A rectifier is an electrical device that converts alternating current
Alternating current
In alternating current the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction. In direct current , the flow of electric charge is only in one direction....

 (AC), which periodically reverses direction, to direct current
Direct current
Direct current is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by such sources as batteries, thermocouples, solar cells, and commutator-type electric machines of the dynamo type. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through...

 (DC), which flows in only one direction. The process is known as rectification. Physically, rectifiers take a number of forms, including vacuum tube
Vacuum tube
In electronics, a vacuum tube, electron tube , or thermionic valve , reduced to simply "tube" or "valve" in everyday parlance, is a device that relies on the flow of electric current through a vacuum...

 diodes, mercury arc valve
Mercury arc valve
A mercury-arc valve is a type of electrical rectifier used for converting high-voltage or high-current alternating current into direct current . Rectifiers of this type were used to provide power for industrial motors, electric railways, streetcars, and electric locomotives, as well as for...

s, solid-state diode
In electronics, a diode is a type of two-terminal electronic component with a nonlinear current–voltage characteristic. A semiconductor diode, the most common type today, is a crystalline piece of semiconductor material connected to two electrical terminals...

s, silicon-controlled rectifier
Silicon-controlled rectifier
A silicon-controlled rectifier is a four-layer solid state device that controls current. The name "silicon controlled rectifier" or SCR is General Electric's trade name for a type of thyristor. The SCR was developed by a team of power engineers led by Gordon Hall and commercialized by Frank W...

s and other silicon-based semiconductor switches. Historically, even synchronous electromechanical switches and motors have been used.