An electrical network is an interconnection of electrical component
s (e.g., batteries
s) or a model of such an interconnection, consisting of electrical element
s (e.g., voltage source
s, current source
s). An electrical circuit is a network consisting of a closed loop, giving a return path for the current. Linear
electrical networks, a special type consisting only of sources (voltage or current), linear lumped elements (resistors, capacitors, inductors), and linear distributed elements (transmission lines), have the property that signals are linearly superimposable
. They are thus more easily analyzed, using powerful frequency domain
methods such as Laplace transform
s, to determine DC response
, AC response
, and transient response
A resistive circuit is a circuit containing only resistors and ideal current and voltage sources. Analysis
of resistive circuits is less complicated than analysis of circuits containing capacitors and inductors. If the sources are constant (DC
) sources, the result is a DC circuit
. The effective resistance and current distribution properties of arbitrary resistor networks can be modeled in terms of their graph measures and geometrical properties.
A network that contains active electronic
components is known as an ''electronic circuit
''. Such networks are generally nonlinear and require more complex design and analysis tools.
An active network contains at least one voltage source
or current source
that can supply energy to the network indefinitely. A passive
network does not contain an active source.
An active network contains one or more sources of electromotive force
. Practical examples of such sources include a battery
or a generator
. Active elements can inject power to the circuit, provide power gain, and control the current flow within the circuit.
Passive networks do not contain any sources of electromotive force. They consist of passive elements like resistors and capacitors.
A network is linear if its signals obey the principle of superposition
; otherwise it is non-linear. Passive networks are generally taken to be linear, but there are exceptions. For instance, an inductor
with an iron core can be driven into saturation
if driven with a large enough current. In this region, the behaviour of the inductor is very non-linear.
Discrete passive components (resistors, capacitors and inductors) are called ''lumped elements'' because all of their, respectively, resistance, capacitance and inductance is assumed to be located ("lumped") at one place. This design philosophy is called the lumped-element model
and networks so designed are called ''lumped-element circuits''. This is the conventional approach to circuit design. At high enough frequencies the lumped assumption no longer holds because there is a significant fraction of a wavelength
across the component dimensions. A new design model is needed for such cases called the distributed-element model
. Networks designed to this model are called ''distributed-element circuit
A distributed-element circuit that includes some lumped components is called a ''semi-lumped'' design. An example of a semi-lumped circuit is the combline filter
Classification of sources
Sources can be classified as independent sources and dependent sources.
An ideal independent source maintains the same voltage or current regardless of the other elements present in the circuit. Its value is either constant (DC) or sinusoidal (AC). The strength of voltage or current is not changed by any variation in the connected network.
s depend upon a particular element of the circuit for delivering the power or voltage or current depending upon the type of source it is.
A number of electrical laws apply to all electrical networks. These include:
*Kirchhoff's current law
: The sum of all currents entering a node is equal to the sum of all currents leaving the node.
*Kirchhoff's voltage law
: The directed sum of the electrical potential differences around a loop must be zero.
: The voltage across a resistor is equal to the product of the resistance and the current flowing through it.
: Any network of voltage or current sources and resistors is electrically equivalent to an ideal current source in parallel with a single resistor.
: Any network of voltage or current sources and resistors is electrically equivalent to a single voltage source in series with a single resistor.
: In a linear network with several independent sources, the response in a particular branch when all the sources are acting simultaneously is equal to the linear sum of individual responses calculated by taking one independent source at a time.
Other more complex laws may be needed if the network contains nonlinear or reactive
components. Non-linear self-regenerative heterodyning
systems can be approximated. Applying these laws results in a set of simultaneous equations
that can be solved either algebraically or numerically.
To design any electrical circuit, either analog
, electrical engineers
need to be able to predict the voltages and currents at all places within the circuit. Simple linear circuit
s can be analyzed by hand using complex number theory
. In more complex cases the circuit may be analyzed with specialized computer program
s or estimation techniques such as the piecewise-linear model.
Circuit simulation software, such as HSPICE
(an analog circuit simulator),
and languages such as VHDL-AMS
allow engineers to design circuits without the time, cost and risk of error involved in building circuit prototypes.
Network simulation software
More complex circuits can be analyzed numerically with software such as SPICE
, or symbolically using software such as SapWin
Linearization around operating point
When faced with a new circuit, the software first tries to find a steady state solution
, that is, one where all nodes conform to Kirchhoff's current law ''and'' the voltages across and through each element of the circuit conform to the voltage/current equations governing that element.
Once the steady state solution is found, the ''operating point
s'' of each element in the circuit are known. For a small signal analysis, every non-linear element can be linearized around its operation point to obtain the small-signal estimate of the voltages and currents. This is an application of Ohm's Law. The resulting linear circuit matrix can be solved with Gaussian elimination
Software such as the PLECS
interface to Simulink
approximation of the equations governing the elements of a circuit. The circuit is treated as a completely linear network of ideal diode
s. Every time a diode switches from on to off or vice versa, the configuration of the linear network changes. Adding more detail to the approximation of equations increases the accuracy of the simulation, but also increases its running time.
* Digital circuit
* Ground (electricity)
* Open-circuit voltage
* Short circuit
* Voltage drop
* Circuit diagram
Design and analysis methodologies
* Network analysis (electrical circuits)
* Mathematical methods in electronics
* Superposition theorem
* Topology (electronics)
* Mesh analysis
* Prototype filter
* Network analyzer (electrical)
* Network analyzer (AC power)
* Continuity test
* Hydraulic analogy
* Mechanical-electrical analogies
* Impedance analogy
* Mobility analogy
* Through and across analogy
* Bridge circuit
* LC circuit
* RC circuit
* RL circuit
* RLC circuit
* Potential divider
* Series and parallel circuits