What are Active, Passive, and Electromechanical Components?

Electromechanical Components

Classification is an important aspect of technical and scientific fields, and electrical engineering is no exception. Classifications help us organize our thoughts, make systematic observations, and make conceptual connections. There are a few types of components used regularly in electronic circuit board production and systems, but if we carefully consider some of the defining characteristics of these components, we can place them into three broad categories. Let’s start with some definitions, and then we’ll look more closely at the three categories.


  • Passive components do not generate mechanical motion and cannot amplify a signal.
  • Active components can amplify a signal.
  • Electromechanical components transform electrical energy into mechanical motion, mechanical motion into electrical energy, or electrical interconnection into mechanical motion

Active components and their functions:

An active component can contribute to the strength of an electrical signal by injecting energy supplied by a source component. We can think of it as amplification or switching action. An amplifying component uses a power source to amplify the power of an input signal, and an electronic switch allows a signal to be controlled—that is, to pass or block—another high-power signal. Active components require a source of energy, usually in the form of direct current, to perform their specific functions. They can somehow manipulate the flow of electricity. The vast majority of active components are semiconductor devices like diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits.

  • Transistors: Typically used for signal amplification or as switching devices.
  • Diode: Only allows electricity to flow in one direction.
  • Integrated circuits (chips or microchips): a collection of complex circuits on a single circuit board design; used to perform a variety of tasks. Despite the fact that it contains many other components, it is still considered a component. 
  • Power sources such as batteries and another alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) sources (DC)

Passive Components and their functions:

Passive components work with electrical energy that already exists. In other words, they do not inject electrical energy into a circuit. Resistors, capacitors, and inductors are the most common passive electronic components. Electrical energy is converted into heat by resistors, stored in an electric field by capacitors, and stored in a magnetic field by inductors. Passive components can have an impact on the flow of electricity through them. They can, for example, oppose its flow, store energy for later usages, or generate inductance. 

  • Resistor: Resists the flow of electric current in a circuit; used to reduce voltage
  • Capacitor: stores electrical energy stably in an electric field (known as ‘charging’), and can release it later when needed
  • Inductor: Stores electrical energy in a magnetism; permits current (DC) but not alternating current (AC) to flow through it (AC)
  • Transducer: Converts an input signal from one type of energy to another; Sensors are a type of transducer that converts physical action/input into an electrical signal

Electromagnetic Component and its function:

The most familiar electro-mechanical component is the electric motor. Although the functional details of motors vary widely, almost all of them have the same basic purpose: to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy in the form of rotational motion. A generator reverses this relationship: generated by mechanical motion, for example, moving water or wind, is converted into electrical power. Speakers and solenoids are electromechanical components that convert electricity into linear movement. Because we can’t see them move, some electromechanical elements don’t appear mechanical. In response to an applied electric field, piezoelectric devices such as quartz crystals and ceramic resonators undergo mechanical changes. Quartz crystals are widely used to produce high-precision timing signals.

Basic difference Between Active and Passive Components:

Electronic components are classified as active or passive based on the functions they perform. In short, active components can inject power into a circuit and are capable of electrically controlling and amplifying the flow of current, whereas passive components cannot. Passive components, as opposed to active components, either consume or store energy. The difference between a component’s input and output signals is a simple way to determine whether it is active or not. If there is a drop in power, the component is inactive. It is active if the signal is amplified.

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In our daily lives, we are accompanied by these tiny electronic elements. They are hidden inside lights, sound systems, computers, phones, cars, and many other things. Because active components are found in every electronic device, they have a plethora of implementations. Classic examples include any device with computing power (integrated circuits), custom electronic products with built-in batteries or displays, and LED lights (light-emitting diodes). Incandescent light bulbs are a wonderful example of transducers at work when it comes to passive components – these devices that convert electrical energy into light and heat energy. Loudspeakers use transducers to convert electrical input into mechanical output, causing the cones inside the speaker to vibrate, producing the sound waves that we can hear.

By Michael Caine

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