What is AC?

We explain what alternating current is and how it works. In addition, examples and the difference between alternating and direct current.

  1. What is AC?

Alternating current (AC) is the type of electric current most used domestically , characterized by oscillating regularly and cyclically in its magnitude and direction. It is a type of electricity whose behavior is fluctuating, and that represented in a graph (on an x ​​/ y axis) forms sine waves.

It should be explained that all electric current is nothing more than the flow of electrons along the molecular structure of a conductive material, always from the positive pole to the negative pole of the material (said poles, incidentally, are assigned completely conventional).

This phenomenon, known since human antiquity, is due to the presence of free electrons in the last layer of the atoms of these materials, which, being not very strongly attached to the atomic nucleus, can migrate to the next atom, thus generating a current . It is what happens, for example, when rubbing certain materials.

For its part, the alternating current  was discovered by Serbian physicist and inventor Nikola Tesla in 1882 , when he designed and built the first engine to use it for its operation.

The genius of this engineer is also due to the system currently used for the transformation and distribution of this current, whose first emission occurred in 1891 in Colorado , United States, thus beginning the so-called War of the Currents between Tesla and Thomas himself Edison, who in spite of the obvious advantages of alternating current, defended the use of direct current (DC) because he owned most of the latter’s industrial patents.

  1. Examples of alternating current

alternating current
The cars use alternators taking advantage of the direct current of the batteries.

Alternating current is most commonly used in our lives. It is generated in various ways, in power plants (hydroelectric, wind, nuclear, etc.) and through the use of alternators (such as cars), which take advantage of direct current from batteries and other accumulators, to generate alternating current by magnetic induction (continuous polarity changes in the electric field of the conductive material).

  1. Difference between alternating and direct current

The electric flow of the direct current is stable, unidirectional and invariable.

The main difference between alternating and direct current, as has already been said, has to do with the properties of electric flow: in the case of direct current it is stable, unidirectional and invariable (it is represented on an x ​​/ y axis as a straight line); while alternating current oscillates in its magnitude and polarity cyclically (it is represented as sine waves on an x ​​/ y axis).

This, however, translates into a number of different characteristics. The alternating current is much simpler to transform than the direct current , since to raise the voltage of the latter requires a series of dynamos connected in series, which is not very practical, while with the alternating one it can be done simply by means of a transformer.

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