What Means The Same Thing As Potential Difference?

Potential difference is the difference of electric potential between two points in an electric circuit. It measures the work required to move a unit of electric charge from one point to another. Potential difference is more commonly known by its everyday name, voltage.

Voltage refers to the electric potential energy per unit charge that exists between two points. It represents the force or pressure pushing charges through a circuit and is measured in volts. Voltage drives the flow of electricity and allows current to flow through wires and other conductors.


Voltage, also referred to as electric potential difference, measures the difference in electric potential energy between two points in an electrical circuit. It indicates how much potential energy available to move electrons from one point to another in a circuit.

voltage is an important concept for electronics
Voltage is measured in units of volts and represented by the symbol V. For example, a AA battery has a voltage of 1.5 volts. This means there is a potential difference of 1.5 volts between the positive and negative terminal of the battery. If a conductive path is provided, electrons will flow from the negative to the positive terminal, releasing energy in the process.

The greater the voltage, the more potential energy available to move electrons through a circuit. Higher voltage enables more electric current to flow for a given resistance. Voltage is an important concept for understanding how electrical energy can perform work such as powering appliances and devices.

## Electric Potential

Electric potential is the amount of electric potential energy per unit of charge. It represents the amount of work needed to move a unit of electric charge from a reference point to a specific point in an electric field. Electric potential is measured in volts (V) and is often referred to simply as voltage or electrical tension.

Voltage and electric potential express the same thing using different terms. Voltage is the common term used to describe the difference in electric potential between two points in a circuit. For example, a 9V battery has a potential difference of 9 volts between its positive and negative terminals. The higher the voltage, the greater the potential difference between two points.

Electric potential results from electric charges, either positive or negative. Charges produce electric fields, which exert forces on other charges placed in the field. Moving a charge against the electric field requires work and results in storing potential energy in the charge. The electric potential at any point in the field is defined as the amount of work per unit charge required to move the charge from a reference point to that point.

In summary, voltage and electric potential both refer to the difference in electric potential energy between two points in a field or circuit. They help describe the “push” on charges that causes electricity to flow. The higher the electric potential difference, the greater the force pushing charges, and thus the stronger the electrical current.

Electromotive Force

Electromotive force (EMF) is the energy per unit electric charge that is converted to electrical energy in a source of electrical energy such as a battery or generator. It can be thought of as the “push” or “pressure” that causes current to flow through a circuit. The unit of electromotive force is the volt (V).

Electromotive force is generated by devices such as batteries, generators, solar cells, and thermocouples. In a battery, a chemical reaction between the electrodes and electrolyte creates electrons with higher potential energy at the cathode. This higher potential energy provides the “push” for electrons to flow through the external circuit back to the lower energy anode, generating an electric current. The potential difference between the cathode and anode is the electromotive force or voltage of the battery.

batteries provide voltage through chemical reactions

In an electrical generator, the mechanical energy used to turn the armature is converted into electrical energy and EMF. As the loops of wire in the rotating armature sweep through the magnetic field, an EMF is induced in the coils due to electromagnetic induction. This EMF appears as a voltage across the output terminals of the generator, creating a potential difference that causes current to flow when the generator is connected to a closed circuit.

So in summary, electromotive force is the energy per unit charge that gets converted to electrical energy in voltage sources like batteries and generators. It creates a potential difference that pushes current through the external circuit, powering the connected devices.

Electrical Current

Electrical current is the flow of electric charge carriers through a conductor. It is driven by voltage, which is the potential difference in electric potential between two points in a circuit. Voltage creates an “electrical pressure” that pushes charges through the circuit.

Here’s how it works:

Voltage sources, like batteries, provide free electrons in the circuit. When there is a potential difference between two points, it creates an electric field. This field applies a force on the free electrons, causing them to move from the negative terminal to the positive terminal of the voltage source. The electrons collide with and transfer energy to the atoms of the conducting material, allowing them to break free and continue the flow.

The greater the voltage, the stronger the electric field, and the more acceleration applied to the electrons. This results in more electrons flowing per unit time, which is defined as the current. So in summary, voltage creates a potential difference that applies a force to move electrons, thus generating an electric current.


Resistance is a measure of how much an object opposes the flow of electric current. Objects with higher resistance allow less current to flow for a given voltage. Resistance is what converts electrical energy into heat, light, motion, or other forms of energy in electrical devices.

