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Department of physics ELECTROMAGNETISM SFT 3013



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1.1 Capacitor and Capacitance Capacitors are used in virtually every area of electronics, and they perform a variety of different tasks. Some capacitors are used for coupling, others for decoupling, while others may be used in filters, and some may be used for power supply smoothing. Again some capacitors will be used in low frequency circuits, and others in high frequency circuits. Capacitance (symbol C) is a measure of a capacitor's ability to store charge. A large capacitance means that more charge can be stored. Capacitance is measured in farads, symbol F. However 1F is very large, so prefixes (multipliers) are used to show the smaller values:

(micro) means 10-6 (millionth), so 1000000F = 1F n (nano) means 10-9 (thousand-millionth), so 1000nF = 1F

p (pico) means 10-12 (million-millionth), so 1000pF = 1nF 1.1.1 Capacitance of Parallel Plates

The electric field between two large parallel plates is given by

The voltage difference between the two plates can be expressed in terms of the work done on a positive test charge q when it moves from the positive to the negative plate.

It then follows from the definition of capacitance that

1.1.2 Cylindrical Capacitor The capacitance for cylindrical or spherical conductors can be obtained by evaluating the voltage difference between the conductors for a given charge on each. By applying Gauss' law to an infinite cylinder in a vacuum, the electric field outside a charged cylinder is found to be

The voltage between the cylinders can be found by integrating the electric field along a radial line:

From the definition of capacitance and including the case where the volume is filled by a dielectric of dielectric constant k, the capacitance per unit length is defined as

1.1.3 Spherical Capacitor The capacitance for spherical or cylindrical conductors can be obtained by evaluating the voltage difference between the conductors for a given charge on each. By applying Gauss' law to an charged conducting sphere, the electric field outside it is found to be

The voltage between the spheres can be found by integrating the electric field along a radial line:

From the definition of capacitance, the capacitance is

1.2 Charge and Energy Stored The amount of charge (symbol Q) stored by a capacitor is given by: Charge, Q = C V where: Q = charge in coulombs (C) C = capacitance in farads (F) V = voltage in volts (V) When they store charge, capacitors are also storing energy: Energy, E = QV = CV where E = energy in joules (J).

1.3 Capacitive Reactance,Xc Capacitive reactance (symbol Xc) is a measure of a capacitor's opposition to AC (alternating current). Like resistance it is measured in ohms, , but reactance is more complex than resistance because its value depends on the frequency (f) of the electrical signal passing through the capacitor as well as on the capacitance, C.

Capacitive reactance, Xc =

1 2 fC


Xc = reactance in ohms () f = frequency in hertz (Hz) C = capacitance in farads (F)

The reactance Xc is large at low frequencies and small at high frequencies. For steady DC which is zero frequency, Xc is infinite (total opposition), hence the rule that capacitors pass AC but block DC.

1.4 Capacitors in Series and Parallel Combined capacitance (C) of 1/C=1/C1 + 1/C2 + 1/C3.. capacitors connected in series Combined capacitance (C) of C = C1 + C2 + C3 ... capacitors connected in parallel

1.5 Charging and Discharging of capacitor 1.5.1 Capacitor Charging

With the switch at A, the capacitor is charging. Current flows from the battery through the capacitor. The electrons move to one plate, but they do not jump the insulating gap inside the capacitor. They collect on the surface of the plate.Meanwhile, electrons are removed from the other plate from the abundance that is always there in metals. That gives the plate a net positive charge. And removing the charge completes the path around which current flows.The current is always the same on both terminals of a capacitor. You can't move charge into one terminal without removing it from the other.As the current flows from the battery to the capacitor, it travels through the LED. This emits light during the charging cycle, and then dims and finally turns dark when the capacitor is fully charged.

The transient behavior of a circuit with a battery, a resistor and a capacitor is governed by Ohm's law, the voltage law and the definition of capacitance. Development of the capacitor charging relationship requires calculus methods and involves a differential equation. For continuously varying charge the current is defined by a derivative

This kind of differential equation has a general solution of the form:

and the detailed solution is formed by substitution of the general solution and forcing it to fit the boundary conditions of this problem. The result is

1.5.2 Capacitor Discharging

With the switch at C, the capacitor is connected to the 1-ohm resistor. The charges stored in the capacitor's electric field now have an escape route. They can finally flow from one plate to the other, by travelling through the resistor. The rate of charge travel (current) depends on the circuit resistance, and a lot on how hard it is pushed by the strength of the internal electric field (voltage).


