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Storage of Electrical Power

by Ron Kurtus (revised 31 May 2018)

Besides being able to create electricity, it would be nice to be able to store that power and use it at a later time. There are several methods to do that.

Static electricity can be stored in a Leyden jar, which allows you to release the electrical charges when you want to do that. Direct current (DC) electricity can be stored in a capacitor and a rechargeable battery. Batteries can also e used to create DC electricity.

Unfortunately, there is no way to store alternating current (AC) electricity, although it can be obtained from stored DC power.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Useful tool: Units Conversion

Static electricity

A common way to store static electrical charges, such that they can be discharged at will, is with a Leyden jar. This simple device consists of a glass jar with metal foil wrapped both inside and outside of the jar. A metal rod—often with a metal chain on its end—is located from an insulating stopped at the top of the jar.

Drawing of Leyden Jar

Drawing of Leyden jar

from 1914 book Wireless Telegraphy - Wikimedia Commons

The way the Leyden jar works is that you put a static electrical charge on the metal ball, which then is carried to the inside metal foil. The electrical charges on the inside metal foil induce opposite electrical charges on the outside foil. The glass insulates the charges and allows for a potential difference buildup, thus "storing" the static electricity.

Touching the metal ball will cause a discharge of the electrical power.

Direct current electricity

Direct current (DC) electricity can be stored in a capacitor—which is similar to a Leyden Jar—or in a rechargeable battery.


A capacitor—also called a condenser—consists of two terminals attached to metal plates, separated by a thin dielectric material. Although any insulating material can be used as a separator, certain materials are more suitable in capacitors. Mica, ceramic, cellulose, Mylar, and even air are some of the non-conductive materials used in capacitors.

When DC electricity is applied to the positive (+) and negative (−) terminals, they collect and build up charges, which can be released when connecting the terminals to an electrical circuit.

DC circuit with capacitor

DC circuit with capacitor

A light bulb in a DC circuit will glow until the capacitor is completely charged. At that time, no current passes through the circuit. Taking the battery out of the circuit will allow the capacitor to discharge and light up the bulb again for a short time.

Rechargeable battery

A regular battery creates DC electricity through a chemical reaction of metal plates and an acidic solution. In a rechargeable battery, the process can be reversed, such that a spent battery can become charged again. Thus, a rechargeable battery can store DC electrical power.

Alternating current electricity

Because the direction of the current changes in AC electricity, you cannot directly store the power. Placing a capacitor in an AC circuit has no effect on the alternating flow of the electricity.

The only way it can e stored is indirectly, by storing DC and then using a power inverter to convert the DC to AC. But this really isn't storing AC.


It is desirable to store electrical power and use it at a later time.

Static electricity can be stored in a Leyden jar, Direct current (DC) electricity can be stored in a capacitor and a rechargeable battery. Unfortunately, there is no way to store alternating current (AC) electricity, although it can be obtained from stored DC power.

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Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Leyden Jar - How Stuff Works

Leyden jar - Wikipedia

How Capacitors Work - How Stuff Works

Capacitor - Wikipedia

Can capacitors in electrical circuits provide large-scale energy storage? - Phys.org

Can Supercapacitors Surpass Batteries for Energy Storage? - ElectronicDesign.com

Rechargeable battery - Wikipedia

How DC/AC Power Inverters Work - How Stuff Works

Electricity Storage - List of methods from epa.gov

DC and AC Electricity Resources

Physics Resources


Top-rated books on DC Electricity

Top-rated books on Physics

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