What Produces Current In A Circuit?

Current, voltage, and resistance are important concepts in electricity. Current refers to the flow of electric charge through a circuit – it is a measurement of how many electrons pass through a point in the circuit per second. Voltage, also called potential difference, represents the energy given to electrons to move them through a circuit and is measured in volts. Resistance opposes the flow of current in a circuit. It is caused by collisions between electrons and atoms in a material the electric current is passing through, and is measured in ohms.

Voltage and resistance interact to produce current in an electrical circuit. For current to exist, there must be a complete closed path in a circuit for electrons to flow, a voltage source to provide the energy to move the electrons, and a resistance that regulates how much current will flow. According to Ohm’s law, current is equal to voltage divided by resistance. Therefore, for a given voltage, increasing resistance reduces current, while decreasing resistance increases current. In this article we will explore the relationship between voltage and resistance, and how they work together to produce electric current in circuits.


Voltage is a measure of the potential energy between two points in an electrical circuit. It represents the “push” or “pressure” that causes electricity to flow in a circuit. Voltage is measured in units called volts (V).

Mathematically, voltage is defined as the amount of potential energy per unit charge between two points. It can be calculated using:

Voltage (V) = Energy (J) / Charge (C)

Where J stands for joules, the unit of energy, and C stands for coulombs, the unit of electric charge. This means that one volt is equal to one joule of energy per coulomb of charge.

For example, if 10 joules of energy is required to move 20 coulombs of charge between two points, the voltage between those points is:

Voltage = Energy (10J) / Charge (20C) = 0.5 V

In circuits, voltage represents the “electrical pressure” applied to charges to make them flow. The higher the voltage, the more potential energy is available to move charges around a circuit.


Resistance is a measure of how much a material opposes the flow of electric current. Some materials allow electric current to flow easily while others resist the flow. Resistance is what converts electrical energy into another form like heat, sound or light in electrical devices.

Resistance is measured in ohms, represented by the Greek letter omega (Ω). Materials with low resistance allow more current to flow and have lower ohm values. Insulators like rubber or plastic have very high resistance and may have resistances in the megaohm or gigaohm range.

Resistance is related to voltage and current by Ohm’s law: R = V/I. Where R is resistance in ohms, V is voltage in volts, and I is current in amps. This means that for a given voltage, increasing the resistance reduces the current flow. For example, if a circuit has 10 volts applied and the resistance is 5 ohms, the current would be I = V/R = 10/5 = 2 amps. If we increased the resistance to 10 ohms, the current would decrease to 1 amp.

The resistance of a material depends on its physical properties and dimensions. Materials like metals contain free electrons that can move through the material, making them good conductors. Insulating materials lack free electrons. Resistance also increases for longer and thinner material dimensions.

Relationship Between Voltage and Current

Voltage and current are directly related in an electrical circuit. As the voltage increases, the current also increases. Likewise, as the voltage decreases, the current decreases. This relationship is described by Ohm’s Law.

Voltage, measured in volts, is the electrical potential energy per unit charge. It can be thought of as the “push” or electrical pressure moving the current through a circuit. Current, measured in amperes or amps, is the rate at which charge flows past a point in the circuit.

For a given resistance, increasing the voltage will cause more charge to flow through the circuit, thereby increasing the current. Decreasing the voltage means there is less electrical pressure to move the charges, so the current decreases.

For example, if a circuit has a voltage of 12 volts and a resistance of 3 ohms, the current would be 4 amps. If we increase the voltage to 24 volts, the current will double to 8 amps. This shows the direct relationship between voltage and current.

The higher the voltage, the stronger the push on the electrons in the circuit, resulting in a larger flow of current. Understanding this fundamental relationship is key to calculating and regulating current flow in electrical systems.

Ohm’s Law

The primary relationship between voltage, current, and resistance in electrical circuits is described by Ohm’s law. This fundamental law states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across the two points. Ohm’s law is commonly stated as:

I = V/R

Where I is the current in amps, V is the voltage in volts, and R is the resistance in ohms. This simple equation shows that for a given voltage, the current is inversely proportional to the resistance. In other words, the greater the resistance, the lower the current for a constant applied voltage. The resistance R in the equation can be the intrinsic resistance of the wire material itself, or it can represent any additional resistors in the circuit.