There are a very large variety of different types of capacitor available in the market place and each one has its own set of characteristics and applications from small delicate trimming capacitors up to large power metal-can type capacitors used in high voltage power correction and smoothing circuits. Like resistors, there are also variable types of capacitors which allow us to vary their capacitance value for use in radio or "frequency tuning" type circuits. Commercial types of capacitor are made from metallic foil interlaced with thin sheets of either paraffin-impregnated paper or Mylar as the dielectric material. Some capacitors look like tubes, this is because the metal foil plates are rolled up into a cylinder to form a small package with the insulating dielectric material sandwiched in between them. Small capacitors are often constructed from ceramic materials and then dipped into an epoxy resin to seal them. Either way, capacitors play an important part in electronic circuits so here are a few of the more "common" types of capacitor available. Choosing the right capacitor use for the right capacitor is all part of the design process for a circuit. Using the wrong type of capacitor can easily mean that a circuit will not work.

2.1 Dielectric Capacitor Dielectric Capacitors are usually of the variable type were a continuous variation of capacitance is required for tuning transmitters, receivers and transistor radios. Variable dielectric capacitors are multi-plate air-spaced types that have a set of fixed plates (the stator vanes) and a set of movable plates (the rotor vanes) which move in between the fixed plates. The position of the moving plates with respect to the fixed plates determines the overall capacitance value. The capacitance is generally at maximum when the two sets of plates are fully meshed together. High voltage type tuning capacitors have relatively large spacings or air-gaps between the plates with breakdown voltages reaching many thousands of volts. 2.1.1 Variable Capacitor Symbols

As well as the continuously variable types, preset type variable capacitors are also available called Trimmers. These are generally small devices that can be adjusted or "pre-set" to a particular capacitance value with the aid of a small screwdriver and are available in very small capacitances of 500pF or less and are non-polarized. 2.2 Film Capacitor Film Capacitors are the most commonly available of all types of capacitors, consisting of a relatively large family of capacitors with the difference being in their dielectric properties. These include polyester (Mylar), polystyrene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, metallized paper, Teflon etc. Film type capacitors are available in capacitance ranges from as small as 5pF to as large as 100uF depending upon the actual type of capacitor and its voltage rating. Film capacitors also come in an assortment of shapes and case styles which include:

Wrap & Fill (Oval & Round) - where the capacitor is wrapped in a tight plastic tape and have the ends filled with epoxy to seal them. Epoxy Case (Rectangular & Round) - where the capacitor is encased in a moulded plastic shell which is then filled with epoxy. Metal Hermetically Sealed (Rectangular & Round) - where the capacitor is encased in a metal tube or can and again sealed with epoxy.

with all the above case styles available in both Axial and Radial Leads.

Film Capacitors which use polystyrene, polycarbonate or Teflon as their dielectrics are sometimes called "Plastic capacitors". The construction of plastic film capacitors is similar to that for paper film capacitors but use a plastic film instead of paper. The main advantage of plastic film capacitors compared to impregnated-paper types is that they operate well under conditions of high temperature, have smaller tolerances, a very long service life and high reliability. Examples of film capacitors are the rectangular metallized film and cylindrical film & foil types as shown below.

2.2.1 Radial Lead Type

2.2.2 Axial Lead Type

The film and foil types of capacitors are made from long thin strips of thin metal foil with the dielectric material sandwiched together which are wound into a tight roll and then sealed in paper or metal tubes. These film types require a much thicker dielectric film to reduce the risk of tears or punctures in the film, and is therefore more suited to lower capacitance values and larger case sizes.

Metallized foil capacitors have the conductive film metallized sprayed directly onto each side of the dielectric which gives the capacitor self-healing properties and can therefore use much thinner dielectric films. This allows for higher capacitance values and smaller case sizes for a given capacitance. Film and foil capacitors are generally used for higher power and more precise applications.

2.3 Ceramic Capacitors Ceramic CapacitorsorDisc Capacitors as they are generally called, are made by coating two sides of a small porcelain or ceramic disc with silver and are then stacked together to make a capacitor. For very low capacitance values a single ceramic disc of about 3-6mm is used. Ceramic capacitors have a high dielectric constant (High-K) and are available so that relatively high capacitances can be obtained in a small physical size. They exhibit large non-linear changes in capacitance against temperature and as a result are used as de-coupling or by-pass capacitors as they are also non-polarized devices. Ceramic capacitors have values ranging from a few picofarads to one or two microfarads but their voltage ratings are generally quite low.

