What is a Capacitive Reactance? | Capacitive Reactance vs Inductive Reactance

What is Capacitive Reactance?


The ability of capacitors to resist the passage of alternating current (AC) is known as their ‘Capacitive reactance’. In a capacitor, an electronic component, two conducting plates are separated by a dielectric substance. Charge builds up on each plate as voltage is applied, forming an electric field between them. The capacitor works as an open circuit, stopping current flow, when it is employed in a direct current (DC) circuit, reaching its maximum voltage.

In contrast, the capacitor operates differently in an alternating current (AC) circuit when the voltage alternates in directions, causing the voltage across the plates to change polarity and producing a constant alternation of charge on the plates, which results in current flow. As a reactive element, the capacitor continually stores and releases charge throughout this process. The resistance of a capacitor to the flow of AC current is measured as capacitive reactance. We measure it in ohms (), which is represented by the symbol ‘Xc’.

Capacitive Reactance Formula:

The magnitude of capacitive reactance depends on the frequency (f) of the AC signal and the capacitance (C) of the capacitor.

The formula for calculating capacitive reactance is:

Capacitive reactance, Xc = 1 / (2πfC)

It should be noted that:

  • Xc is the capacitive reactance in ohms (Ω)
  • π is a mathematical constant (approximately 3.14159)
  • f is the frequency of the AC signal in hertz (Hz)
  • C is the capacitance of the capacitor in farads (F)

From the formula, we can observe that as the frequency increases, the capacitive reactance decreases. This means that at higher frequencies, the capacitor allows more current to flow through it. On the other hand, as the capacitance increases, the capacitive reactance also increases, resulting in greater opposition to the flow of current.

Two Factors affect Capacitive Reactance

The frequency of the AC signal and the capacitance of the capacitor are what determine the capacitive reactance of a capacitor. Every integrated circuit (IC) is required to have a capacitor connecting every power terminal to the ground right at the device for two key reasons: to shield it from noise that could impair its performance and to stop it from transmitting noise that could impair the performance of other circuits.


The frequency of the AC signal is inversely correlated with capacitive reactance. More current can flow through the capacitor as the frequency rises due to a decrease in capacitive reactance. Contrarily, as the frequency drops, the capacitive reactance rises, reducing the amount of current that may flow.

This connection is described by the formula below:

Xc = 1 / (2πfC)

Where f is the frequency, C is the capacitance, and Xc is the capacitive reactance.


The relationship between capacitor capacitance and capacitive reactance is direct. Increased capacitance results in increased capacitive reactance, which limits the amount of current that can pass through the capacitor. As a result, more current can flow through when the capacitance value is lower and the capacitive reactance is lower. To gauge a capacitor’s capacity to store charge, we typically measure its capacitance in farads (F).

By adjusting the frequency and capacitance, one can change the capacitive reactance of a capacitor in an AC circuit. For the analysis and design of AC circuits incorporating capacitors, an understanding of the relationship between frequency, capacitance, and capacitive reactance is essential.

Capacitive Reactance vs Inductive Reactance

Inductive reactance (Xl) is the opposition to the flow of alternating current through an inductor.

The formula inductive reactance is,

Inductive reactance,  Xl = 2πfL

Where f represents the frequency and L represents the inductance.

Here’s a chart showcasing the difference between capacitive reactance and inductive reactance:

Capacitive Reactance vs Impedance

In AC circuits, capacitive reactance and impedance are similar ideas, although they stand for various elements of circuit behavior.

Let’s examine the difference between impedance and capacitive reactance:

Capacitive reactance

As we’ve already covered, capacitive reactance is the resistance to the flow of alternating current across a capacitor. The formula of capacitive reactance (Xc) is

Capacitive reactance, Xc = 1 / (2fC)

Where f denotes the frequency of the AC signal, and C is the capacitance of the capacitor, which is used to calculate it.

Higher frequencies and greater capacitance result in lower capacitive reactance values, which are dependent on both frequency and capacitance.


Impedance includes both resistive and reactive components and is the whole opposition to the passage of current in an AC circuit. It is denoted by the letter ‘Z’, and its value can be determined using the formula,

Impedance, Z = (R2 + (Xc - XL)2)

Where, R stands for the circuit’s resistance, Xc for its capacitive reactance, and XL for its possible inductive reactance. By taking the square root of the sum of the squares of the resistive and reactive components, the impedance is calculated.

Due to the 90-degree phase difference between voltage and current in a capacitive circuit, capacitive reactance is a purely imaginary quantity and is represented by a negative sign when computing impedance. This causes the two quantities to behave differently mathematically. This negative sign is squared and added to the positive resistance component, resulting in a positive impedance value.

Capacitive reactance and impedance behave differently in how they affect a circuit. The phase shift that occurs when a capacitor’s reactance produces resistance to current flow causes the current to lag the voltage by 90 degrees. This is what makes capacitive circuits unique. In contrast, impedance takes into account both the resistive and reactive effects of the circuit as well as the reactive influence of capacitive reactance. It stands for the whole amount of resistance and reactance that obstruct current flow.

Designing and analyzing AC circuits in practical settings requires a thorough understanding of the differences between capacitive reactance and impedance. Impedance provides a more thorough understanding of the overall resistance to current flow, whereas capacitive reactance is important in determining how capacitors behave in circuits. Engineers and technicians may precisely assess circuit behavior, improve performance, and efficiently handle any issues that might develop in AC circuits by taking into account both of these criteria.

In AC circuits, there are two essential concepts with different functions: impedance and capacitive reactance. Capacitive reactance is the resistance to current flow in a capacitor, whereas impedance refers to both resistive and reactive components. The consequences of these two components on circuit performance and mathematical representations are distinct. We may grasp the complex operation of AC circuits and make wise decisions when designing and evaluating electrical systems by being aware of these variations. Here, I succinctly offer a reference image.

Why Capacitive Reactance is Negative?

Capacitive reactance is not always bad. It is a positive number that symbolizes resistance to current flowing through a capacitor in an AC circuit. Calculations of impedance may have a negative sign because of how voltage and current interact in capacitive circuits. Impedance, or the overall resistance to current flow in an AC circuit, is a property that is determined by both resistive and reactive components.

The voltage across a capacitor in a capacitive circuit lags the current passing through it by 90 degrees. Use the following equation to get impedance (Z): Z = (R2 + Xc2). The 90-degree phase difference causes the reactive component (Xc) to be negative. This negative number produces a positive impedance value when it is squared and added to the positive resistance component (R-2).

Therefore, even if capacitive reactance is positive in and of itself, the impedance calculation is impacted by the negative sign because of the phase relationship between voltage and current.


You will discover its definition, formula, and factors that influence it, like as frequency and capacitance, in this article. In order to better comprehend capacitive reactance, we shall also contrast the differences between capacitive reactance, inductive reactance, and impedance.

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