Ceramic and Electrolytic Capacitors

Capacitors are a common passive electrical component found in countless circuit assemblies, serving to store electrical energy within an electric field. Ceramic and electrolytic capacitor types are the two primary choices for electronic circuits, those of which slightly differ in their general makeup and design. To help you better understand the difference between ceramic and electrolytic capacitors, as well as how such components benefit various applications in general, we will discuss them in more detail.

As stated before, capacitors are capable of storing electrical energy, and most types follow a similar design to execute their standard processes. In their most basic form, a capacitor simply consists of two conductive plates that are separated by an insulating material, that of which is known as the dielectric. Capacitors operate on the principle of capacitance, that of which describes the amount of charge that the component can hold when there is a potential difference across an assembly.

When discussing the difference between a ceramic capacitor and an electrolytic capacitor, the main difference between the two is the materials of the dielectric. For instance, a ceramic capacitor is simply a capacitor component where the dielectric is produced from a ceramic material. When they are in their most simplistic form, the capacitor will feature two conductive plates that are separated by a layer of ceramic material. Such components may come in a number of forms to benefit different applications, and the most common design is known as the multilayer chip capacitor (MLCC). True to their name, MLCCs feature multiple layers where pairs of conductive plates are separated by ceramic substances. With this configuration, the MLCC acts like individual capacitors paired in a parallel fashion, ensuring a larger amount of capacitance as a single unit.

Depending on the requirements of an application and one’s individual needs, ceramic capacitors may be procured in class 1 and class 2 types. Class 1 capacitors exhibit increased accuracy and stability across a wide range of temperatures, making them fairly beneficial for particular applications. On the other hand, class 2 capacitors excel in volumetric efficiency, meaning that they offer more capacitance per unit volume.

Rather than using ceramic materials as the dielectric, electrolytic capacitor components take advantage of an electrolyte to increase capacitance. For these capacitor types, the conductive material is most commonly aluminum, tantalum, or niobium. As an oxide layer often forms on such materials when they are produced, a dielectric is immediately available. A major benefit of using the oxide layer as a dielectric is the thinness of them, allowing for the capacitance of such components to be very high. Alongside such layers, there will typically be a space between the conductors where electrolyte soaked papers are placed to act as the anode.

Electrolyte capacitors are polarized, meaning that the terminals will need to have the right polarity when they are attached to a circuit. If this is not done correctly, the capacitor has a chance of heating up to an extreme temperature, potentially leading to an explosion. Additionally, one should pay attention to the equivalent series resistance (ESR) of such capacitors, as too high of an ESR will cause the current flow to be too small.

If you find yourself in need of electrolytic or ceramic capacitors for your electronic circuits, look no further than NSN Parts Hub. We are a leading distributor owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, presenting customers access to over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find components. Take the time to explore our massive set of offerings as you see fit, and our RFQ service will allow you to request quotes on items of interest with ease. Get started today and see how NSN Parts Hub can serve as your strategic sourcing partner!


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