Ceramic Capacitor Ceramic types of capacitors generally have a 3-digit code printed onto their body to identify their capacitance value in pico-farads. Generally the first two digits indicate the capacitors value and the third digit indicates the number of zero's to be added. For example, a ceramic disc capacitor with the markings 103 would indicate 10 and 3 zero's in pico-farads which is equivalent to 10,000 pF or 10nF. Likewise, the digits 104 would indicate 10 and 4 zero's in pico-farads which is equivalent to 100,000 pF or 100nF and so on. Then on the image of a ceramic capacitor above the numbers 154 indicate 15 and 4 zero's in pico-farads which is equivalent to 150,000 pF or 150nF. Letter codes are sometimes used to indicate their tolerance value such as: J = 5%, K = 10% or M = 20% etc.

2.4 Electrolytic Capacitors Electrolytic Capacitors are generally used when very large capacitance values are required. Here instead of using a very thin metallic film layer for one of the electrodes, a semiliquid electrolyte solution in the form of a jelly or paste is used which serves as the second

electrode (usually the cathode). The dielectric is a very thin layer of oxide which is grown electro-chemically in production with the thickness of the film being less than ten microns. This insulating layer is so thin that it is possible to make capacitors with a large value of capacitance for a small physical size as the distance between the plates, d is very small.

Electrolytic Capacitor The majority of electrolytic types of capacitors are Polarized, that is the DC voltage applied to the capacitor terminals must be of the correct polarity, i.e. positive to the positive terminal and negative to the negative terminal as an incorrect polarization will break down the insulating oxide layer and permanent damage may result. All polarized electrolytic capacitors have their polarity clearly marked with a negative sign to indicate the negative terminal and this polarity must be followed. Electrolytic Capacitors are generally used in DC power supply circuits due to their large capacitances and small size to help reduce the ripple voltage or for coupling and decoupling applications. One main disadvantage of electrolytic capacitors is their relatively low voltage rating and due to the polarization of electrolytic capacitors, it follows then that they must not be used on AC supplies. Electrolytic's generally come in two basic forms; Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitorsand Tantalum Electrolytic Capacitors. Electrolytic Capacitor

2.4.1 Aluminium Electrolytic Capacitors There are basically two types of Aluminium Electrolytic Capacitor, the plain foil type and the etched foil type. The thickness of the aluminium oxide film and high breakdown voltage give these capacitors very high capacitance values for their size. The foil plates of the capacitor are anodized with a DC current. This anodizing process sets up the polarity of the plate material and determines which side of the plate is positive and which side is negative. The etched foil type differs from the plain foil type in that the aluminium oxide on the anode and cathode foils has been chemically etched to increase its surface area and permittivity. This gives a smaller sized capacitor than a plain foil type of equivalent value but has the disadvantage of not being able to withstand high DC currents compared to the plain type. Also their tolerance range is quite large at up to 20%. Typical values of capacitance for an aluminium electrolytic capacitor range from 1uF up to 47,000uF. Etched foil electrolytic's are best used in coupling, DC blocking and by-pass circuits while plain foil types are better suited as smoothing capacitors in power supplies. But aluminiumelectrolytic 's are "polarized" devices so reversing the applied voltage on the leads will cause the insulating layer within the capacitor to become destroyed along with the capacitor. However, the electrolyte used within the capacitor helps heal a damaged plate if the damage is small. Since the electrolyte has the properties to self-heal a damaged plate, it also has the ability to re-anodize the foil plate. As the anodizing process can be reversed, the electrolyte has the ability to remove the oxide coating from the foil as would happen if the capacitor was connected with a reverse polarity. Since the electrolyte has the ability to conduct electricity, if the aluminum oxide layer was removed or destroyed, the capacitor would allow current to pass from one plate to the other destroying the capacitor

2.4.2 Tantalum Electrolytic Capacitors Tantalum Electrolytic CapacitorsandTantalum Beads, are available in both wet (foil) and dry (solid) electrolytic types with the dry or solid tantalum being the most common. Solid tantalum capacitors use manganese dioxide as their second terminal and are physically smaller than the equivalent aluminium capacitors. The dielectric properties of tantalum oxide is also much better than those of aluminium oxide giving a lower leakage currents and better capacitance stability which makes them suitable for use in blocking, by-passing, decoupling, filtering and timing applications. Also, Tantalum Capacitors although polarized, can tolerate being connected to a reverse voltage much more easily than the aluminium types but are rated at much lower working voltages. Solid tantalum capacitors are usually used in circuits where the AC voltage is small compared to the DC voltage. However, some tantalum capacitor types contain two capacitors inone, connected negative-to-negative to form a "non-polarized" capacitor for use in low voltage AC circuits as a non-polarized device. Generally, the positive lead is identified on the capacitor body by a polarity mark, with the body of a tantalum bead capacitor being an oval geometrical shape. Typical values of capacitance range from 47nF to 470F

