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Types of Capacitors Explained

Types of Capacitors Explained

In this post we learn regarding the basics of capacitor, and also regarding the various types of capacitors which are commonly available in the market and used in most electronic circuits.

By: S. Prakash.

The performance parameters of every capacitor are different and thus their applications also differ accordingly.

One of the electronic components’ forms which is used widely is the electronic capacitors. Apart from this, the other capacitors used in the industry include ceramic, silver mica, electrolytic, plastic, tantalum, and others.

Each type of the capacitor is used in various applications according to their respective disadvantages and advantages.

It is quintessential that the right type of capacitor must be selected as the circuit in which the capacitor is used is greatly by the capacitor.

Thus, in case a correct type of capacitor is not selected to insert in the circuit on the basis of its parameters, it can result in the improper or faulty functioning of the circuit.

Basics of the capacitors

The physical laws which basically govern the various types of capacitors are same and are adhered to accordingly.

These basic laws determine various parameters of the capacitors such as how the capacitor would operate, the value of the capacitor, and its capacitance (the maximum amount of charge which the capacitor will hold).

Thus, the basic theory on which capacitors are built and work enables to understand the different capacitors forms and how these can be or are used.

Note: Even though there have been numerous developments in the field of dielectrics, the basic laws on which the capacitors work has not changed and they apply to date.

Types of Capacitors and Dielectrics

As discussed above, although the basic laws on which the capacitors work, the properties of the capacitors differ enormously because of the manner in which each type of the capacitor is constructed.

The various properties which various types of capacitors possess is given by their main element which is located between the two plates of the capacitor and is known as “dielectric”.

The dielectric constant of the capacitor can impact the capacitance level which the capacitor can achieve at a given specific volume. Also, various capacitors of different types can be found to be polarized in nature wherein the voltage running across the capacitor is tolerated in one single direction only.

On the other hand, various capacitors of different types can be found to be non-polarized in nature wherein the voltage running across the capacitor is tolerated in both the direction.

The capacitors are commonly named on the basis of the nature of the dielectric which is present in the capacitor.

This is indicative of the general properties which the capacitor will be exhibiting along with the various different types of circuit functions where they can be used.

Overview of capacitors and its different types

The various types of capacitors which are being used are as follows:

Ceramic Capacitor:

ceramic disc capacitor 0.1uF

The capacitor namely, ceramic capacitor is used for multiple applications including RF and audio.

The range of the values of the ceramic capacitor is between few picofarads and 0.1 microfarads. The ceramic capacitors are the most widely used in the industry since it the most reliable and cheap type of capacitor available.

Also, another reason for its common and wide usage is that the loss factor of the ceramic capacitor is very low. But the loss factor of the capacitor is also dependent on the dielectric which is used in the capacitor.

The ceramic capacitors are used in both the formats of surface mount and leaded because of the constructional properties of the capacitors.

Electrolytic Capacitor:

electrolytic capacitor 4700uF

One type of capacitor which is polarized in nature is electrolytic capacitors.

The capacitance values which are offered by the electrolytic capacitor is very high which ranges more than 1µF. the electrolytic capacitors are used in the industry commonly for the applications which are conducted on low frequency such as decoupling applications, power supplies, and applications of audio coupling.

This is because these applications have the frequency limit of nearly 100 kHz.

Tantalum Capacitor:

tantalum capacitor 2.2uF

Another type of capacitor which is polarized in nature is tantalum capacitor. The capacitance level provided by the tantalum capacitor at their volume is very high.

One of the drawbacks of the tantalum capacitor is that there is no tolerance in the tantalum capacitor towards reverse biasing which can result in the explosion of the capacitor when exposed to stress.

Another drawback is that it has very low tolerance to the ripple currents and thus they should not be exposed to high voltages (such as voltages which is higher than their working voltage) and high ripple current. The tantalum capacitors are available in both the formats of surface mount and leaded.

Silver Mica Capacitor:

silver mica capacitor

Although the usage of the silver mica capacitors have decreased significantly in the current era, the stability provided by the silver mica capacitors are still very high along with providing high accuracy and low loss.

Also, there is sufficient space available in the silver mica capacitors. The applications where they are primarily used include the RF applications.

The maximum values to which the silver mica capacitor is limited to is approximately 100pF.

Polystyrene Film Capacitor:

polystyrene film capacitors

The polystyrene film capacitors provide capacitor of close tolerance wherever required. Also, these capacitors are relatively cheaper than that of other capacitors.

The dielectric sandwich or the plates present in the polystyrene film capacitors are rolled together which results in the shape of the capacitor in tubular form.

The placement of the dielectric sandwich and shape of the capacitor limits the response of the capacitor to high frequencies due to addition of inductance and thus responds to only few 100kHz.

The general availability of the polystyrene film capacitors is in the form of leaded electronics components.

Polyester Film Capacitor:

Polyester Film Capacitor 330nF

The tolerance provided by the polyester film capacitor is very low and thereby these capacitors are used in situations when the prior consideration is the cost.

The tolerance level of a large percentage of the polyester film capacitors available is either 10% or 5% and this is considered as sufficient for a range of applications.

The general availability of the polyester film capacitors is in the form of leaded electronics components.

