With over 250 years of study, design, development, and use, capacitors are the oldest electronic component studied, designed, developed, and used. Capacitors are evolving into different types based on their factors as technology advances.
Capacitors are devices used to store and release energy, making them perfect for applications where it’s needed in short bursts rather than constantly throughout the operation.
Capacitors are widely used and valuable electronic components in modern circuits and devices.
This article will go over the most common different types of capacitors. The capacitor is a component that can store energy in the form of an electrical charge and generate an electrical difference across its plates, similar to a small rechargeable battery.
What Exactly Is a Capacitor?
The capacitor is a passive component that stores electrical energy in the form of an electric field. The capacitor’s effect is known as capacitance. It consists of two close conductors separated by a dielectric material.
When the plates are connected to power, they accumulate an electric charge. One plate accumulates a positive charge, while another accumulates a negative charge.
Here, we’ll give you an overview of the different types of capacitors and their uses to help you determine which one would best suit your needs.
In addition, we’ll discuss what each type looks like, so you can quickly identify them when shopping around!
Different Types of Capacitors
1. Ceramic Disc Capacitor
A type of passive energy storage device that utilizes ceramic as a dielectric material, as its name implies.
Ceramic capacitors are used primarily for high-frequency applications due to their small size, low ESR, and relatively high capacitance value (for a passive component).
These devices are typically suitable for voltages below 500V DC. Most ceramic capacitors utilize an aluminum or tantalum conductor connected on either side of a ceramic dielectric layer which is then encased in an epoxy or polyester resin body.
Standard packages include multi-layer ceramics (MLCC), SMD chips, radial leaded parts like MYLAR® capacitors, and chip-type parts.
2. Film Type Capacitor
Also known as polarized film capacitors, these are manufactured with two or more layers of foil separated by a dielectric.
Film capacitors have better temperature stability than their electrolytic counterparts because they use solid materials instead of liquid.
Electrolytic capacitors contain an electrolyte solution between two plates; when current flows through one plate, it causes an electric charge separation that keeps excess electrons from leaving the plate—the material is polarized.
But with film capacitors, there’s no need for an electrolyte solution; both plates are made from solid materials that don’t allow electrons to pass through them (no polarization). They have much higher insulation values than electrolytic.
3. Electrolytic Capacitor
These different types of capacitors have been around for many years. They are also known as polarized capacitors because they have positive (+) and negative (-) leads.
The aluminum electrolytic capacitor can be used in high power applications, but only at very low frequencies (i.e., DC or direct current).
A 12-volt electrolytic capacitor would have an equivalent series resistance (ESR) of approximately 0.012 Ohms at a frequency of 1kHz.
In addition, a 25V capacitor would have an ESR of about 0.02 Ohms when measured at 10 kHz, which means it would show a significant voltage drop across it under a higher frequency AC load conditions.
For example, if you were using a 6-volt electrolytic capacitor with a 100 mA ripple current, you could expect up to 4 volts of ripple voltage on your output. For these reasons, electrolytic capacitors should not be used in most audio amplifiers.
However, they find uses in some types of high-power amplifiers that operate at lower frequencies, such as some guitar amplifier designs and some types of motor control circuits with little audio content.
If you need to use an electrolytic capacitor in your design, make sure you use one rated for operation at your desired frequency range and operating temperature range.
4. Tantalum Capacitor
Tantalum capacitors are popular in consumer electronics like mobile phones, laptops, PDAs, CD players, and digital cameras.
They’re available with a range of voltage ratings. Most tantalum capacitors have very low inductance values of 5 nH or less, making them ideal for high-frequency applications.
They’re typically made from tantalum, which has good temperature stability properties and can operate reliably at temperatures up to 150°C (300°F).
Oxide-based tantalum electrolytic capacitors also have suitable characteristics for many military applications; these include high reliability under shock conditions and resistance to overcharging.
5. A supercapacitor
Supercapacitors can store a lot of energy, but their charge only lasts for a few seconds. Supercapacitors are made from carbon, which is much cheaper than conventional capacitors.
They aren’t usually used in electronics because they don’t perform well when charging or discharging quickly.
However, their ability to store large amounts of electrical energy makes them useful for braking systems in hybrid cars.
One nice feature of supercapacitors banks is that they can be connected in parallel easily to increase total energy storage capacity without requiring more total cells in series.
For example, if you have a 12-volt system with 100 amp-hour batteries and need 200 amp-hours of power storage. You could use four 50 amp-hour batteries in series or two 100 amp-hour supercapacitors in parallel.
Either configuration will deliver 200 amps for 10 minutes before needing recharging. Supercapacitors also work very well at high temperatures (up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), making them ideal for automotive uses where temperatures exceed 212 degrees Fahrenheit under extreme conditions.
This article described the different types of capacitors and their applications. I hope you learned something new about capacitors after reading this article.
If you have any questions about this article or the implementation, please leave them in the comments section below.