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Difference Between Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC)

Main Difference

The main difference between Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) is that Alternating Current or AC is the type of current that keeps on changing its direction periodically, whereas the Direct Current or DC is the current that travels in a single direction.

Alternating Current (AC) vs. Direct Current (DC)

As the name implies, alternating current is a type of current that keeps on alternating with time; i.e., it shows oscillating repetition. The direction of alternating current or AC keeps on changing periodically. On the other side, direct current is the type of current that flows in a uniform way and a single direction.

So, alternating current is the current of magnitude that keeps on changing with time, whereas the direct current has a constant magnitude. The alternating current has a frequency between 50Hz or 60Hz, depending on the country. On the flip side, the direct current has zero frequency. The flowing alternating current reverses its direction due to the presence of a rotating magnet along the wire. This magnet changes the direction of the flow of electrons. On the other side, the direct current flows in a single direction because it has a steady magnetism along the wire.

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It is easy to deliver the alternating current or AC up to longer distances and can transfer more power. On the other side, the direct current or DC cannot travel up to long distances because it begins to lose energy when graphed, the alternating current forms a sinusoid or wave-like pattern due to its alternating nature. On the flip side, the graphical representation of direct current or DC is like a flat line.

The alternating current can be produced by an electrical generator designed according to it. On the other side, the direct current can be produced by a cell, rectifier, battery, or by converting AC into DC. The power factor for alternating current stands between 0 and 1 while it is always 1 in case of direct current. The types of alternating current or AC are Sinusoidal, Triangular, Trapezoidal, and Square, etc. On the other side, the types of direct current or DC are pure and pulsating.

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Alternating current needs to be converted into direct current before its usage. On the flip side, the direct current is suitable for direct use in electronic products. The alternating current has a lower safety level. It can enter into the human body without a closed-loop. On the other hand, the direct current has a higher safety level. It is safer to use it in electrical appliances.

Comparison Chart

Alternating Current (AC)Direct Current (DC)
A type of electric current that keeps on changing its direction from time to time is known as alternating current or AC.A type of electric current that flows in a uniform way in a single direction is known as direct current or DC.
Developed By
It was developed by Nikola Tesla.It was developed by Thomas Edison.
Direction
It changes its direction.It moves in the same direction within the circuit.
Direction of Electrons
In this current, electrons keep on changing their direction forward and backward.In direct current, electrons travel in a single direction or forward.
Magnitude of Current
Its magnitude keeps on changing with time.Direct current shows a constant magnitude.
Frequency
It has a frequency between 50Hz or 60Hz, depending on the country.The direct current has zero frequency.
Presence of Magnet
It reverses its direction due to the presence of a rotating magnet along the wire.It flows in a single direction because it has a steady magnetism along the wire.
Long Distance Transmission
This current is easy to transfer over longer distances and can provide more power.It cannot be transferred over long distances because it begins to lose energy.
Graphical Representation
The alternating current forms a sinusoid or wave-like pattern.The graphical representation of the direct current is like a flat line.
Production of Current
It can be produced by an electrical generator designed according to it.It can be produced by a cell, battery rectifier, or by converting AC into DC.
Power
The power factor for alternating current stands between 0 and 1.It is always 1 in case of direct current.
Types
The types of AC are Sinusoidal, Triangular, Trapezoidal, and Square, etc.The types of DC are pulsating and pure.
Conversion
Alternating current needs to be converted into direct current before its usage.The direct current is suitable for direct use in electronic products.
Safety Level
The alternating current has a lower safety level.Direct current has a higher safety level.
Effects
It can enter into the human body without a closed-loop.It is safer to use it in electrical appliances.
Other Parameters
It shows impedance.It shows resistance.
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What is Alternating Current (AC)?

As the name implies, alternating current or AC is a type of electric current that keeps on changing its direction periodically. It shows an oscillating repetition, i.e., the graphical representation of the alternating current forms a sinusoid or wave-like pattern. In this waveform, the upside curve represents the current flowing in a positive direction, whereas the downside curve implies the negative direction of the cycle.

