# Which is positive and negative terminal?

Electricity flows in a circuit from the positive terminal of a power source to the negative terminal. The positive terminal is the source of electric current, providing energy to the circuit, while the negative terminal is the return point, completing the loop back to the power source. Understanding the difference between the positive and negative terminals is fundamental for working with electrical and electronic circuits.

## Defining Positive and Negative Terminals

In any electrical device powered by direct current (DC), there are two terminals: positive and negative. These terminals allow electricity to flow in a loop from the power source through the electrical components and back to the source.

• The positive terminal is the point from which electrons flow out towards the rest of the circuit. This terminal is connected to the power source’s positive pole.
• The negative terminal is the point to which electrons return after passing through the circuit. This terminal is connected to the power source’s negative pole.

The positive terminal can be thought of as pushing electrons out into the circuit, while the negative terminal collects them again. This flow and return of electrons allows electrical devices to operate.

## Identifying Positive and Negative Terminals

On many devices, the positive and negative terminals are clearly marked to avoid confusion:

• The positive terminal is typically labeled with a “+” sign, the word “positive”, or red color.
• The negative terminal is labeled with a “-” sign, the word “negative”, or black color.

However, this labeling may not always be present. So how do you tell which is which?

### Using a Multimeter

One way is to use a multimeter, specifically its voltage measurement setting:

1. Set the multimeter to measure DC voltage.
2. Touch the red test lead to one of the terminals.
3. Touch the black test lead to the other terminal.
4. The terminal with the red lead that shows a positive voltage reading is the positive terminal.
5. The other terminal with the black lead is the negative terminal.

### Following Current Flow

You can also trace the direction of current flow to identify the terminals:

1. Look for markings showing the positive side of the power source, such as “+” on a battery.
2. Follow the path from that positive source through the device.
3. The terminal the current flows out from is positive.
4. The terminal it flows back into is negative.

This method works for understanding any electrical circuit. Trace the flow of current from start to finish to reveal the positive and negative sides.

## Electrical Flow from Positive to Negative

Once the terminals are identified, remembering that electricity flows from positive to negative helps understand how circuits work.

Here are some key effects of the positive-to-negative flow:

• The positive terminal supplies voltage and current to a circuit.
• The negative terminal returns current and completes the circuit.
• Current flows through electrical components from their positive to negative sides.
• No current flows from negative to positive in a circuit.

This one-way flow allows electronics to function in an orderly, controlled manner. Circuits are designed around using positive terminals to power devices and negative terminals to return and complete current flow.

## Reversing Terminals Causes Damage

Because of the importance of positive-to-negative flow, reversing the terminal connections can severely damage electronics and cause hazards:

• Connecting positive to negative and negative to positive reverses current flow through components.
• This can overload circuits and destroy sensitive electronics.
• Sparks, fires, or explosions can occur from reversed polarity.
• Best case, the device simply won’t function until wiring is corrected.

Care should always be taken to ensure terminals are matched properly when working with electrical devices. Double checking polarity with a multimeter is recommended for any important connections.

## Typical Terminal Connections

While positive and negative terminals have broad definitions, they take on specific labels and functions in different electrical systems.

### DC Power Supplies and Batteries

• Positive = cathode, + terminal, red wire
• Negative = anode, – terminal, black wire

These provide energy for a circuit when connected to positive and negative intake terminals on devices.

• Positive = anode, + intake terminal, red wire
• Negative = cathode, – intake terminal, black wire

Current flows from positive supply terminals to these positive input terminals, through the load, then out the negative return terminal.

### Ground Terminals

• Connect a circuit’s negative point to the ground (earth).
• Provides a safe return path for electricity and noise reduction.
• Often connected to conductive chassis/enclosures for safety.

## Examples of Positive and Negative Terminals

Here are some examples of the positive and negative terminals on common electrical devices:

Device Positive Terminal Negative Terminal
Battery Cathode (+) Anode (-)
Diode Anode (+) Cathode (-)
Capacitor Cathode (+) Anode (-)
Resistor Anode (+) Cathode (-)
LED Anode (+) Cathode (-)

These examples make it clear how electricity flows from positive supply terminals to the positive input of components, then out the negative return back to the source.

## Conclusion

Understanding positive and negative terminals is essential for working with electrical and electronic circuits. The key points are:

• Positive terminals supply current to a circuit.
• Negative terminals return current and complete the circuit loop.
• Current flows from positive to negative, never reverse.
• Reversing terminals can severely damage electronics.
• Terminal polarity must be matched when making connections.

With this knowledge, you can identify, connect, and troubleshoot positive and negative terminals correctly. Proper handling of terminals allows electricity to be harnessed safely and effectively to power the many devices we use every day.