Aluminium& Tantalum Electrolytic Capacitor

Electrolytic's are widely used capacitors due to their low cost and small size but there are three easy ways to destroy an electrolytic capacitor:

Over-voltage - excessive voltage will cause current to leak through the dielectric resulting in a short circuit condition. Reversed Polarity - reverse voltage will cause self-destruction of the oxide layer and failure. Over Temperature - excessive heat dries out the electrolytic and shortens the life of an electrolytic capacitor.


Even though two capacitors may have exactly the same capacitance value, they may have different voltage ratings. If a smaller rated voltage capacitor is substituted in place of a higher rated voltage capacitor, the increased voltage may damage the smaller capacitor. Also we remember from the last tutorial that with a polarised electrolytic capacitor, the positive lead must go to the positive connection and the negative lead to the negative connection otherwise it may again become damaged. So it is always better to substitute an old or damaged capacitor with the same type as the specified one. An example of capacitor markings is given below.

The capacitor, as with any other electronic component, comes defined by a series of characteristics. These Capacitor Characteristics can always be found in the datasheets that the capacitor manufacturer provides to us so here are just a few of the more important ones.

3.1 Nominal Capacitance, (C) The nominal value of the Capacitance, C of a capacitor is measured in pico-Farads (pF), nano-Farads (nF) or micro-Farads (F) and is marked onto the body of the capacitor as numbers, letters or coloured bands. The capacitance of a capacitor can change value with the circuit frequency (Hz) y with the ambient temperature. Smaller ceramic capacitors can have a nominal value as low as one pico-Farad, ( 1pF ) while larger electrolytic's can have a nominal capacitance value of up to one Farad, ( 1F ). All capacitors have a tolerance rating that can range from -20% to as high as +80% for aluminiumelectrolytic's affecting its actual or real value. The choice of capacitance is determined by the circuit configuration but the value read on the side of a capacitor may not necessarily be its actual value.

3.2 Working Voltage, (WV) The Working Voltage is the maximum continuous voltage either DC or AC that can be applied to the capacitor without failure during its working life. Generally, the working voltage printed onto the side of a capacitors body refers to its DC working voltage, ( WV-DC ). DC and AC voltage values are usually not the same for a capacitor as the AC voltage value refers to the r.m.s. value and NOT the maximum or peak value which is 1.414 times greater. Also, the specified DC working voltage is valid within a certain temperature range, normally - 30C to + 70C. Any DC voltage in excess of its working voltage or an excessive AC ripple current may cause failure. It follows therefore, that a capacitor will have a longer working life if operated in a cool environment and within its rated voltage. Common working DC voltages are 10V, 16V, 25V, 35V, 50V, 63V, 100V, 160V, 250V, 400V and 1000V and are printed onto the body of the capacitor.

3.3 Tolerance, (%) As with resistors, capacitors also have a Tolerance rating expressed as a plus-or-minus value either in picofarad's (pF) for low value capacitors generally less than 100pF or as a percentage (%) for higher value capacitors generally higher than 100pF. The tolerance value is the extent to which the actual capacitance is allowed to vary from its nominal value and can range anywhere from -20% to +80%. Thus a 100F capacitor with a 20% tolerance could legitimately vary from 80F to 120F and still remain within tolerance. Capacitors are rated according to how near to their actual values they are compared to the rated nominal capacitance with coloured bands or letters used to indicated their actual tolerance. The most common tolerance variation for capacitors is 5% or 10% but some plastic capacitors are rated as low as 1%.

