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A rectifier is an electrical device that converts alternating current (AC), which periodically reverses direction, to direct current (DC), which is in only one direction, a process known as rectification. Rectifiers have many uses including as components of power supplies and as detectors of radio signals. Rectifiers may be made of solid state diodes, vacuum tube diodes, mercury arc valves, and other components.

A device which performs the opposite function (converting DC to AC) is known as an inverter.

When only one diode is used to rectify AC (by blocking the negative or positive portion of the waveform), the difference between the term diode and the term rectifier is merely one of usage, i.e., the term rectifier describes a diode that is being used to convert AC to DC. Almost all rectifiers comprise a number of diodes in a specific arrangement for more efficiently converting AC to DC than is possible with only one diode. Before the development of silicon semiconductor rectifiers, vacuum tube diodes and copper(I) oxide or selenium rectifier stacks were used.

Early radio receivers, called crystal radios, used a "cat's whisker" of fine wire pressing on a crystal of galena (lead sulfide) to serve as a point-contact rectifier or "crystal detector". Rectification may occasionally serve in roles other than to generate direct current per se. For example, in gas heating systems flame rectification is used to detect presence of flame. Two metal electrodes in the outer layer of the flame provide a current path, and rectification of an applied alternating voltage will happen in the plasma, but only while the flame is present to generate it.


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