Direct current

Direct current (DC or "continuous current") is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by such sources as batteries, thermocouples, solar cells, and commutator-type electric machines of the dynamo type. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a wire, but can also be through semiconductors, insulators, or even through a vacuum as in electron or ion beams. In direct current, the electric charges flow in the same direction, distinguishing it from alternating current (AC). A term formerly used for direct current was Galvanic current. Types of direct current Types of direct current Direct current may be obtained from an alternating current supply by use of a current-switching arrangement called a rectifier, which contains electronic elements (usually) or electromechanical elements (historically) that allow current to flow only in one direction. Direct current may be made into alternating current with an inverter or a motor-generator set. The first commercial electric power transmission (developed by Thomas Edison in the late nineteenth century) used direct current. Because of the advantage of alternating current over direct current in transforming and transmission, electric power distribution today is nearly all alternating current. For applications requiring direct current, such as third rail power systems, alternating current is distributed to a substation, which utilizes a rectifier to convert the power to direct current. See War of Currents. Direct current is used to charge batteries, and in nearly all electronic systems as the power supply. Very large quantities of direct-current power are used in production of aluminum and other electrochemical processes. Direct current is used for some railway propulsion, especially in urban areas. High voltage direct current is used to transmit large amounts of power from remote generation sites or to interconnect alternating current power grids.

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