Metallized Polyester Film Capacitor

Metallized Polyester Film Capacitor 0.33uF 250V

The metallized polyester film type of capacitors consists of polyester films which are metallized and in every other sense, it is similar to the polyester film capacitors or another form of it.

One of the advantages which is achieved by metallic polyester film is that it makes the electrodes of very small width and thereby enabling the encasement of the capacitor in a package of very small sizes as well.

The general availability of the metallized polyester film capacitors is in the form of leaded electronics components.

Polycarbonate capacitor:

Polycarbonate capacitor 0.1uF 250V

The applications where the most critical and crucial requirement is high performance and reliability, these applications use the polycarbonate capacitors.

The capacitance value is held over a long period of time by the polycarbonate capacitors since their tolerance level is very high. Such high tolerance levels are achieved because of the stability of the polycarbonate film used in the polycarbonate capacitor.

Additionally, the dissipation factor of the polycarbonate capacitor is very low and they can withstand temperature of wide range and remain stable.

The range of temperature which this capacitor can withstand is between -55ºC and +125ºC. In spite of all these properties, the manufacturing and production of the polycarbonate capacitors has significantly decreased.

PPC or Polypropylene Capacitor:

PPC or Polypropylene Capacitor 0.01uF 400V

In this types of capacitors, the tolerance level required is higher than what the polyester capacitor can provide, then the polypropylene capacitors are used in these cases.

The material used for the dielectric in the polypropylene capacitor is a polypropylene film.

The advantage which the polypropylene capacitor has over the other capacitors is that it can withstand very high voltage across a time period and thereby the change in the capacitance level due to the increase and decrease of voltage over a time period is very low.

The polypropylene capacitor is also used in cases where the frequency being used is very low, mostly in the range of 100kHz being the maximum limit.

The general availability of the polypropylene capacitor is in the form of leaded electronics components.

Glass Capacitors:

The dielectric which is used in the glass capacitor is made up of glass. Even though the glass capacitors are expensive, their performance levels are very high.

The RF current capability of the glass capacitors is very high along with the loss being extremely low. Additionally, there is absence of any piezo-electric noise in the glass capacitors.

All these and some additional properties of the glass capacitors make them most appropriate and ideal for RF applications which require high performance.


supercapacitor maxwell

The other names by which the supercap is known are ultracapacitor or supercapacitor.

The capacitance values of these capacitors are very large as such is their name. The capacitance levels of the ultracapacitor go nearly towards many thousand Farads.

The ultracapacitor is used in the industry for providing a supply of memory hold-up along with various uses within the realm of automotive applications. The different major types of the capacitors are included under the supercap.

Along with them, there are various other capacitor types of capacitors which are used when the applications are specialized in nature.

The identification of the capacitors is majorly done through their parameters such as values which are marked over the cases of the capacitors. In order to display the parameters in a manner which is compact, the markings of the parameters are done in the form of a code.


About the Author

I am an electronic engineer (dipIETE ), hobbyist, inventor, schematic/PCB designer, manufacturer. I am also the founder of the website: https://www.homemade-circuits.com/, where I love sharing my innovative circuit ideas and tutorials. If you have any circuit related query, you may interact through comments, I'll be most happy to help!

12 thoughts on “Types of Capacitors Explained”

  1. Dear Swagatham
    I have few 102pf/1KV, 103pf/500V so and so high voltage ceramic disc capacitors which removed from ATX powersupplies.
    Can this high voltage rated capacitors use in low voltage circuits (say 3VDC, 6VDC operated) without affecting their performance.
    Low voltage circuits I mean, LED flashers, Music circuits, Timer circuits etc.


    • Hi Anil, 102pF is too low and might not be able to sustain any practical circuit…103 can be tried for applications which may require not more than 5mA current.

      The capacitor values decide the current not the voltage.

      Sorry correction,

      I thought you were talking about using them as capacitive power supply.

      For normal applications you can use them without any concern all will work perfectly…high voltages will ensure even more breakdown safety

      • Sorry dear Swagatham,
        You maynot understand my question fully. I will ask it some other way.

        My low voltage rated (say 50V) ceramic disc capacitors stock finished. So, can I use 1000V (1KV) rated ceramic disc capacitors inplace of 50V rated capacitors ?

        Thanks in advance.

        • Hi Anil, yes I have understood, I clarified it at the bottom of my previous comment. You can use them without any concern, because the voltage rating indicates its maximum tolerable breakdown voltage beyond which the capacitor may burst, so using higher voltages will only help to enhance its safety…you can use them.

  2. Dear sir,
    Is it possible to make two electrolytic capacitors to function as a non-polar cap in a circuit?
    Suppose i take two polarised 100uF caps and connect them in series joining the like poles together, what happens to the capacitance and voltage?
    Is it safe to connect then in such manner?

    • Dear Sherwin,

      Yes it is possible to create a non-polar capacitor by connecting two electrolytic caps in series with like poles connected to each other.

      In this case the capacitance becomes 50% less of their average capacitance values, for 100uF caps it will be 50uF an so on, but voltage will add up and become the sum of their individual ratings.

      It is safe to create non-polar caps using electrolytic caps.

  3. Swagatam,
    Thank you for your response. My question is about 105/250cap. I understand it is a polypropylene cap. Is it’s value 105 ufd? Where can I purchase one?

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