What is Reactance?

Opposition to the flow of alternating current caused by capacitance or inductance


The opposition presented by capacitance and/or inductance to the passage of alternating current of a given frequency.

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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.

Like resistance, capacitance and inductance are inherent properties of an element. Reactive effects are not exhibited under constant direct current, but only when the conditions in the circuit change.

Thus, the reactance differs with the rate of change, and is a constant only for circuits under alternating current of constant frequency. In vector analysis of electric circuits, resistance is the real part of complex impedance, while reactance is the imaginary part. Both share the same unit of measurement, the ohm.