3.4 Leakage Current The dielectric used inside the capacitor to separate the conductive plates is not a perfect insulator resulting in a very small current flowing or "leaking" through the dielectric due to the influence of the powerful electric fields built up by the charge on the plates when applied to a constant supply voltage. This small DC current flow in the region of nano-amps (nA) is called the capacitors Leakage Current. Leakage current is a result of electrons physically making their way through the dielectric medium, around its edges or across its leads and which will over time fully discharging the capacitor if the supply voltage is removed. When the leakage is very low such as in film or foil type capacitors it is generally referred to as "insulation resistance" ( Rp ) and can be expressed as a high value resistance in parallel with the capacitor as shown. When the leakage current is high as in electrolytic's it is referred to as a "leakage current" as electrons flow directly through the electrolyte. Capacitor leakage current is an important parameter in amplifier coupling circuits or in power supply circuits, with the best choices for coupling and/or storage applications being Teflon and the other plastic capacitor types (polypropylene, polystyrene, etc) because the lower the dielectric constant, the higher the insulation resistance. Electrolytic-type capacitors (tantalum and aluminum) on the other hand may have very high capacitances, but they also have very high leakage currents (typically of the order of about 5-20 A per F) due to their poor isolation resistance, and are therefore not suited for storage or coupling applications. Also, the flow of leakage current for aluminiumelectrolytic's increases with temperature.

3.5 Working Temperature, (T) Changes in temperature around the capacitor affect the value of the capacitance because of changes in the dielectric properties. If the air or surrounding temperature becomes to hot or to cold the capacitance value of the capacitor may change so much as to affect the correct operation of the circuit. The normal working range for most capacitors is -30C to +125C with nominal voltage ratings given for a Working Temperature of no more than +70C especially for the plastic capacitor types. Generally for electrolytic capacitors and especially aluminium electrolytic capacitor, at high temperatures (over +85C the liquids within the electrolyte can be lost to evaporation, and the body of the capacitor (especially the small sizes) may become deformed due to the internal pressure and leak outright. Also, electrolytic capacitors can not be used at low temperatures, below about -10C, as the electrolyte jelly freezes.

3.6 Temperature Coefficient, (TC) The Temperature Coefficient of a capacitor is the maximum change in its capacitance over a specified temperature range. The temperature coefficient of a capacitor is generally expressed linearly as parts per million per degree centigrade (PPM/C), or as a percent change over a particular range of temperatures. Some capacitors are non linear (Class 2 capacitors) and increase their value as the temperature rises giving them a temperature coefficient that is expressed as a positive "P". Some capacitors decrease their value as the temperature rises giving them a temperature coefficient that is expressed as a negative "N". For example "P100" is +100 ppm/C or "N200", which is -200 ppm/C etc. However, some capacitors do not change their value and remain constant over a certain temperature range, such capacitors have a zero temperature coefficient or "NPO". These types of capacitors such as Mica or Polyester are generally referred to as Class 1 capacitors. Most capacitors, especially electrolytic's lose their capacitance when they get hot but temperature compensating capacitors are available in the range of at least P1000 through to N5000 (+1000 ppm/C through to -5000 ppm/C). It is also possible to connect a capacitor with a positive temperature coefficient in series or parallel with a capacitor having a negative temperature coefficient the net result being that the two opposite effects will cancel each other out over a certain range of temperatures. Another useful application of temperature coefficient capacitors is to use them to cancel out the effect of temperature on other components within a circuit, such as inductors or resistors etc.

3.7 Polarization Capacitor Polarization generally refers to the electrolytic type capacitors but mainly the AluminiumElectrolytic's, with regards to their electrical connection. The majority are polarized

types, that is the voltage connected to the capacitor terminals must have the correct polarity, i.e. positive to positive and negative to negative. Incorrect polarization can cause the oxide layer inside the capacitor to break down resulting in very large currents flowing through the device resulting in destruction as we have mentioned earlier. The majority of electrolytic capacitors have their negative, -ve terminal clearly marked with either a black stripe, band, arrows or chevrons down one side of their body as shown, to prevent any incorrect connection to the DC supply. Some larger electrolytic's have their metal can or body connected to the negative terminal but high voltage types have their metal can insulated with the electrodes being brought out to separate spade or screw terminals for safety. Also, when using aluminiumelectrolytic's in power supply smoothing circuits care should be taken to prevent the sum of the peak DC voltage and AC ripple voltage from becoming a "reverse voltage".

3.8 Equivalent Series Resistance, (ESR) The Equivalent Series Resistanceor ESR, of a capacitor is the AC impedance of the capacitor when used at high frequencies and includes the resistance of the dielectric material, the DC resistance of the terminal leads, the DC resistance of the connections to the dielectric and the capacitor plate resistance all measured at a particular frequency and temperature.