Resistance directly affects the relationship between voltage and current according to Ohm’s law:

Voltage = Current x Resistance

ohm's law relates voltage, current and resistance

For a given voltage, higher resistance results in less current flow. For example, a 100 ohm resistor will allow less current to flow than a 10 ohm resistor at the same voltage. This is because the 100 ohm resistor opposes the flow of electrons more than the 10 ohm resistor.

Conversely, for a given current, higher resistance results in more voltage drop. Using the example resistors again, if 1 amp of current flows through the 100 ohm resistor, the voltage drop will be 100 volts. But for the 10 ohm resistor, the voltage drop for 1 amp of current will only be 10 volts.

So in summary, increasing resistance reduces current flow for a given applied voltage, while also increasing the voltage required for a given current flow. This fundamental relationship between voltage, current, and resistance is key to understanding electrical circuits and devices.


Voltage plays a key role in how electrical circuits function. In simple circuits, the voltage source provides the electric potential difference that allows current to flow through the circuit components.

For example, in a basic circuit with a battery, resistor, and LED light, the battery provides a voltage that creates an electric field. This electric field applies a force to the electrons in the wires and components, causing them to flow from the negative to positive terminal of the battery. As the electrons flow through the resistor, they collide with atoms in the material, losing some energy. This voltage drop across the resistor limits the current. The remaining voltage pushes the electrons through the LED, providing energy to excite the electrons in the semiconductor and emit light.

Without the voltage from the battery, the electrons would not flow and the LED would not turn on. The amount of voltage the battery provides dictates how much current will flow. More voltage enables more current, up to the limit of the resistor. Therefore, voltage is the essential driving force that powers the flow of electricity in circuits.

Measuring Voltage

To measure voltage, a device called a voltmeter is used. Voltmeters are electrical instruments that are designed to measure voltage potential between two points in a circuit. They work by measuring the current through a known resistance via Ohm’s law (V = IR, where V is voltage, I is current, and R is resistance).

There are two main types of voltmeters – analog and digital. Analog voltmeters contain a small, precise current meter connected in series with a resistor of known value. The value of the voltage is read off a scale on the voltmeter. The scale reading is proportional to the current through the resistor, which can be translated into voltage based on Ohm’s law. Digital voltmeters use an analog-to-digital converter to provide a numerical display of the voltage reading.

To use a voltmeter, it must be connected in parallel across the component or circuit whose voltage needs to be measured. The two test leads of the voltmeter are touched on either side of the component and the voltmeter displays the voltage drop. For accurate readings, voltmeters should have a high internal resistance so they don’t alter the circuit being measured. Voltmeters are invaluable for troubleshooting electrical circuits and ensuring proper functioning and operation.


Voltage, also known as potential difference, has many practical uses and applications in electrical devices and systems. Here are some examples:

  • Batteries – Batteries provide voltage or electromotive force through chemical reactions. This voltage is applied to components in flashlights, cars, phones, toys, and more to power them.

  • Generators – Generators like those in power plants produce voltage that is distributed through power grids to supply electricity to homes, businesses, and cities.

  • Motors – Electric motors rely on varying voltage supplied to their terminals to generate torque and enable mechanical work.

  • Transmission Lines – High voltage is used to transmit electricity efficiently over long distances through transmission lines before being stepped down for consumer use.

  • Electronics – All electronic devices and circuits require specific voltages to power different components like transistors, integrated circuits, and lights.

  • Static Electricity – Friction can transfer electrons between materials, leading to a voltage difference that creates static cling or small shocks.

  • many devices require specific voltages

As you can see, voltage is a fundamental force that enables the practical application of electricity in a wide variety of electrical and electronic systems.


To summarize what we have discussed, the terms voltage, electric potential difference, and electromotive force all refer to the same fundamental concept in physics and electrical engineering. While they may have slightly different nuances, they all describe the electric energy per unit charge that exists between two points in a circuit or system. This potential difference is what causes charges to flow and allows electricity to do work.

Voltage, measured in volts, refers to the potential difference between two points. Electric potential difference is often used in more theoretical discussions of voltage. Electromotive force describes voltage sources within a circuit that establish a potential difference. Though the terminology differs, volt, potential difference, and emf quantify the same phenomenon driving electrical current.

Understanding this core concept of potential difference is key to analyzing any electrical or electronic system. Whether you are looking at batteries, circuits, generators, or even nerve cells, voltage provides the impetus for current and power. As we follow the flow of charges due to varying voltage levels, we gain insight into the dynamics of electricity and its applications in our modern world.

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