Superposition theorem

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This article is about the superposition theorem in electrical circuits. For other uses, see Superposition (disambiguation).

The superposition theorem for electrical circuits states that for a linear system the response (voltage or current) in any branch of a bilateral linear circuit having more than one independent source equals the algebraic sum of the responses caused by each independent source acting alone, where all the other independent sources are replaced by their internal impedances.

To ascertain the contribution of each individual source, all of the other sources first must be "turned off" (set to zero) by:

This procedure is followed for each source in turn, then the resultant responses are added to determine the true operation of the circuit. The resultant circuit operation is the superposition of the various voltage and current sources.

The superposition theorem is very important in circuit analysis. It is used in converting any circuit into its Norton equivalent or Thevenin equivalent.

The theorem is applicable to linear networks (time varying or time invariant) consisting of independent sources, linear dependent sources, linear passive elements (resistors, inductors, capacitors) and linear transformers.

Superposition works for voltage and current but not power. In other words, the sum of the powers of each source with the other sources turned off is not the real consumed power. To calculate power we first use superposition to find both current and voltage of each linear element and then calculate the sum of the multiplied voltages and currents.

Gas pressure analogy[edit]

The electric circuit superposition theorem is analogous to Dalton's law of partial pressure which can be stated as the total pressure exerted by an ideal gas mixture in a given volume is the algebraic sum of all the pressures exerted by each gas if it were alone in that volume.


  • Electronic Devices and Circuit Theory (9th ed.) by Boylestad and Nashelsky
  • Basic Circuit Theory by C. A. Desoer and E. H. Kuh