There are many natural causes of capacitance in AC power circuits, such as transmission lines, fluorescent lighting, and computer monitors. Normally, these are counteracted by the inductors previously discussed. However, where capacitors greatly outnumber inductive devices, we must calculate the amount of capacitance to add or subtract from an AC circuit by artificial means.

EO 1.5 DEFINE capacitive reactance (Xc).
EO 1.6 Given the operating frequency (f) and the value of capacitance (C), CALCULATE the capacitive reactance (Xc) of a simple AC circuit.
EO 1.7 DESCRIBE the effect on phase relationship between current (I) and voltage (E) in a capacitive circuit.
EO 1.8 DRAW a simple phasor diagram representing AC current (I) and voltage (E) in a capacitive circuit.

The variation of an alternating voltage applied to a capacitor, the charge on the capacitor, and the current flowing through the capacitor are represented by Figure 3.

The current flow in a circuit containing capacitance depends on the rate at which the voltage changes. The current flow in Figure 3 is greatest at points a, c, and e. At these points, the voltage is changing at its maximum rate (i.e., passing through zero). Between points a and b, the voltage and charge are increasing, and the current flow is into the capacitor, but decreasing in value. At point b, the capacitor is fully charged, and the current is zero. From points b to c, the voltage and charge are decreasing as the capacitor discharges, and its current flows in a direction opposite to the voltage. From points c to d, the capacitor begins to charge in the opposite direction, and the voltage and current are again in the same direction.

Figure 3 Voltage, Charge, and Current in a Capacitor
At point d, the capacitor is fully charged, and the current flow is again zero. From points d to e, the capacitor discharges, and the flow of current is opposite to the voltage. Figure 3 shows the current leading the applied voltage by 90°. In any purely capacitive circuit, current leads applied voltage by 90°