In this current, electrons keep on changing their direction forward and backward. So, its magnitude keeps on changing with time. Moreover, the alternating current has frequency alternating between 50Hz or 60Hz reliant on the country. The alternating current is easy to transfer up to long distances and can provide more power.

Nikola Tesla was the first who found a way to convert DC into AC. He used a rotating magnet alongside the wire. When this magnet was oriented in one way, the electrons ran towards the positive side, while when the orientation of the magnet was reversed, the electrons turned towards the negative side. So, its power factor stands between 0 and 1.

Alternating current can be produced by an electrical generator designed according to it. The types of AC are Sinusoidal, Triangular, Trapezoidal, and Square, etc. It needs to be converted into direct current before its usage as this type of current has a lower safety level. It can enter into the human body without a closed-loop. Alternating current shows impedance.

What is Direct Current (DC)?

Direct current or DC is a type of electric current that flows in a uniform way and a single direction. It runs in the same direction within the circuit. So, the graphical representation of the direct current is like a flat or horizontal line. In direct current, electrons move in a single direction or forward. That is why it has a constant magnitude and zero frequency. So, the power factor is always equal to 1 in case of direct current.

Thomas Edison was the first who developed direct current or DC. He used a steady magnet near a wire that causes electrons to move in a single direction along the wire as they are attracted toward the positive side and repelled by the negative side of a magnet. It cannot be transferred up to long distances because it begins to lose energy.

The direct current can be produced by a cell, battery rectifier, or by converting AC into DC. The types of DC are pulsating and pure. This type of current is suitable for direct use in electronic products as it has a higher safety level. So, it is safer to use it in electrical appliances. Moreover, it shows resistance.

Key Differences

  1. A type of electric current that keeps on changing its direction from time to time is known as alternating current or AC whereas, a type of electric current that flows in a uniform way in a single direction is known as direct current or DC.
  2. The alternating current was developed by Nikola Tesla, while the direct current was developed by Thomas Edison.
  3. The alternating current may convert its direction. On the other hand, a direct current flows in the same direction within the circuit.
  4. In alternating current, electrons keep on changing their direction forward and backward. Conversely, in the direct current, electrons move in a single direction or forward.
  5. The magnitude of alternating current keeps on changing with time. On the flip side, direct current shows a constant magnitude.
  6. The alternating current has a frequency between 50Hz or 60Hz, depending on the country. On the other side, the direct current has zero frequency.
  7. The alternating current is easy to transfer up to long distances and can deliver more power. In contrast, direct current cannot be delivered very far because it begins to lose energy.
  8. The flowing alternating current reverses its direction due to the presence of a rotating magnet along the wire that changes the direction of the flow of electrons. On the other hand, the direct current flows in a single direction because it has a steady magnetism along the wire.
  9. The alternating current forms a sinusoid or wave-like pattern whereas, the graphical representation of direct current is like a flat line.
  10. Alternating current or AC can be produced by an electrical generator designed according to it. On the flip side, direct current or DC can be produced by a cell, battery rectifier, or by converting AC into DC.
  11. The power factor for alternating current stands between 0 and 1, but it is always 1 in case of direct current.
  12. The types of AC or alternating current are Sinusoidal, Triangular, Trapezoidal, and Square, etc. On the other side, the types of DC or direct current are pure and pulsating.
  13. Alternating current needs to be converted into direct current before its usage. On the flip side, the direct current is suitable for direct use in electronic products.
  14. The alternating current has a lower safety level, whereas; the direct current has a higher safety level.
  15. The alternating current can enter into the human body without a closed-loop. On the other side, the direct current is safer to use in electrical appliances.
  16. The alternating current shows impedance, while the direct current shows resistance.

Comparison Video

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Conclusion

The above discussion summarizes that the alternating current is a type of current that keeps oscillating and can be transferred to longer distances. On the other side, direct current is a uniform current that travels in a single direction and is safe to use in electronic appliances.

Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss