Inductive Reactance

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Capacitive Reactance

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Reactance Calculator

Reactance is a term related to alternating current (AC). Before learning more about what reactance is and how reactance is calculated and the role of reactance in our day to day life, we need to understand some basic theory related to electricity.

Electricity and its types

Electricity is the flow of charge of electrons. When electrical conductors in a closed path are subjected to changing magnetic fields, it causes the change of flux associated with them and then it produces a current called alternating current. As the name says, this type of current is alternating.

It means:

The current keeps changing its direction with time – one instant the current would flow in the positive direction and the other instance, in the negative direction.

In practice, we obtain alternating current from generators and alternators that exist in electrical generating stations. The source of alternating power is represented by a sinusoidal waveform enclosed in a circle, as shown in the figure below. Every alternating current has a frequency ‘f’ at which it keeps repeating itself in magnitude.

Alternating Current
Alternating Current

When we ‘rectify’ this current, we obtain something called Direct current – a current that flows only in one direction.

Direct current, in practice, is obtained from batteries and other such electrical storage devices.

Direct Current
Direct Current

Electrical elements

It is the property of the materials to resist the flow of current through them. Based on this fact, there are three major types of electrical elements: resistances, inductances, and capacitances.

  • Resistance is the opposition to the flow of direct current. This is an effect generated by resistors, denoted by R.
  • Inductance and capacitance are the opposition to the flow of alternating current. These are the effects offered by inductors and capacitors, respectively. , and C represents a capacitor.


The term reactance applies to alternating current. When one or more type of electrical elements is connected to a source of alternating current, the net resistance offered by the circuit is termed as its reactance.

Assuming that the frequency of the alternating current is ‘f’, the inductance of an inductor L is

XL = 2πfL
where XL is called the inductive reactance.

The capacitance of a capacitor C is

Xc = 1 / 2πfC
where Xc is the capacitive reactance

X = XL + Xc gives the total reactance of a circuit

Here exists another term called Impedance, denoted by Z, which is the vector sum of the resistance and the total reactance of the circuit.

Z = R + jX

Points to note about Reactance

  • The higher the frequency of the alternating power source, the greater is the inductive reactance.
  • An inductor offers no resistance to the direct current because the frequency of the direct current is zero. Hence when you apply direct current to an inductor, it straight away passes the current through it or acts as a short circuit.
  • When you compare resistance and inductance, the major difference is the value of resistance does not change with frequency, while the value of inductance changes. Want to know more about resistance and its calculation? Check our online free ohm’s law calculator.
  • Reactance is a wattles quantity, while resistance is a wattful quantity. It means you cannot store any power in a resistor, and you have to use the current as of and when it flows through the resistors and then get the work done.
  • Besides, in a resistor, electrical power gets wasted in the form of heat. But you can store electrical power in an inductor or capacitor and then use it later. This is called wattles nature. In this way, you do not lose any electrical power.
  • Applications of AC and DC

    Alternating current is mainly used for long distance transmission. It means electrical utilities generate alternating current using generators and transmit to our homes in the form of AC only. This is because generation and transmission of AC are easier and cost-effective method compared to that dealing with DC.

    Direct current is mainly used in electronic devices, such as cell phones, flat screen TVs, hybrid and electrical vehicles, etc.

    Applications of Inductors

    Inductors find a great deal of application in the following ways:

    • In tuning circuits: To tune the electrical device to the desired frequency. For example, in radio or TV tuning.
    • Sensors: Inductors respond to the magnetic field around them. This property makes them suitable for sensor applications.
    • To store energy: We have seen just now that inductors are wattles. This makes them highly desirable as electrical storage devices in computers and other electronics.
    • Transformers: A transformer is an inductor but with many numbers of turns and coils. We all know how much significance transformers carry in power transmission and distribution.
    • Hey guys, do you know how electricity costs are calculated? Check some interesting facts about electricity costs at our online free electricity cost calculator.
    • Filters: Filters are electronic circuits that play an important role in signal processing. Inductors are a major part of filters.
    • Chokes: Chokes pass DC and choke AC. This is the inherent property of an inductor and hence inductors are employed as chokes in many circuits.

    Applications of Capacitors

    Capacitors play a major role in our day to day life. Some of the applications of capacitors are:

    • Energy storage: This is the primary usage of capacitors. For example, you can find large capacitors in your car audio system that offers it the backup energy.
    • Power transmission: Capacitors play a major role in sending power over long distances and for power factor correction. Have an idea on power factor? Not a problem. Our online free power factor calculator page is for your assistance.
    • Signal processing: capacitors are used to convert binary information as bits.
    • Sensors: Due to their basic construction consisting of two parallel plates and the medium in between them, capacitors are used in many ways as sensors to sense changes in pressure and acceleration.

    Applications of resistors

    Resistors are mainly used where instant work has to be done. For example, in mobile charging, fan speed controlling, etc. Learn more about applications of resistors at our online free ohm’s law calculator.

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