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Direct Current

Our Take

Current that only flows in one direction. Typically used in embedded devices and electronics.

Book Definition

A current that remains constant with time.

Fundamentals of Electric Circuits, 5th Edition by Charles K. Alexander and Matthew N. O. Sadiku

Current that flows in only one direction. DC voltage has a steady polarity that does not reverse.

Grob’s Basic Electronics, 11th Edition by Mitchel E. Schultz


Direct current (DC) is the unidirectional flow of an electric charge. An electrochemical cell is a prime example of DC power. Direct current may flow through a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through semiconductors, insulators, or even through a vacuum as in electron or ion beams. The electric current flows in a constant direction, distinguishing it from alternating current (AC). A term formerly used for this type of current was galvanic current.[1]

The abbreviations AC and DC are often used to mean simply alternating and direct, as when they modify current or voltage.[2][3]

Direct current may be converted from an alternating current supply by use of a rectifier, which contains electronic elements (usually) or electromechanical elements (historically) that allow current to flow only in one direction. Direct current may be converted into alternating current via an inverter.

Direct current has many uses, from the charging of batteries to large power supplies for electronic systems, motors, and more. Very large quantities of electrical energy provided via direct-current are used in smelting of aluminum and other electrochemical processes. It is also used for some railways, especially in urban areas. High-voltage direct current is used to transmit large amounts of power from remote generation sites or to interconnect alternating current power grids.

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