Difference between AC and DC

Electric current flows in two ways: either in an alternating current (AC) or in a direct current (DC). In Alternating current, current keeps switching directions periodically – forward and backward. While in the direct current it flows in a single direction steadily. The main difference between AC and DC lies in the direction in which the electrons flow. In DC, the electrons flow steadily in a single direction while electrons keep switching directions, going forward and then backwards in AC. Let us learn more differences between them in the next few sections.

What is an Alternating Current (AC)?

In alternating current, the electric charges flow changes its direction periodically. AC is the most commonly used and most preferred electric power for household equipment, office, and buildings, etc. It was first tested, based on the principles of Michael Faraday in 1832 using a Dynamo Electric Generator.

Alternating current can be identified in waveform called a sine wave, in other words, it can be said as the curved line. These curved lines represent electric cycles and are measured per second. The measurement is read as Hertz or Hz. AC is used to powerhouses and buildings etc because generating and transporting AC across long distances is relatively easy. AC is capable of powering electric motors which are used on refrigerators, washing machine etc

What is a Direct Current (DC)?

Unlike alternating current, the flow of current in direct current does not change periodically. The current electricity flows in a single direction in a steady voltage. The major use of DC is to supply power for electrical devices and also to charge batteries. For example, mobile phone batteries, flashlights, flat-screen television, hybrid and electric vehicles. DC has the combination of plus and minus sign, a dotted line or a straight line.

Everything that runs on a battery and uses an AC adapter while plugging into a wall or uses a USB cable for power relies on DC. Examples would be Cellphones, Electric vehicles, flashlights, Flat-screen TVs(AC goes into the TV and is converted into DC).

Difference Between AC and DC

A video comparing Alternating Current and Direct Current

The major differences between Alternating Current and Direct Current are given in the table below:

Alternating Current
Direct Current
AC can carry and safe to transfer longer distance even between two cities, and maintain the electric power. DC cannot travel for a very long distance. It does, it loses electric power.
The rotating magnets cause the change in direction of electric flow. The steady magnetism makes DC flow in a single direction.
The frequency of AC is depended upon the country. But, generally, the frequency is 50Hz or 60Hz. DC has no frequency of zero frequency.
In AC the flow of current changes its direction backwards periodically. It flows in a single direction steadily.
Electrons in AC keep changing its directions – backward and forward Electrons only move in one direction – that is forward.

Stay tuned with BYJU’S to learn more physics concepts with the help of interactive video lessons.

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