Capacitor components store and release electrical charge. Commonly used as
- Timers- RC time constant – When in series with a resistor, the amount of time in seconds that a capacitor will take to be charged to about 63.2% closer to the power supply voltage, or discharged 63.2% towards 0V, called the Time Constant, can be calculated by multiplying the resistance of the resistor in Ohms by the capacitance of the capacitor in Farads. After 5 time constants (capacitor is about 99.8% charged/discharged, the capacitor is considered to be fully charged or discharged, even though mathematically it is considered never completely charged/discharged.
- Smoothing – Since a capacitor takes time to change voltage, its stored charge is often used to keep a load powered while a power supply briefly drops in voltage, and also reduces the intensity of power source or inductor brief rise of voltage called spikes.
Introduction to capacitor component for beginner electronics and LCR meter capacitance measurements video Click here to watch directly on YouTube!
Basic capacitor component properties
- 2 close together but separated conductive areas (plates) store a charge when a voltage is placed across them.
- The amount of stored charge depends on it’s capacitance in Farads (Symbols: F and the Greek letter µ (mu)) and the voltage that is charged too. Q = CV (Charge equals capacitance times voltage).
- The coulomb is the unit of electric charge with the symbol C.
- The voltage limit must not be exceeded.
More capacitance can be obtained by connecting capacitors in parallel. The capacitance simply adds up. The capacitors do not have to have equal capacitance. The larger value ones will simply accept and deliver more current. The voltage applied to them however can never exceed the lowest voltage capacitor being used. They will all charge/discharge to the same voltage.
- Parallel – More capacitance, voltage spreads evenly across capacitors no matter their value.
More voltage can be applied than the rated value of a capacitor by connecting them in series. It is important that the capacitors are of equal value and that there is balancing circuitry to ensure that they share the voltage equally. Likely dangers of unbalanced series capacitors are either more voltage across one or more capacitors than expected or even reverse voltage.
- Series – Can accept a higher voltage than a single capacitor but the total capacitance actually goes down. Series capacitors must be of equal value and the capacitors must be constantly balanced.
Most capacitors are rated at much less than a Farad (millifarad, microfarad, nanofarad, picofarad). Millifarad is typically not used but instead is represented as thousands of microfarads (uF). Supercapacitors are capacitors that are rated at about 1 Farad or more.
Electronics smoothing capacitor basics video below. Click here to watch directly on YouTube!
A smoothing capacitor is any capacitor used to prevent rapid changes in voltage to a load due to power supply circuitry imperfections or other sources of noise. Another smoothing capacitor deminstration video is shown below. Watch the video below directly on YouTube at How to use electronics smoothing capacitors to remove small stray signals .
Video below: Dickson capacitor charge pump voltage doubler multiplier series LEDs push button switch controlled Click here to watch directly on YouTube!
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