|Topics||Alternating Current (AC), Circuit Breakers, Resistors, Semiconductors, Series-Parallel Circuits|
In contrast to the constant one-way flow of direct current, alternating current changes direction many times each second. Electricity is delivered from power stations to customers as AC because it provides a more efficient way to transport electricity over long distances.
Like fuses, circuit breakers stop current flow once it reaches a certain amount. They have the advantage of being reusable (fuses must be replaced when "blown") but respond more slowly to current surges and are more expensive than fuses.
Resistors are used to limit voltage and/or current in a circuit and can have a fixed or variable resistance. Variable resistors (often called potentiometers or rheostats) are used when dynamic control over the voltage/current in a circuit is needed, for example, in a light dimmer or volume control.
Semiconductors have valence shells that are exacly half full and can conduct electricity under some conditions but not others. This property makes them useful for the control of electrical current.
Circuits are not limited to only series or only parallel configurations. Most circuits contain a mix of series and parallel segments. A good example is a household circuit breaker. Electrical outlets in each section of the house are wired in parallel with the circuit breaker for that section wired in series making it easy to cut off electricity to the parallel parts of the circuit when needed.