What is the Common Passive Components and Their Uses?

Electronic components are often classified as being either active or passive, differing in the functions that they perform. While active components are capable of injecting power into a circuit and may manage current, passive components either consume or store energy. Passive components are useful for influencing the flow of electricity, often capable of resisting flow, storing energy, and producing inductance. In this blog, we will discuss some of the primary types of passive components, allowing you to better understand common electronic devices and their functionalities.


Resistors are common passive components found in countless electrical assemblies, capable of opposing or restricting the flow of current. Resistors are placed within the circuit itself, and they are implemented for the means of reducing current flow, biasing active elements, adjusting signal levels, dividing voltages, terminating transmission lines, and much more. Resistors are typically divided into those that are fixed or variable, depending on whether or not their resistance value is changeable.

Potentiometers and Rheostats

Potentiometers and rheostats are two types of resistors, featuring similar constructions with small differences that define their operational characteristics. A rheostat is a form of adjustable resistor that features two terminals that act as an end and a wiper. When connected to a circuit, the wiper may be adjusted to affect the amount of resistance that the component provides. With this method of operation, rheostats can act as controllers for adjustable lights, system speed settings, and other applications. Potentiometers are quite similar, differing from the rheostat in the fact that they contain three-terminals where a sliding or rotating contact is present for the formation of an adjustable voltage divider. Generally, Potentiometers serve for applications such as volume control, joystick operations, and more.


Capacitors are another major passive component found in electronic devices, capable of storing and releasing electrical charges through the use of their two leads. A majority of capacitors are constructed with two electrical conductors that are separated by a dielectric medium, capable of forming an electric field across the dielectric as voltage is induced to the terminals of the component. This results in the collection of a positive charge on one plate and a negative charge on the other, continuing until the plates are at full capacity. Generally, capacitors serve to block the flow of direct current while enabling alternating current to pass through uninhibited.


In their most basic form, sensors are electronic devices or industrial accessories capable of detecting events or changes in a particular space and will send recorded data to other various electronics that they are paired with. Sensors are widely used in countless settings, commonly implemented for the detection of temperature fluctuations, automatic opening and closing of doors, activation of lights, and much more. Depending upon the medium being measured, sensors can  come in the form of chemical, biosensor, neuromorphic, and MOS types.


A varistor is a component that may exhibit resistance that fluctuates based on the amount of voltage that is applied to the component. Generally, resistance is high when voltages are low, their ability to mitigate current dropping as voltage increases. Varistors are commonly implemented within devices as control or compensation elements, capable of guarding devices against excessive transient voltages or upholding more optimal operating conditions. Metal oxide varistors are the most common variation, featuring an assembly of elements that enable them to protect sensitive circuits.


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