# Passivity (engineering)

(Redirected from Active component)

Passivity is a property of engineering systems, most commonly encountered in analog electronics and control systems. Typically, analog designers use passivity to refer to incrementally passive components and systems, which are incapable of power gain. In contrast, control systems engineers will use passivity to refer to thermodynamically passive ones, which consume, but do not produce, energy. As such, without context or a qualifier, the term passive is ambiguous.

An electronic circuit consisting entirely of passive components is called a passive circuit, and has the same properties as a passive component.

If a component is not passive, then it is an active component.

## Thermodynamic passivity

In control systems and circuit network theory, a passive component or circuit is one that consumes energy, but does not produce energy. Under this methodology, voltage and current sources are considered active, while resistors, capacitors, inductors, transistors, tunnel diodes, metamaterials and other dissipative and energy-neutral components are considered passive. Circuit designers will sometimes refer to this class of components as dissipative, or thermodynamically passive.

While many books give definitions for passivity, many of these contain subtle errors in how initial conditions are treated and, occasionally, the definitions do not generalize to all types of nonlinear time-varying systems with memory. Below is a correct, formal definition, taken from Wyatt et al.[1] which also explains the problems with many other definitions. Given an n-port R with a state representation S, and initial state x, define available energy EA as:

${\displaystyle E_{A}(x)=\sup _{x\to T\geq 0}\int _{0}^{T}-\langle v(t),i(t)\rangle \,{\mathord {\operatorname {d} }}t}$

where the notation supxT≥0 indicates that the supremum is taken over all T ≥ 0 and all admissible pairs {v(·), i(·)} with the fixed initial state x (e.g., all voltage–current trajectories for a given initial condition of the system). A system is considered passive if EA is finite for all initial states x. Otherwise, the system is considered active. Roughly speaking, the inner product ${\displaystyle \langle v(t),i(t)\rangle }$ is the instantaneous power (e.g., the product of voltage and current), and EA is the upper bound on the integral of the instantaneous power (i.e., energy). This upper bound (taken over all T ≥ 0) is the available energy in the system for the particular initial condition x. If, for all possible initial states of the system, the energy available is finite, then the system is called passive.

## Incremental passivity

In circuit design, informally, passive components refer to ones that are not capable of power gain; this means they cannot amplify signals. Under this definition, passive components include capacitors, inductors, resistors, diodes, transformers, voltage sources, and current sources. They exclude devices like transistors, vacuum tubes, relays, tunnel diodes, and glow tubes. Formally, for a memoryless two-terminal element, this means that the current–voltage characteristic is monotonically increasing. For this reason, control systems and circuit network theorists refer to these devices as locally passive, incrementally passive, increasing, monotone increasing, or monotonic. It is not clear how this definition would be formalized to multiport devices with memory – as a practical matter, circuit designers use this term informally, so it may not be necessary to formalize it.[nb 1]

This term is used colloquially in a number of other contexts:

• A passive USB to PS/2 adapter consists of wires, and potentially resistors and similar passive (in both the incremental and thermodynamic sense) components. An active USB to PS/2 adapter consists of logic to translate signals (active in the incremental sense)
• A passive mixer consists of just resistors (incrementally passive), whereas an active mixer includes components capable of gain (active).
• In audio work one can also find both (incrementally) passive and active converters between balanced and unbalanced lines. A passive bal/unbal converter is generally just a transformer along with, of course, the requisite connectors, while an active one typically consists of a differential drive or an instrumentation amplifier.

## Other definitions of passivity

In electronic engineering, devices that exhibit gain or a rectifying function (such as diodes) are considered active. Only capacitors, inductors, and resistors are considered passive.[2][3] In terms of abstract theory, diodes can be considered non-linear resistors, but non-linearity in a resistor would not normally be directional, which is the property that leads to diodes being classified as active.[4] United States Patent and Trademark Office is amongst the organisations classing diodes as active devices.[5]

Systems for which the small signal model is not passive are sometimes called locally active (e.g. transistors and tunnel diodes). Systems that can generate power about a time-variant unperturbed state are often called parametrically active (e.g. certain types of nonlinear capacitors).[6]

## Stability

Passivity, in most cases, can be used to demonstrate that passive circuits will be stable under specific criteria. Note that this only works if only one of the above definitions of passivity is used – if components from the two are mixed, the systems may be unstable under any criteria. In addition, passive circuits will not necessarily be stable under all stability criteria. For instance, a resonant series LC circuit will have unbounded voltage output for a bounded voltage input, but will be stable in the sense of Lyapunov, and given bounded energy input will have bounded energy output.

Passivity is frequently used in control systems to design stable control systems or to show stability in control systems. This is especially important in the design of large, complex control systems (e.g. stability of airplanes). Passivity is also used in some areas of circuit design, especially filter design.

## Passive filter

A passive filter is a kind of electronic filter that is made only from passive components – in contrast to an active filter, it does not require an external power source (beyond the signal). Since most filters are linear, in most cases, passive filters are composed of just the four basic linear elements – resistors, capacitors, inductors, and transformers. More complex passive filters may involve nonlinear elements, or more complex linear elements, such as transmission lines.

Television signal splitter consisting of a passive high-pass filter (left) and a passive low-pass filter (right). The antenna is connected to the screw terminals to the left of center.

A passive filter has several advantages over an active filter:

• Guaranteed stability
• Scale better to large signals (tens of amperes, hundreds of volts), where active devices are often impractical
• No power supply needed
• Often less expensive in discrete designs (unless large coils are required)
• For linear filters, potentially greater linearity depending on components required

They are commonly used in speaker crossover design (due to the moderately large voltages and currents, and the lack of easy access to a power supply), filters in power distribution networks (due to the large voltages and currents), power supply bypassing (due to low cost, and in some cases, power requirements), as well as a variety of discrete and home brew circuits (for low-cost and simplicity). Passive filters are uncommon in monolithic integrated circuit design, where active devices are inexpensive compared to resistors and capacitors, and inductors are prohibitively expensive. Passive filters are still found, however, in hybrid integrated circuits. Indeed, it may be the desire to incorporate a passive filter that leads the designer to use the hybrid format.

## Notes

1. ^ This is probably formalized in one of the extensions to Duffin's Theorem. One of the extensions may state that if the small signal model is thermodynamically passive, under some conditions, the overall system will be incrementally passive, and therefore, stable. This needs to be verified.

## References

1. ^ Wyatt Jr., John L.; Chua, Leon O.; Gannett, Joel W.; Göknar, Izzet C.; Green, Douglas N. (January 1981). "Energy Concepts in the State-Space Theory of Nonlinear n-Ports: Part I—Passivity" (PDF). IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems. CAS-28 (1): 48–61. doi:10.1109/TCS.1981.1084907.
2. ^ E C Young, "passive", The New Penguin Dictionary of Electronics, 2nd ed, p. 400, Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-051187-3.
3. ^ Louis E. Frenzel, Crash Course in Electronics Technology, p. 140, Newnes, 1997 ISBN 9780750697101.
4. ^ Ian Hickman, Analog Electronics, p. 46, Elsevier, 1999 ISBN 9780080493862.
5. ^ Class 257: Active Solid-state Devices", U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: Information Products Division, accessed and archived 19 August 2019.
6. ^ Tellegen's Theorem and Electrical Networks. Penfield, Spence, and Duinker. MIT Press, 1970. pg 24-25.