Capacitors have 2 primary purposes in electronics.
- Store energy for temporary power. Supercapacitors are very large value capacitors that can actually power small loads for a while.
- Change voltage over time.
Basic capacitor demonstration circuits
It takes a period of time of current flowing for a capacitor to fully charge or fully discharge. The LEDs in this circuit give you a way to help see when current is flowing into, or out of, a capacitor if you only press one button at a time.
Video below is a variation of the circuit above.
RC time constant
The time it takes a capacitor to charge/discharge through a resistor is called the RC time constant. One time constant (in seconds) is equal to the capacitance of the capacitor in farads (F), times the resistance of the resistor in ohms (Ω). It takes 5 of those time constants to go from fully discharged to fully charge, or from fully charged to fully discharged.
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A steady current into, or out of, a capacitor leads to a steady voltage change. Since it is a straight line working it’s way up or down when graphed, it is called a ramp.
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- Information on this site is not guaranteed to be accurate. Always consult the manufacturer info/datasheet of parts you use. Research the proper safety precautions for everything you do.