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Reactance (electronics)

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Reactance (electronics)

For other uses, see Reactance (disambiguation).

In electrical and electronic systems, reactance is the opposition of a circuit element to a change of electric current or voltage, due to that element's inductance or capacitance. A built-up electric field resists the change of voltage on the element, while a magnetic field resists the change of current. The notion of reactance is similar to electrical resistance, but they differ in several respects.

An ideal resistor has zero reactance, while ideal inductors and capacitors consist entirely of reactance, having zero and infinite resistance respectively.


In phasor analysis, reactance is used to compute amplitude and phase changes of sinusoidal alternating current going through the circuit element. It is denoted by the symbol \scriptstyle{X}.

Both reactance \scriptstyle{X} and resistance \scriptstyle{R} are components of impedance \scriptstyle{Z}.

Z = R + jX\,
  • \scriptstyle{Z} is the impedance, measured in ohms.
  • \scriptstyle{R} is the resistance, measured in ohms.
  • \scriptstyle{X} is the reactance, measured in ohms.
  • \scriptstyle j \;=\; \sqrt{-1}

Both capacitive reactance \scriptstyle{X_C} and inductive reactance \scriptstyle{X_L} contribute to the total reactance \scriptstyle{X}.

{X = X_L - X_C = \omega L -\frac {1} {\omega C}}
  • \scriptstyle{X_C} is the capacitive reactance, measured in ohms
  • \scriptstyle{X_L} is the inductive reactance, measured in ohms

Although \scriptstyle{X_L} and \scriptstyle{X_C} are both positive by convention, the capacitive reactance \scriptstyle{X_C} makes a negative contribution to total reactance.


  • If \scriptstyle X \;>\; 0, the reactance is said to be inductive.
  • If \scriptstyle X \;=\; 0, then the impedance is purely resistive.
  • If \scriptstyle X \;<\; 0, the reactance is said to be capacitive

Capacitive reactance

Main article: Capacitance

Capacitive reactance is an opposition to the change of voltage across an element. Capacitive reactance \scriptstyle{X_C} is inversely proportional to the signal frequency \scriptstyle{f} (or angular frequency ω) and the capacitance \scriptstyle{C}.[1]

X_C = \frac {1} {\omega C} = \frac {1} {2\pi f C} [2]

A capacitor consists of two conductors separated by an insulator, also known as a dielectric.

At low frequencies a capacitor is open circuit, as no current flows in the dielectric. A DC voltage applied across a capacitor causes positive charge to accumulate on one side and negative charge to accumulate on the other side; the electric field due to the accumulated charge is the source of the opposition to the current. When the potential associated with the charge exactly balances the applied voltage, the current goes to zero.

Driven by an AC supply, a capacitor will only accumulate a limited amount of charge before the potential difference changes polarity and the charge dissipates. The higher the frequency, the less charge will accumulate and the smaller the opposition to the current.

Inductive reactance

Main article: Inductance

Inductive reactance is an opposition to the change of current on an inductive element. Inductive reactance \scriptstyle{X_L} is proportional to the sinusoidal signal frequency \scriptstyle{f} and the inductance \scriptstyle{L}.

X_L = \omega L = 2\pi f L

The average current flowing in an inductance \scriptstyle{L} in series with a sinusoidal AC voltage source of RMS amplitude \scriptstyle{A} and frequency \scriptstyle{f} is equal to:

I_L = {A \over \omega L} = {A \over 2\pi f L}

The average current flowing in an inductance \scriptstyle{L} in series with a square wave AC voltage source of RMS amplitude \scriptstyle{A} and frequency \scriptstyle{f} is equal to:

I_L = {A \pi^2 \over 8 \omega L} = {A\pi \over 16 f L} making it appear as if the inductive reactance to a square wave was X_L = {16 \over \pi} f L

An inductor consists of a coiled conductor. Faraday's law of electromagnetic induction gives the counter-emf \scriptstyle{\mathcal{E}} (voltage opposing current) due to a rate-of-change of magnetic flux density \scriptstyle{B} through a current loop.

\mathcal{E} = -\right) = -jX_C \\ \tilde{Z}_L &= \omega Le^{j{\pi \over 2}} = j\omega L = jX_L\quad


For a reactive component the sinusoidal voltage across the component is in quadrature (a \scriptstyle{\pi/2} phase difference) with the sinusoidal current through the component. The component alternately absorbs energy from the circuit and then returns energy to the circuit, thus a pure reactance does not dissipate power.

See also


  1. Pohl R. W. Elektrizitätslehre. – Berlin-Göttingen-Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 1960.
  2. Popov V. P. The Principles of Theory of Circuits. – M.: Higher School, 1985, 496 p. (In Russian).
  3. Küpfmüller K. Einführung in die theoretische Elektrotechnik, Springer-Verlag, 1959.

External links

  • Interactive Java Tutorial on Inductive Reactance National High Magnetic Field Laboratoryhe:עכבה חשמלית#היגב
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