Ohm’s law is an extremely useful tool for analyzing electrical circuits. Using the voltage current and resistance values in a circuit, the current can be calculated using the equation. This current value then allows other important circuit parameters to be determined, such as the power dissipation in circuit elements.


circuit diagram showing resistors in a circuit
A resistor is a component that is specifically designed to add resistance to a circuit and limit electric current flow. Resistors are made from materials like carbon, wire windings, and ceramics that possess some amount of resistance to current.

The most common symbol for a resistor in circuit diagrams is a zig-zag line. Resistors are rated by their electrical resistance measured in ohms – the higher the resistance value, the more the resistor will limit current flow.

Resistors are added to circuits for several reasons:

  • To reduce current flow and divide voltages in a circuit
  • To control LED brightness and limit current through LEDs
  • As part of voltage divider networks to create reference voltages
  • For pull-up and pull-down purposes in logic circuits
  • To adjust signal levels
  • To provide current limiting to protect circuits from damage

By controlling and limiting current in a circuit, resistors allow the safe and effective operation of electronic devices. Selecting the proper resistor values is an important part of circuit design.

Series vs Parallel Circuits

Current flows differently in series and parallel circuits. In a series circuit, there is only one path for current to flow through all the components. The current has to pass through each component one after the other. The current is the same at each point in a series circuit.

In a parallel circuit, there are multiple paths for current to flow because circuit components are connected in parallel branches. The current splits up and flows through each parallel branch separately before recombining at the end. The current in each parallel branch is different and depends on the resistance of that branch.

This difference in current flow affects the total resistance of the circuit. In a series circuit, the total resistance is simply the sum of all individual resistor values. But in a parallel circuit, the total resistance is decreased because the different branch resistances are in parallel. The formula for total resistance in a parallel circuit uses reciprocals to account for the parallel paths. So adding more parallel branches decreases the total resistance in the circuit.

Factors Affecting Resistance

There are several factors that affect the resistance of a conductor. The main ones are:


Resistance is directly proportional to temperature. As temperature increases, the resistance also increases. This is because higher temperatures cause increased atomic vibration in the conductor, which makes it more difficult for electrons to flow through it.

Cross Sectional Area

Resistance is inversely proportional to the cross sectional area of the conductor. A larger cross sectional area provides more room for electrons to flow through, decreasing resistance.


Resistivity is a material property that measures how strongly a material opposes electric current. Materials with high resistivity (like rubber) have more resistance than materials with low resistivity (like copper).


Longer conductors have more resistance than shorter ones, assuming identical cross sectional areas. This is because electrons have to travel a longer path through the conductor.

By understanding how these factors affect resistance, we can design circuits and choose materials to produce the desired amount of resistance for a given application.

Conductors vs Insulators

Conductors are materials that allow electrical current to flow freely. Metals such as copper, aluminum and silver are excellent electrical conductors. This is because metals have a crystalline structure with free electrons that can move through the material when voltage is applied. The free electrons act as charge carriers, transporting electricity through the metal.

Insulators are materials that resist the flow of electric current. Examples of good insulators include rubber, plastic, glass and dry wood. Insulators have tightly bound electrons that cannot move easily. When voltage is applied, the electrons in an insulator cannot gain enough energy to break free and carry a current. This makes them very effective at blocking electricity and containing it within conductors.

The difference between conductors and insulators is critical in electrical systems. Conductors allow current flow and are used to transmit electricity. Insulators prevent current flow and are used to protect components, isolate wires and resist accidental shocks. Understanding the unique properties of conductors vs. insulators is fundamental to harnessing the power of electricity safely and effectively.


This guide covered what produces current in a circuit and the key factors involved. Voltage is the electrical pressure that causes charges to flow around a complete, closed path known as a circuit. The higher the voltage, the greater the current will be. However, resistance in the circuit impedes the flow of charge. Ohm’s law mathematically relates voltage, current, and resistance (V=IR). Factors like the conductor’s material properties and length affect its electrical resistance. Resistive elements called resistors are deliberately added to circuits to control current flow. Circuits can be connected in series or parallel configurations, which also impacts resistance and current. While conductors allow current to flow easily, insulators block the flow of charges. In summary, current flows in a circuit due to voltage across a load. The resistance impacts how much current flows per Ohm’s law. Understanding these core concepts allows for designing and analyzing electrical circuits.

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