Resistors and resistance, capacitors and capacitance, and Inductors and Inductance. Terms used a lot when discussing and designing electrical and electronic circuits. You might be familiar with the first two, but might be unsure when it comes to inductors and inductance.

So, what exactly is the difference between an Inductor and Inductance? Inductance is the characteristic of a conductor to oppose changes in current by producing an electromotive force.  An Inductor is an electronic device whose main purpose is to oppose changes in current in a circuit by utilising inductance. The inductance of an inductor can be altered by changing its physical properties which include the core material used for the inductor, increasing the cross sectional area of the magnetic core, and increasing the number of turns of the coil. 

What is inductance?

Conductors have many different properties which include electric resistivity, magnetic permeability, conductivity, malleability, ductility, thermal conductivity, etc. Another important property of a conductor is its Inductance, which defines the ability of the conductor to oppose changes in current in the form of an electromotive force or voltage. The units of the inductance are given in Henrys (named after Joseph Henry who first discovered inductance) denoted by H. However, you might also associate inductance with the letter L. One Henry causes a Voltage of one volt, when current is changing at a rate of one ampere per second.  The inductance of an inductor is largely influenced by the cross-sectional area of the conductor, as well as the magnetic permeability of nearby materials. 

Below is the formula for inductance for a coil of wire;

What is an inductor?

An Inductor is an electronic component whose main purpose is to provide inductance in electrical and electronic circuits. Inductors are constructed using an inner core material (with high magnetic permeability), and a coil of wire wrapped around this core (as seen in the image below).

An inductor is designed to have a certain amount of inductance which is controlled by manipulating the different variables in the equation for inductance;

  • Number of turns of wire of the coil (the more turns, the higher the inductance).
  • Coil area 
  • Coil length
  • Core material permeability (the greater the magnetic permeability of the core material, the greater the inductance). 
  • Core material cross-sectional area

The ability of an inductor to provide inductance in circuits has many different applications which include;

  • Tuning circuits,
  • Choking, 
  • Blocking,
  • Attenuating and
  • Filtering/Smoothing high frequency

Difference between an inductor and inductance

The electrical and electronic world is filled with a plethora of components, devices, terms, units, etc. So things can get confusing fast. One major confusion is the difference between an Inductor and Inductance. As we have just taken a look at inductance and inductors individually, we can look at the differences between them. Inductance defines the property that all conductors have, which is to oppose changes in current. Inductors are components designed to have higher levels of  inductance (compared to a straight piece of wire) and provide inductance in circuits. So, inductance is a property, and inductors are components with a set value of inductance. The amount of inductance that an inductor has can be controlled by varying the number of turns of coil, coil area, coil length, core material cross-sectional area, and core material magnetic permeability.