What is Kirchhoff's voltage law?


Quick Answer

According to Reference.com, Kirchhoff's voltage law requires that the sum of electrical potential differences in a closed circuit be zero. This law can be represented by the equation sum_{k=1}^n V_k=0.

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Full Answer

In the equation sum_{k=1}^n V_k=0, n refers to the total amount of measured voltages. Also, Kirchhoff's voltage law is often misunderstood because of sign errors. This confusion is caused by the direction of voltage at its source and capacitors. Normally, in schematic diagrams, it must be decided whether to measure a positive voltage either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Measuring clockwise yields positive voltage while measuring counter-clockwise causes the voltage to be negative. There is a rule of thumb that states that it's possible to reach the requirements of Kirchhoff's voltage law by reversing supply voltages. Unfortunately, this can lead to confusion in complex circuits as the supply voltage is not determinable.

Kirchhoff's voltage law is the second law of the two laws known as Kirchhoff's circuit laws. The first law of Kirchhoff's circuit laws is Kirchhoff's current law, which requires that, at any point in an electrical current, that the amount of currents flowing towards a specific point must be equal to the amount of currents flowing away from the same point.

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