ESR Model In some ways, ESR is the opposite of the insulation resistance which is presented as a pure resistance (no capacitive or inductive reactance) in parallel with the capacitor. An ideal capacitor would have only capacitance but ESR is presented as a pure resistance in series with the capacitor and which is frequency dependent making it a "DYNAMIC" quantity. As ESR defines the energy losses of the "equivalent" series resistance of a capacitor it must therefore determine the capacitor's overall I2R heating losses especially when used in power and switching circuits. Capacitors with a relatively high ESR have less ability to pass current to and from its plates to the external circuit because of their longer charging and discharging RC time constant. The ESR of electrolytic capacitors increases over time as their electrolyte dries out. Capacitors with very low ESR ratings are available and are best suited when using the capacitor as a filter.

4.1 Capacitive coupling In electronics, capacitive coupling is the transfer of energy within an electrical network by means of the capacitance between circuit nodes. This coupling can have an intentional or accidental effect. Capacitive coupling is typically achieved by placing a capacitor in series with the signal to be coupled. 1. analog circuits

Capacitive coupling

Polyester film capacitors, commonly used for coupling between two circuits.

In analog circuits, a coupling capacitor is used to connect two circuits such that only the AC signal from the first circuit can pass through to the next while DC is blocked. This technique helps to isolate the DC bias settings of the two coupled circuits. Capacitive coupling is also known as AC coupling and the capacitor used for the purpose is known as a coupling or DC blocking capacitor. The term decoupling capacitor is also used, emphasizing the DC isolation. Capacitive coupling has the disadvantage of degrading the low frequency performance of a system containing capacitively coupled units.

4.2 Filter capacitor Filter capacitors are any capacitors used for filtering. Filter capacitors are common in electrical and electronic work, and cover a number of applications. 1. Transformers


Full-wave rectifier with a capacitor filter.

The main purpose of filter capacitor is to change AC power to DC power. The simple capacitor filter is the most basic type of power supply filter. The application of the simple capacitor filter is very limited. It is sometimes used on extremely high-voltage, low-current power supplies for cathode-ray and similar electron tubes, which require very little load current from the supply. The capacitor filter is also used where the power-supply ripple frequency is not critical; this frequency can be relatively high. The capacitor (C1) shown in figure 4-15 is a simple filter connected across the output of the rectifier in parallel with the load. When this filter is used, the RC charge time of the filter capacitor (C1) must be short and the RC discharge time must be long to eliminate ripple action. In other words, the capacitor must charge up fast, preferably with no discharge at all.

Half-wave rectifier without filtering.

Half-wave rectifier with filtering.

4.3 Capacitor used as smoothing To provide a steady DC output. The raw rectified DC requires a smoothing capacitor circuit to enable the rectified DC to be smoothed so that it can be used to power electronics circuits without large levels of voltage variation. The raw DC supplied by a rectifier on its own would consist of a series of half sine waves with the voltage varying between zero and 2 times the RMS voltage (ignoring any diode and other losses). A supply of this nature would not be of any use for powering circuits because any analogue circuits would have the huge level of ripple superimposed on the output, and any digital circuits would not function because the power would be removed every half cycle. To smooth the output of the rectifier a reservoir capacitor is used - placed across the output of the reciter and in parallel with the load.. This capacitor charges up when the voltage from the rectifier rises above that of the capacitor and then as the rectifier voltage falls, the capacitor provides the required current from its stored charge.

As there will always be some ripple on the output of a rectifier using a smoothing capacitor circuit, it is necessary to be able to estimate the approximate value. Over-specifying a capacitor too much will add extra cost, size and weight - under-specifying it will lead to poor performance.

The diagram above shows the ripple for a full wave rectifier with capacitor smoothing. If a half wave rectifier was used, then half the peaks would be missing and the ripple would be approximately twice the voltage.

For cases where the ripple is small compared to the supply voltage - which is almost always the case - it is possible to calculate the ripple from a knowledge of the circuit conditions: Fullwave rectifier:

Half-wave rectifier

These equations provide more than sufficient accuracy. Although the capacitor discharge for a purely resistive load is exponential, the inaccuracy introduced by the linear approximation is very small for low values of ripple. It is also worth remembering that the input to a voltage regulator is not a purely resistive load but a constant current load. Finally, the tolerances of electrolytic capacitors used for rectifier smoothing circuits are large - 20% at the very best, and this will mask any inaccuracies introduced by the assumptions in the equations. Two of the major specifications of a capacitor are its capacitance and working voltage. However for applications where large levels of current may flow, as in the case of a rectifier smoothing capacitor, a third parameter is of importance - its maximum ripple current. The ripple current is not just equal to the supply current. There are two scenarios:

Capacitor discharge current: On the discharge cycle, the maximum current supplied by the capacitor occurs as the output from the rectifier circuit falls to zero. At this point all the current from the circuit is supplied by the capacitor. This is equal to the full current of the circuit.

