Q:

What is an AC adapter?

A:

Quick Answer

An alternating current (AC) adapter converts AC power into direct current (DC) power to charge or power small electronic devices. AC adapters convert and transfer voltage from electrical outlets to power everyday devices such as laptops, mobile gaming devices and cellphones.

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Full Answer

AC adapters convert AC power to DC power by scaling the voltage and converting it through the device’s transformer. An AC adapter’s transformer consists of two wires (primary and secondary) interspersed around an iron center. The primary wire establishes an alternating magnetic field in the iron core, while the secondary wire wraps around the core to create a current. The wires turn in a ratio to produce a uniform voltage output.

The three most common types of AC adapters are single voltage adapters, multi-voltage adapters and 12-volt power adapters. A single voltage AC adapter provides a fixed voltage, while a multi-voltage adapter allows the user to select a desired output voltage.

Dissimilar to the single and multi-voltage adapters, which can be used for different voltage outputs, the 12-volt power adapter provides a fixed 12-volt DC output to power vehicle-powered devices, such as car radios. This type of AC adapter is typically plugged-into a vehicles USB or lighter socket, as oppose to an electrical wall outlet.

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