An AC/ DC adapter is an external power supply that converts alternating current (AC) from a wall/desk outlet to a direct current (DC) needed by an electronic device. Therefore, it is an AC/ DC converter. When the AC adapter supplies power to a battery-powered device, it is also accurate to describe it as a charger.
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Also known as an AC/ DC adapter, AC converter, or charger, an AC adapter is an external power source for devices that run on batteries or have no other power source. AC to DC adapters help reduce the size of laptops by alleviating the need for standard-sized power supplies. As shown, the AC adapter consists of a central unit that draws power from an AC outlet. The AC/ DC converter then converts the power to the DC that the computer uses, as well as a second power cord that plugs into the computer.
Each AC/ DC adapter has a specific power rating, measured in volts or watts, that it can handle and output to electronics. Because plug ratings and types are not universal, AC adapters can only be used with devices that have the same requirements and connectors.
AC and DC are electrical formats. AC repeatedly changes direction, alternating between positive and negative terminals within a circuit. This is the format used to provide utility power. In contrast, direct current does not change direction. DC is used to transmit electricity along electrical towers and also to power telecommunications equipment, vehicle batteries, and electrical equipment with rechargeable batteries.
AC to DC adapters typically have a four-sided central unit that contains power switching circuitry. This takes AC power from the power source and converts it to DC power at the voltage required by the device. The power cord then feeds this power from the adapter to the device to charge its battery or to run it.
Like most electrical devices, AC adapters are built to be compatible with different levels of power, usually expressed in volts. The AC/DC converters also have a variety of plugs for different outlet designs. For example, the standard British power plug is different from the power plug used in Europe and different from the standard American plug.
Most AC/ DC adapters are not universal and can only be used to power compatible devices. However, certain models are intended to be used as replacement chargers for a variety of devices. These universal power adapters are compatible with multiple voltages in a range - for example, 100-240 volts - and some even have different sized plugs. The latter are also known as star connectors or X connectors.