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Introduction to the Different Types of Capacitors

Usually, capacitors are designed as sandwiches of insulators placed between 2 layers of

metal. An insulator is made out of a material called "dielectric" and it determines the general
behavior of the capacitor. The devices that have a ceramic dielectric have smaller values
(they start at a couple of picofarads- the farad is the unit of capacitance) and can reach even
a thousand picofarads. An interesting thing about them is that they have great capacitance
stability when it comes to a large temperature range.


The items that need to fit a large capacitance value in a tiny space can easily use tantalum
capacitors. They are polarized (one lead takes positive charges while the other one negative
ones). Extra attention should be given in order not to wire the capacitor backwards or the
polarity might destroy it. You can recognize a bad capacitor by the silvery fluid released.

Aluminum Electrolytic

This is used for the stronger applications and the power-supply filters. It is not very expensive
and has a tolerance of 20%. This means that they normal value of the part can vary higher or
lower than the value displayed on the label.

One of the most significant issues in this case is represented by the liquid inside, which can
dry and prevent the capacitor from working. The liquid can also leak and destroy the rest of
the components. Furthermore, the electrolytic capacitors can explode if they are connected
in a wrong manner, they can leak current, do not have a long lifespan and do not resist to
high temperatures.

Polyester Film

For example, when a 1000uF Capacitor has 1000V applied to it, the Energy stored is 500
Joules. For most of us, this quantity has little meaning. So, lets consider what this means in
terms of Potential Power expressed in Watts. Lets say that the Capacitors energy is fully
discharged into the Acceleration coil within 1mS. Power is Energy dissipated over a period of
time, and can be expressed as P= W/t. Therefore, based on our example: P= 500 divided by
0.001 (1mS), giving us 500KW.

500KW is an enormous amount of Potential Energy... NICE!

Now given all of this, how do you capitalize on Energy storage in the most effective way.
Simple - increase the Power Supply voltage, and the Working Voltage of the storage
capacitors in favor of simply adding more capacitance.

Sounds good in theory, however in a practical Coil Gun application you should also consider
Breakdown Voltages, SCR specifications, and most importantly your SAFETY.

Another consideration is the ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance) of the Capacitors. Low ESR
capacitors will give you a quicker charge rate, and a more effective dump of energy into the
Acceleration coil.

Capacitors with a high ESR will also have a higher ambient temperature, than those without.

An electrolytic capacitor is a special type of capacitor that uses electrolytes as part of its plate
whereby it conducts alternating current while at the same time blocking direct current, storing
energy and filtering signals in accordance to their frequencies. Majority of electrolytic
capacitors can be operated with low voltage to safeguard the capacitor. They have a large
capacity that enables them to store large energy amounts and are therefore mostly used in
powers supplies.

electrolytic capacitor