Capacitor charging current: On the charge cycle of the smoothing capacitor, the capacitor needs to replace all the lost charge, but it can only achieve this when the voltage from the rectifier exceeds that from the smoothing capacitor. This only occurs over a short period of the cycle. Consequently the current during this period is much higher. The large the capacitor, the better it reduces the ripple and the shorter the charge period.

In view of the large currents involved, care must be taken to ensure that the ripple current does not exceed the rated values for the capacitor.

4.4 Capacitor used as timing In this application a capacitor can be used with a resistor or inductor in a resonant or time dependent circuit. In this function the capacitor may appear in a filter, oscillator tuned circuit, or in a timing element for a circuit, the time it takes to charge and discharge determining the operation of the circuit. Capacitors do not keep time they do however charge at a specific rate of 63% of the applied voltage from a source that can be used to relate to timing since the source voltage can be calculated after a time lapse. So this make capacitor being used to produce a timer. Capacitors appear as though they are short circuit whilethey are charging, but as soon as they are charged, they appear to be open circuit. One example of capacitor used as timer is 55 integrated circuit. The 555 integrated circuit forms the basis of lots of timing circuits. Lets look first at how Capacitors work. Try these two circuits:

The first circuit lets the capacitor charge up by connecting it to the battery. Capacitor being discharge by flipping the switch so that the capacitor is connected to the LED. The capacitor discharges through the LED which shines briefly. The second circuit allows the discharge to slow down. We can plot it on the oscilloscope that Crocodile Clips provides. Flip the switch and the capacitor charges slowly up to the battery voltage. Then flip the switch again and it discharges slowly through the resistor. Both curves are shown below and are exponentials.

The formula that can be used to work out the Time Constant for this kind of circuit is T = RxC; the units are Ohms, Farads and Seconds. Since Farads are rather largeMegaOhms (M), microfarads (uF), and seconds, or kiloohms, microfarads and millisecondscan beuse. The time constant gives the time taken to get to 63% of the final voltage level. Theoretically an exponential curve never reaches the target voltage, but a good approximation is five time constants. The circuit lets the capacitor being charge up by connecting it to the battery through the push switch. The capacitor can be discharge directly through the LED but it would be too quick. Instead, slow down the discharge by using a 1k resistor and a transistor. That small current turns the transistor on so that the LED shines. If the circuit in Crocodile Clips can the charge and discharge be plot on the oscilloscope. Put the oscilloscope probe at the collector lead of the transistor. Press the switch and the capacitor quickly charges up to the battery voltage. Release the switch and it discharges slowly through the resistor. The graph is shown below.

The formula that can be used to work out the Time Constant for this kind of circuit is T= RxC; the units are Ohms, Farads and Seconds. Since Farads are rather large MegaOhms (M), MicroFarads (uF) and Secondscan beuse. The time constant gives the time taken to reach 63% of the final voltage level.

4.5 Capacitors as a tune Type of capacitor that be used for tune are variable capacitors. This capacitor are mostly used in radio tuning circuits and they are sometimes called 'tuning capacitors'. They have very small capacitance values, typically between 100pF and 500pF (100pF = 0.0001F). The type illustrated usually has trimmers built in (for making small adjustments - see below) as well as the main variable capacitor. Many variable capacitors have very short spindles which are not suitable for the standard knobs used for variable resistors and rotary switches. It would be wise to check that a suitable knob is available before ordering a variable capacitor. Variable capacitors are not normally used in timing circuits because their capacitance is too small to be practical and the range of values available is very limited. Instead timing circuits use a fixed capacitor and a variable resistor if it is necessary to vary the time period.

A voltage controlled variable capacitor varactor. can be constructed using switchable MEMs capacitors as the control element. As the MEMscapacitors are binary onoff.controlled, the most useful configuration for a variable capacitor is MEMs capacitor with binary weighted capacitance selection. Theschematic of one possible topology is shown in Figure 9. This arrangement constructs each binarycapacitor bit as a single branch containing one or more MEMs capacitors and a fixed capacitor.The total capacitance of each branch is the series combination of the two sets of capacitors.In the schematic, the largest bit consists of six switchable MEMs capacitors at 3.4 pF each for atotal of 20 pF in combination with the series 74 pF capacitor. This yields the desired 16 pF oftotal capacitance for the largest bit. The smaller bits are similarly constructed, and contain 8, 4, 2,1, and .5 pF total capacitance. The bits with a total capacitance of less than 3.4 pF use a singlecapacitor membrane, and a series capacitor that acts as a divider to reduce the total capacitance tothe desired value. For example, the smallest bit isrealized with a single MEMs capacitor in serieswith a 0.6 pF capacitor, with an effective capacitanceof 0.5 pF when the MEMs capacitor isactuated.

