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Passivity is a property of engineering systems, used in a variety of engineering disciplines, but most commonly found in analog electronics and control systems. A passive component, depending on field, may be either a component that consumes (but does not produce) energy (thermodynamic passivity), or a component that is incapable of power gain (incremental passivity).

A component that is not passive is called an active component. An electronic circuit consisting entirely of passive components is called a passive circuit (and has the same properties as a passive component). Used out-of-context and without a qualifier, the term passive is ambiguous. Typically, analog designers use this term to refer to incrementally passive components and systems, while control systems engineers will use this to refer to thermodynamically passive ones.

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).


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