In a parallel circuit, there is more than one way for electrons to flow. The components are in different loops, which we call branches.
Below is an example of a parallel circuit:
In this parallel circuit, we have a closed switch in the first branch, an open switch in the second branch, and a closed switch in the third branch. The circuit has parallel lines and components parallel to each other, which is why we call it a parallel circuit.
In a parallel circuit, when a component in a branch breaks, the components in other branches keep working. For example, let’s look at the diagram below.
The first lamp is broken but the other two lamps are still brightly lit. In the same way, if the second or third lamp breaks, the other lamps will still light up. This is why parallel circuits are much more common than series circuits, as they are much more useful.
We can use switches to control which components we want to turn on and off. For example, let’s look at the diagram below.
In this parallel circuit, We have a closed switch in the first branch, an open switch in the second branch and a closed switch in the third branch.
In the second branch, the switch is open, so we have an incomplete circuit. Even though the switch is open, the first and third lamps are still lit. We can control which lamps are on and which lamps are off by using switches. If we wanted to turn the lamp on, then we close the switch and if we wanted to turn it back off, we open the switch.
In a parallel circuit, the current is shared between the different branches. We measure the current using an ammeter, which is placed in series with the components.
As the current is shared between different branches, the current in each branch adds up to the total current. For example, if the total current is 6 amperes, all the branches must add up to 6 amperes. Each branch is 2 amperes and there are three branches, which adds up to 6 amperes (2 + 2 + 2 = 6).
Keep in mind that the ammeter should be placed next to the component you are measuring.
As we are using the same component, the lamp, we should expect the same current to flow through each branch. In this case, we have 2 amps for all three branches.
In a parallel circuit, the potential difference across each circuit is the same as the potential difference across the cell or the battery. This means if we add more lamps, the lamps stay bright.
We use a voltmeter to measure the potential difference.
Whether it is a series circuit or a parallel circuit, the voltmeter is not placed in the same loop as the other components. Instead, it is placed parallel to the component you are measuring, connecting a wire to either side of the component you are measuring. You can see this in the parallel circuit diagram below.
If the potential difference going across the cell is 4 volts, then the potential difference going across each lamp will also be 4 volts. This applies to any other components in a circuit, not just lamps.