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Concept# Series and parallel circuits

Summary

Two-terminal components and electrical networks can be connected in series or parallel. The resulting electrical network will have two terminals, and itself can participate in a series or parallel topology. Whether a two-terminal "object" is an electrical component (e.g. a resistor) or an electrical network (e.g. resistors in series) is a matter of perspective. This article will use "component" to refer to a two-terminal "object" that participate in the series/parallel networks.
Components connected in series are connected along a single "electrical path", and each component has the same electric current through it, equal to the current through the network. The voltage across the network is equal to the sum of the voltages across each component.
Components connected in parallel are connected along multiple paths, and each component has the same voltage across it, equal to the voltage across the network. The current through the network is equal to the sum of the currents through each component.
The two preceding statements are equivalent, except for exchanging the role of voltage and current.
A circuit composed solely of components connected in series is known as a series circuit; likewise, one connected completely in parallel is known as a parallel circuit. Many circuits can be analyzed as a combination of series and parallel circuits, along with other configurations.
In a series circuit, the current that flows through each of the components is the same, and the voltage across the circuit is the sum of the individual voltage drops across each component. In a parallel circuit, the voltage across each of the components is the same, and the total current is the sum of the currents flowing through each component.
Consider a very simple circuit consisting of four light bulbs and a 12-volt automotive battery. If a wire joins the battery to one bulb, to the next bulb, to the next bulb, to the next bulb, then back to the battery in one continuous loop, the bulbs are said to be in series.

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