Figure 8.Typical switching speed measurements for a MEMs capacitor

Figure 9.Schematic of a tunable capacitor using numerous shunt MEMs capacitor elements.

Figure 10.Micrograph of a tunable RF MEMs capacitor. Each of the MEMs capacitors is actuated byapplication of a control voltage to the capacitor electrode. Each control signal is decoupled fromthe RF through a 5 kV thin-film resistor. The series capacitor serves to block the control voltagefrom interfering with adjoining circuitry. As each MEMs draws negligible current, biasingthe device through a high resistance serves as an effective means of minimizing DC]RFinteractions.A completed RF MEMs shunt variable capacitoris shown in Figure 10. The overall chip size is3.2=3.2 mm=0.53 mm. The layout of the devicewas not optimized for minimum size, and waslaid out in a fashion very similar to the schematic.The capacitor RF port is on the left side of thechip while the DC control pads are on the top ofthe IC. Unused areas were filled with groundplane to minimize coupling between bits and theDC control lines.

Figure 11.Capacitance of the tunable MEMs capacitor vs. binary state

The measured capacitance of the variable capacitor ranges from 1.5 pF with none of the bits actuated to 33.2 pF with all of the bits actuated. A graph of this response is shown in Figure 11.This represents a maximum onroff ratio of approximately 22; the highest the authors believe has been reported to date. The highest five bits of the capacitor exhibit a differential capacitance within 5% of the desired values. The smallest bitsare impacted by fringing capacitance of the interconnects. The off-capacitance of the 14 individualMEMs capacitors is approximately 500]700 fF.Therefore, a bulk of the 1.5 pF zero-state capacitanceis due to fringing between the capacitorinterconnects and the closely spaced groundplane. With proper layout to reduce this parasiticcapacitance, capacitance tuning ranges in the40-50 range should be achievable. Figure 12demonstrates the capacitance of the IC as a functionof frequency. As the IC is actuated throughits various states, the variable capacitor changesseries-resonant frequency. This change is a functionof the capacitance to ground in each state,and the line length between the input and thatcapacitance. Future designs will be improved byreducing all line lengths, and by positioning thelarger capacitance states _which are more sensitive to line length. closer to the input terminal.The quality factor _Q. of this variable capacitor isless than 20 at 1 GHz. This is due mainly to thelong line lengths and the addition of the multipleelectrode resistances in series. Future designs willmodify the connections between membranes to amore parallel arrangement, greatly reducing theoverall resistance. It is estimated that quality factorsgreater than 50 are achievable with improvedlayout and thicker conductor interconnects.

4.6 Capacitors as storing energy The energy stored on a capacitor can be expressed in terms of the work done by the battery. Voltage represents energy per unit charge, so the work to move a charge element dq from the negative plate to the positive plate is equal to V dq, where V is the voltage on the capacitor. The voltage V is proportional to the amount of charge which is already on the capacitor.

Element of energy stored:

If Q is the amount of charge stored when the whole battery voltage appears across the capacitor, then the stored energy is obtained from the integral:

This energy expression can be put in three equivalent forms by just permutations based on the definition of capacitance C=Q/V.

When the switch is closed to connect the battery to the capacitor, there is zero voltage across the capacitor since it has no charge buildup. The voltage on the capacitor is proportional to the charge

Storing energy on the capacitor involves doing work to transport charge from one plate of the capacitor to the other against the electrical forces. As the charge builds up in the charging process, each successive element of charge dq requires more work to force it onto the positive plate. Summing these continuously changing quantities requires an integral. plate of the capacitor to the other against the electrical forces. As the charge builds up in the charging process, each successive element of charge dq requires more work to force it onto the positive plate. Summing these continuously changing quantities requires an integral.

Note that the total energy stored QV/2 is exactly half of the energy QV which is supplied by the battery, independent of R!

Transporting differential charge dq to the plate of the capacitor requires work

But as the voltage rises toward the battery voltage in the process of storing energy, each successive dq requires more work. Summing all these amounts of work until the total charge is reached is an infinite sum, the type of task an integral is essential for. The form of the integral shown above is a polynomial integral and is a good example of the power of integration.