nortons theorem

Nortons Theorem

In some ways Norton’s Theorem can be thought of as the opposite to “Thevenins Theorem”, in that Thevenin reduces his circuit down to a single resistance in series with a single voltage.

Norton on the other hand reduces his circuit down to a single resistance in parallel with a constant current source.

Nortons Theorem states that “Any linear circuit containing several energy sources and resistances can be replaced by a single Constant Current generator in parallel with a Single Resistor“.

As far as the load resistance, RL is concerned this single resistance, RS is the value of the resistance looking back into the network with all the current sources open circuited and IS is the short circuit current at the output terminals as shown below.

Nortons equivalent circuit.

nortons theorem equivalent circuit


The value of this “constant current” is one which would flow if the two output terminals where shorted together while the source resistance would be measured looking back into the terminals, (the same as Thevenin).

For example, consider our now familiar circuit from the previous section.

nortons resistor network


To find the Nortons equivalent of the above circuit we firstly have to remove the centre 40Ω load resistor and short out the terminals A and B to give us the following circuit.

resistor network

When the terminals A and B are shorted together the two resistors are connected in parallel across their two respective voltage sources and the currents flowing through each resistor as well as the total short circuit current can now be calculated as:

with A-B Shorted Out

nortons circuit current


If we short-out the two voltage sources and open circuit terminals A and B, the two resistors are now effectively connected together in parallel. The value of the internal resistor Rs is found by calculating the total resistance at the terminals A and B giving us the following circuit.

nortons shorted resistor network

Find the Equivalent Resistance (Rs)

nortons parallel resistance


Having found both the short circuit current, Is and equivalent internal resistance, Rs this then gives us the following Nortons equivalent circuit.

Nortons equivalent circuit.

nortons equivalent circuit

Ok, so far so good, but we now have to solve with the original 40Ω load resistor connected across terminals A and B as shown below.

load resistance

Again, the two resistors are connected in parallel across the terminals A and B which gives us a total resistance of:

parallel resistance

The voltage across the terminals A and B with the load resistor connected is given as:

nortons circuit voltage drop

Then the current flowing in the 40Ω load resistor can be found as:

circuit current

which again, is the same value of 0.286 amps, we found using Kirchoff´s circuit law in the previous tutorials.

Nortons Theorem Summary

The basic procedure for solving a circuit using Nortons Theorem is as follows:

  • 1. Remove the load resistor RL or component concerned.
  • 2. Find RS by shorting all voltage sources or by open circuiting all the current sources.
  • 3. Find IS by placing a shorting link on the output terminals A and B.
  • 4. Find the current flowing through the load resistor RL.

In a circuit, power supplied to the load is at its maximum when the load resistance is equal to the source resistance. In the next tutorial we will look at Maximum Power Transfer. The application of the maximum power transfer theorem can be applied to either simple and complicated linear circuits having a variable load and is used to find the load resistance that leads to transfer of maximum power to the load.


Join the conversation!

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  • A
    Anthony Babajide

    If we short-out the two voltage sources and open circuit terminals A and B, I thought the two resistors are now effectively connected together in series, how are they in parallel?

  • P
    Prakshep Kumar rai

    It is very useful to learn electrical

  • P
    Pardeep Kumar

    I want to learn about electronics.

  • K
    Khan Of The deserts

    Piece of Pie !

  • A

    thank you for the tutorial.

  • R

    good definitions , very useful for students like me.

  • J

    Thanks a lot it really helped

  • l
    lavi singh

    helpful 4 beginners lyk me……..

  • a
    anil kumar

    gud explanation

  • R

    Would the calculations above still work if either the 10v or 20v battery polarity was reversed so that “I – short-circuit” was either “I1 +(- I2)” or “I2 + (- I1)”? I’m not sure if that condition would occur in real-life but I have seen it on numerous example circuit on the net. (I use them to test what I’ve learnt).

    • Wayne Storr

      Hello Rod, interesting question. My thoughts are that while mathematically reversing the 10v or 20 v supply would mean the use of a negative voltage (the voltage times by -1), I do not think the circuit will produce the same load voltage (11.44v) and current (2.86A) result as calculated above. I think that this is because the two supplies would effectively be in series around the outer loop producing a current of +1A in one direction and -1A in the other (depending upon which voltage was reversed) cancelling each other out as you have stated as 1 + (-1) = 0. Obviously reversing both voltages would give the same but negative values, that is -11.44v and -2.85A.

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