Saturday, September 18, 2010

Different types of capacitors and their uses

Electronic capacitors are one of the most widely used electronic components. These electronic capacitors only allow alternating or changing signals to pass through them, and as a result they find applications in many different areas of electronic circuit design. There are a wide variety of types of capacitor including electrolytic, ceramic, tantalum, plastic, sliver mica, and many more. Each capacitor type has its own advantages and disadvantages can be used in different applications.

The choice of the correct capacitor type can have a major impact on any circuit. The differences between the different types of capacitor can mean that the circuit may not work correctly if the correct type of capacitor is not used. Accordingly a summary of the different types of capacitor is given below, and further descriptions of a variety of capacitor types can be reached through the related articles menu on the left hand side of the page below the main menu.

Capacitor construction
In essence the construction of an electronic capacitor is very simple, although in practice a lot of research and development has been put into capacitor technology. The basic electronics components consist of two plates that are insulated from one another. In between them there is an insulating medium known as the dielectric. The value of the electronic capacitor is dependent upon the area of the plates, the distance between them and the dielectric constant of the material or dielectric between them. The greater the area of the plates, the closer they are together and the greater the value of the dielectric constant the greater the value of capacitance.

Today, electronic capacitors are able to provide relatively high levels of capacitance within components that occupy a small volume. This is achieved in a number of ways. One is to have several sets of plates, and another is to place the plates very close to one another, having a thin layer of dielectric placed between them. In addition to this special insulating dielectric materials have been developed to enable high levels of capacitance to be achieved.

The method of construction of these electronic components is also important. In some capacitors the plates may be flat, and normally these capacitors will have rectangular, or more exactly cuboid shapes. Some will be tubular and in these capacitors the plates will be wound round on each other. The reasons for these types of construction are normally dependent upon the way in which the capacitors must be manufactured. The final stage in the construction of an electronic capacitor is to place it in a protective casing. In some instances it may be dipped in an insulating coating, in others it may be contained within a metal can.

Some capacitors types are what are termed polar or polarised. When this is the case the electronic capacitor has a positive and a negative connection and it must be placed in circuit so that the voltage across it is in a particular sense. If the voltage is incorrectly placed across the component then it may be damaged. Fortunately many capacitors, and in particular low value ones are non-polar and can be placed in circuit either way round.

Although there is a large variety that are available the most commonly used are ceramic, plastic film types, electrolytic and tantalum. These names refer to the type of dielectric that is used within the capacitor.

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