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Different Types of Capacitors [with Images]


You can find capacitors in almost all types of electronics today. This is the oldest electronic component with a history of about 250 years. The capacitor (or condenser)  is an energy-storing device, a sort of a little rechargeable battery. It contains at least 2 electrical conductors (or plates) that are separated by a dielectric (or insulator).

The conductor part of the capacitor could be metal or aluminum foil. A dielectric used in capacitors could be anything from glass to ceramic, plastic film, paper, and even air. It is important to know what types of capacitors are out there in order to find the one that suits your needs.

Some types of capacitors include:

Capacitor Types Explained: electrolytic, ceramic, tantalum, plastic film

Capacitor types

Here is a list of the capacitors that are most commonly used:

  1. Electrolytic capacitor
  2. Paper capacitor
  3. Mica capacitor
  4. Film capacitor
  5. Un-polarized capacitor
  6. Ceramic capacitor
  7. Tantalum capacitor

The following video is a good explanation (with actual heating tests) on how to choose a capacitor for its intended application:

Which Capacitor Do I Use? Tech Tips Tuesday

One of the distinctions between capacitors is that they could be either be fixed or variable. The majority of capacitors on the market right now are fixed capacitors and this is what I will explain in the sections below.

1. Electrolytic capacitors

Electrolytic capacitors come into the application, whenever large values of capacitors are needed. For the first electrode, a thin film layer of metal is used.

For the other electrode, a solution of semi-liquid that is in paste or jelly is used. Its plates are of thin oxide layers that are brought electromechanically in manufacture with the film’s thickness, and it is below ten microns.

Its insulating film is thin which can increase the capacitance for practical size. Both plates have a very small distance in between.

Its terminals should be of correct polarity. Incorrect polarization can break the layer of oxide and can damage it permanently. These have correctly mentioned polarities, to avoid this damage.


Its use is in the Direct Current (DC) power supplies, as they have a large capacity and are efficient in reducing the voltage ripples. Its applications are coupling & decoupling.

Its disadvantage is that it has low voltage ratings due to its polarization.

2. Paper capacitors

The paper capacitors consist of two foil sheets of tin that are separated by oily paper or thin wax. This sandwich is then molded into a cylinder shape and then enclosed in a capsule of plastic.

Its foils are attached to the exterior load. The range of capacitance of this capacitor is 0.001-2uF. Its voltage is relatively high, up to 2000Volts.

3. Mica capacitors

This is a stable, reliable, low-loss capacitor that uses a collection of usual (Mica) minerals. These minerals have good resistance to high temperatures and chemicals.

Dielectric is used by the silver capacitors that is a type of Mica capacitor. It has two types that are:

  • Clamped capacitors
  • Silver capacitors

Clamped capacitors are outdated due to their inferior features. The silver ones are made by metal coated mica sheets, and it is then placed in epoxy to guard the environment.

Mica ones are electrically, mechanically, and chemically due to their crystalline and layered structure. These are used at very high frequencies and have a very low loss.

The most common mica capacitors are made from Phlogopite mica and Muscovite, with the last one considered to be better due to its electrical properties. Phlogopite mica is also known to have a high thermal resistance.

4. Film capacitors

For the dielectric material, these capacitors use thin plastic. It is prepared very thin by the sophisticated film process.

Electrons are assembled and added to guard against environmental factors. Its different types are:

  • Polyester
  • Polystyrene.
  • PTE.
  • Metalized.

The difference in all of them is the use of material and different applications. Its features are small inductances, low cost, and stability.

The PTE film is heat resistant and used in military and aerospace technology.

5. Unpolarized capacitors

They come in two types:

  • Plastic foil
  • Electrolytic unpolarized capacitors.

The plastic foils are un-polarized in nature. The unpolarized capacitors need AC uses in the parallel or series power supply.

Its examples include pf correction assemblies and speaker filters. In its uses, a huge Alternating Current (AC) voltage is given.

6. Ceramic capacitors

It uses ceramic as a dielectric material. Ceramic is of the first materials used in the design of capacitors.

Its different geometries are barrier layer and ceramic tubular. These are outdated due to their electrical features, parasitic effects, and size.

The two most common types are:

  • Ceramic disc.
  • Multi-ceramic.

These capacitors have a great frequency response due to parasitic effects such as inductance and resistances.

7. Tantalum capacitors

AVX | Tantalum Capacitor Manufacturing Process

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