Inductor vs. Capacitor: What Is the Difference?

Inductors and capacitors are two of circuit design’s most important electronic components. While they often appear alongside each other in the same circuits, they are very different components with distinct functions. In this blog post, we’ll explain the basics of an inductor vs. capacitor so you can understand each component’s role and why they are necessary for most electronic circuits. 

What Is an Inductor?

An inductor is a passive electrical component that stores energy as a magnetic field. It is usually made up of a coil of wire, though it can also take other forms, such as ferrite rods, flat circuits, or even metal plates. The component stores energy in magnetic flux when current passes through it, which can then be released back into the circuit to provide additional power and control over the current flow.

When current flows through the inductor, it creates a magnetic field that resists changes in the current flow. This means that when the current is suddenly reduced, the inductor will oppose it and continue to supply power for a short period. This makes them useful for smoothing out electrical signals or storing energy temporarily. Inductors are found in many electronic circuits, such as radios, televisions, amplifiers, etc. They can also be used to protect sensitive components from voltage spikes.

What Is a Capacitor?

A capacitor is a two-terminal electrical component that stores energy by creating an electric field between two conducting plates (or other conductive materials). Capacitors can be used in many applications, such as signal filtering, power conditioning, and energy storage. 

When a voltage is applied to the terminals of a capacitor, it produces an electric field that accumulates charge on its conductors. The charge stored on the capacitor creates an electric potential difference between its terminals, allowing it to act as a voltage source. Capacitors are also used in AC power systems to filter out high-frequency noise and smooth out voltage fluctuations. They can also be used in AC or DC circuits for energy storage and are often found in electronic devices such as televisions, computers, and cell phones. In addition, capacitors are used in various applications such as creating oscillators, resonant circuits, power supplies, filters, motors, and many other consumer devices. 

Core Differences Between Inductors vs. Capacitors

Both inductors and capacitors hold their ground in electronics. But how do they stand apart? While capacitors and inductors store energy, capacitors resist voltage changes, and inductors resist current alterations. Here’s a further comparison to highlight the differences between an inductor vs. capacitor:

1. Basic Function

  • Inductor: Resists changes in current and smooths out potential fluctuations, releasing stored energy back when required.
  • Capacitor: Provides a reservoir of stored electrical energy, stabilizing voltage and filtering noise.

2. Physical Construction

  • Inductor: Typically a coil of wire, often wrapped around a magnetic core.
  • Capacitor: Two conductive plates separated by an insulating material.

3. Energy Storage Mechanism

  • Inductor: Stores energy in a magnetic field created by the flowing current.
  • Capacitor: Stores energy in an electric field between its plates.

Note: Capacitors are generally smaller and optimized for high frequencies, whereas inductors excel at low frequencies. Their applications also vary.

Contact the Experts at Solid State Inc.

Inductors and capacitors are everywhere in our electronics. Inductors hold energy in magnetic fields and help with current changes, while capacitors balance voltage and store energy between plates. Both are vital; together, they ensure our gadgets run just right. 

Solid State Inc. offers a range of electronic components and products, including capacitors, integrated circuits, diodes, fuses, connectors, transistors, and much more. To learn more about the differences between an inductor vs. capacitor, or to inquire about specific products, please contact us at Solid State Inc. today.