What is the Difference between Active and Passive Electronic Components?

What is the Difference between Active and Passive Electronic Components?

They’re quite simply, everywhere. They’re found in pretty much every single device, large and small. From automobiles, airplanes, to small home devices, appliances – and even children’s toys. What are we talking about? Electronic components.  

You’ve probably heard a lot about electronic components this past year. It’s all the rage as demand is high. In fact, worldwide sales of semiconductors were $44.5 billion in June 2021, an increase of 29.2% from the June 2020 total of $34.5 billion, reports the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). And June 2021 sales were 2.1% more than the May 2021 total of $43.6 billion.

“Demand for semiconductors is projected to continue to rise substantially in the long term, as the world continues using chips to become smarter, greener, more productive, and better connected,” said John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO.

Here’s the breakdown in increase in sales per country, according to SIA:

  • Europe – 43.2%
  • Asia Pacific – 34%
  • China – 28.3%
  • Americas – 22.9%
  • Japan – 21.2%


Still while demand is high, the supply of electronic components remains exceedingly low, continuing the massive global shortage affecting most, if not all industries.

So the burning question is – why are electronic components so vital to our daily lives? Electronic components are used to power every device that touches our fingertips. They are the parts used in devices that construct electronic circuits. These electronic components can change the electric current as it can carry information and help in the functions of that circuit.

Electronic components can be classified into two types – active and passive components. While most devices contain both active and passive components, all electronic circuits must contain at least one active component. Sounds confusing? Here are the differences between each component type.

On the Giving End: Active Components

Active components power the circuit by supplying the energy to it, and are capable of electrically controlling and amplifying the flow of electrical current. According to Power-and-Beyond.com, active components require a source of energy, typically in the form of a direct current to perform their specific function.

One of the biggest benefits of active components is that they can allow for amplification – the ability to control small inputs of electricity to match a larger output of electricity. The most active components consist of semiconductor devices such as transistors, diodes, and integrated circuits. Other common examples of active components include voltage sources (like batteries), current sources, and generators.

On the Receiving End: Passive Components

Unlike active components, passive components do not give energy to the circuit, hence its name “passive.” Passive components cannot control or amplify electricity themselves, and can only receive energy, which it dissipates, resists, absorbs or stores in an electric or magnetic field.

Passive components also don’t need an external power source to function. The most common examples of passive components include resistors, capacitors, inductors, and transformers.

Staying Ahead of the Game

Now that you know more about the differences between active and passive components, it’s important to stay ahead of the game – by continuously monitoring component lead times. We reported last month that lead times for electronic components are increasing due to the shortage, especially for components like oscillators. That of course, still rings true today. Only this time, lead times are longer than ever before.  

According to SupplyChainDive, lead times for electronic components increased from 16 weeks to more than 52 weeks. It seems vigilance and patience will be needed to deal with the ongoing shortages. We suggest working closely with your trusted electronics distribution partner in monitoring the current electronic components situation to help you prepare for any challenges that arise. 




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