Types of Electrical Components


So many different types of electrical components exist that it would take thousands of pages to detail them all. It is possible, however, to group electrical components by their function. Every electrical component serves a function. Components that look and work completely differently may have the exact same function.

Power Conduction

  • No matter what you're doing with electricity, you need to have a way to conduct it from one place to another. Some examples of the tools we use to conduct electricity are wire, terminals, wall receptacles (outlets) and printed circuit boards. In a way we even use magnetic fields to transfer electricity. While not exactly conduction, transformers would be completely useless without the ability to transfer electricity via magnetic field.

Motors and Generators

  • Motors and generators use electromagnetism in a similar way, but for opposite purposes. In motors electricity is used to create a magnetic field that spins a shaft. In generators a shaft is spun in the presence of a magnetic field and generates electricity instead.

Energy Storage Devices

  • There are multiple ways that energy can be stored, but the two most common devices used for storage are batteries and capacitors. Both serve nearly identical purposes, but work in very different ways. Batteries use stored chemical energy to generate electricity, and are best for delivering large amounts of power slowly over time. Capacitors store the electricity itself using electrical forces, and are best for delivering small amounts of power nearly instantly.

Electronic components

  • Electronic components are responsible for controlling the flow of electricity through multiple circuits. Typical electronic components are diodes, transistors, resistors, inductors and resonators. Diodes allow electricity to flow in only one direction. Resistors do simply that, they resist the flow of electricity allowing less conduction. Resonators control the timing of electronic devices. Transistors allow logic gates to exist.


  • The role of switches and also buttons is to turn the flow of power on and off. Although thought of as electronic components, transistors act as a sort of solid-state switches. Relays are electromagnetically controlled switches.


  • Electricity can be converted to light in a few different ways, but the most common methods used are incandescent lights, fluorescent tubes, and light emitting diodes (LEDs). Incandescent lights use electricity to heat a small coil of wire until it glows. Fluorescent lights use an arc of electricity through certain gases to produce light. LEDs emit light when electricity passes across a specially doped diode bridge.

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  • "Electronics for dummies;" Gordon McComb, Earl Boysen; 2005
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