doesn't happen with parallel circuits. A series circuit can therefore be useful for safety features like fuses, but not so useful for Christmas lights. Series circuits are also cheaper to produce.

Another way of classifying circuits is to separate them by power type: direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC). Direct current is where the electricity flows in one direction. Alternating current is where the electricity flows back and forth in both directions, usually switching 60 times a second.

The current supplied by wall sockets is AC. There are a number of reasons for this: for example, generating AC electricity is easier, and you can transfer it over long distances without losing as much energy along the way. However, many devices, especially smaller ones, use DC current. Sometimes when a device has a large box as part of its power cord, that's because it is converting AC current into DC current. It's much easier to do this in your home on a small scale than at the power station.

Components of Electric Circuits

There are many different components you might find in an electric circuit, including batteries, switches, bulbs, resistors, and capacitors.

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