The Difference Between Alternating And Direct Current

The Difference Between Alternating And Direct Current

Electricity flows in two ways: either in an alternating or in a direct way . Electricity is the flow of electrical charge through a conductor like wire. The fundamental difference between AC and DC lies in the direction in which the electrons flow.

Alternating vs direct current



Alternating current (AC)- This is when electric charge flows back and forth (going forward and then going backward) for a very short period of time.

Direct current (DC)- This is when electric charge flows steadily in a single direction.


1. Frequency– Frequency is the number of directions an electron can change in one second. Alternating current can change 50 or 60 directions in one second (50HZ or 60HZ). In the other hand, direct current cannot change direction.

2. Cause of change of direction of flow of electrons– The rotating magnet along the wire is the cause of the direction of flow of electrons in alternating current. For direct current steady magnetism is the cause of the direction of flow of electrons.

3. Amount of power that can be carried– Alternating current is the most excellent method to transmit electricity over large distances whereas voltage of direct current loses energy when being transmitted over long distances that is why alternating current is preferred to direct current.

4. Direction–  Alternating current frequently changes its direction while flowing in a circuit. Direct current flows in only in one direction.

5. Source of generation– Alternating current is generated from A.C Generator and direct current is generated from batteries, thermocouples and solar cells.

6. Current-Alternating current is the current of magnitude varying with time. Direct current is the current of constant magnitude.

7. Storage and Conversion- Direct current is mostly use in electronic devices and be stored in batteries. Direct current can be converted to alternating current by an inverter and rectifier.  Alternating current is mostly used in supply of electrical power and can be converted to direct current by an adapter.

Why is Alternating current chosen as a primary means to transmit electricity

AC is used to deliver power to houses, office buildings, etc because it is cheaper and easier to make devices for AC power. It is also easier to increase or decrease the voltage level with a single component called transformer. That is why power is transmitted at hundreds of thousands of volts (high voltage).

Which one is more hazardous?

I have read in different forums and websites that DC is more dangerous than AC because DC will hold you, since it doesn’t have zero crossing like that of AC and also it moves with continuous motion through a conductor. I even read about how 9v battery killed a sailor; that’s hard to believe.

Both are equally dangerous, it is like asking what causes the worst death, a truck hitting or being burnt by fire, either way you die! Remember, it is not the voltage that kills but the amount of current flows through it.

Either way alternating current/direct current are both capable of killing you or causing serious injure to you.


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