Capacitor applications, uses and usage

- notes on capacitor applications, uses and usage, capacitor choice - which type to use in a particular application, circuit or function.

The choice of capacitor for a particular application or use is of paramount importance. Even if the correct value is chosen for a particular capacitor application or capacitor use, the selection of the correct type is of equal importance.

In some instances one form of capacitor may work very well, but another capacitor type may cause the circuit to not work at all. It is therefore critical that the capacitor use or capacitor application is matched to the type or form of capacitor used.

Table of capacitor uses and applications

The most suitable way to summarise the various types of capacitor and the applications for which these electronic capacitors are suited is in a table.

Application Suitable types with reasons details & comments

Power supply smoothing
  • Aluminium electrolytic   High capacity and high ripple current capability **

Audio frequency coupling
  • Aluminium Electrolytic:   High capacitance
  • Tantalum:   High capacitance and small size
  • Polyester / polycarbonate :   Cheap, but values not as high as those available with electrolytics

RF coupling
  • Ceramic COG:   Small, cheap and low loss
  • Ceramic X7R:   Small and cheap but higher loss than COG, although high capacitance per volume
  • Polystyrene:   Very low loss, but larger and more expensive than ceramic

RF decoupling
  • Ceramic COG:   Small, low loss, but values limited to around 1000 pF max.
  • Ceramic X7R:   Small, low loss, higher values available than for COG types

Tuned circuits
  • Silver mica:   Close tolerance, low loss and stable, but high cost
  • Ceramic COG:   Close tolerance, low loss, although not as good as silver mica

** Care must be taken to ensure that the ripple current rating of the capacitor meets the requirements of the capacitor application.

This table gives the typical capacitor applications or capacitor uses for areas where particular capacitors be used. However it is necessary to look at the exact requirements for any capacitor application in a circuit, and choose the capacitor according to the needs and specifications available.

By Ian Poole

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