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CAPACITANCE

Prepared and presented by

Doren Nedrick

What is a Capacitor?
An

electronic device
designed to store
electric charge.
Basically it consists
of two metal plates
separated by an
insulator material
called the dielectric.

metal plate Y

metal plate X

Types of Capacitors
Can

be of fixed or variable value (Fixed and

variable capacitor
).
Fixed capacitors have a specific single value of
capacitance. Fixed capacitors can be polarized
- electrolytic (
) or non polarized (
)
non polarized types can be connected either
way round (nonelectrolytic).
Polarized types have a positive and a negative
terminal and must be connected so that there
is DC through them in the correct direction.

Practical Capacitors

Variable Capacitors

Nonelectrolytic

or electrolytic refers to the

structure of the dielectric.
Electrolytic capacitors use only polarized
direct current and can, and often do, explode
when an alternating or opposite voltage is
applied to them
Examples of electrolytic (polarized)
capacitors are: Aluminium and tantalum and
examples of nonelectric capacitors are
polyester, Mica and Ceramic.

Types of Capacitors
Continued

Capacitance
The

capacitance (C) of a capacitor

measures its charge storing ability and
The charge stored by a capacitor can be
found by using the formula Q = C x V
Where Q = charge (measured in
coulomb C), C = capacitance (in Farads
and V = voltage (in volts).

It

is 1 farad (F) if it stores a charge of 1

Coulomb when the p.d. across it is
1Volt. If the charge is 6C when the p.d.
is 2V, then C = 6C/2V = 3F.
1 Farad is a large value of capacitance
hence smaller units are:
1 microfarad (F) = 10-6 F
1 nanofarad (nF) = 10-9 F
1 Picofarad (pF) = 10-12 F

Example
How

much charge is stored in a 10uF

capacitor with 50V across it?
C = 10 x 10-6 F
V = 50V
Q = ?
Q = C x V
Q = 10 x 10-6 F x 50V
= 500 uC

Activity
1.

How much charge is stored in a

6800uF capacitor with 50V across it?
2. A capacitor stores 10, 000uC of
charge with 20V across its plates.
Calculate C.
3. What voltage will be across the
plates of a 2uF capacitor if it stores
100uC of charge?

Construction and Operation

Basically it consists of two
metal plates separated by an
insulator called the dielectric.
When connected to a
battery, the positive of the
battery attracts electrons
from plate X and the
negative repels electrons to
plate Y. Positive charge
(deficit of electrons) builds
up on X and an equal
negative (excess of
electrons) builds up on Y.

metal plate Y

metal plate X

Construction and Operation

During
metal plate Y

metal plate X

the charging
there is a brief flow
of electrons round
the circuit from X to
Y. Charging stops
when the p.d.
between X and Y
equals (and
opposes) the e.m.f.
of the battery.

Effect of a capacitor
During

the charging there is a brief

flow of electrons round the circuit from
X to Y. Charging stops when the p.d.
between X and Y equals (and opposes)
the e.m.f. of the battery.

The

process takes time, i.e. the response of

a capacitor to a change of p.d. is not
immediate. If the connections to the
battery are removed, the charge may take
a long time to leak away from the
capacitor unless a conductor is connected
across it.
A capacitor blocks the flow of direct current
A capacitor allows alternating current to
pass through

Factors affecting the

capacitance of a capacitor
Increasing the Cross Sectional Area
(CSA) of the plates
Distance between the plates
Type of dielectric material used

All

other factors being equal, greater plate

area gives greater capacitance; less plate
area gives less capacitance.
Explanation: Larger plate area results in
more field flux (charge collected on the
plates) for a given field force (voltage across
the plates)

All

other factors being equal, further plate

spacing gives less capacitance; closer plate
spacing gives greater capacitance.
Explanation: Closer spacing results in a greater
field force (voltage across the capacitor divided
by the distance between the plates), which
results in a greater field flux (charge collected on
the plates) for any given voltage applied across
the plates.

Used

All other factors being equal, greater permittivity of

the dielectric gives greater capacitance; less
permittivity of the dielectric gives less capacitance.
Explanation: Some materials offer less opposition to
field flux for a given amount of field force. Materials
with a greater permittivity allow for more field flux
(offer less opposition), and thus a greater collected
charge, for any given amount of field force (applied
voltage).

Permittivity of dielectric
materials
"Relative"

permittivity means the permittivity

of a material, relative to that of a pure
vacuum. The greater the number, the greater
the permittivity of the material. Glass, for
instance, with a relative permittivity of 7, has
seven times the permittivity of a pure
vacuum, and consequently will allow for the
establishment of an electric field flux seven
times stronger than that of a vacuum, all
other factors being equal.

Permittivity

Material
Relative permittivity (dielectric constant)
Vacuum ------------------------- 1.0000
Air ---------------------------- 1.0006
Waxed paper -------------------- 2.5
Hard Rubber -------------------- 2.5 to 4.80
Wood (Oak) --------------------- 3.3
Wood (Maple) ------------------- 4.4
Glass -------------------------- 4.9 to 7.5
Wood (Birch) ------------------- 5.2
Mica, ---------------- 5.0 to 8.7
Porcelain, ------------ 6.5
Alumina ------------------------ 8.0 to 10.0

Energy Stored
A

charged capacitor stores electrical

energy (energy of moving electrons)
and can be found by using the formula
below:
W = x C x V2 or x Q x V
(Since Q = C x V)
Where W = E = work done or energy,
C = Capacitance and V = Voltage

Example
Calculate

the energy stored by a

capacitor if it stores 1000uC of charge
when the voltage across it is 50V.
Q = 1000uC
V = 50V
W = ?
W = x Q x V
W = x 1000 x10-6 x 50V
W = 25 000uJ

Example
Calculate

capacitor?
Since Q = C x V
Then C = Q/V

C = 1000uC/ 50V

C = 20uF

Activity
A

capacitor stores 10,000C of charge with

20V across its plates. Calculate the
capacitance C and the energy stored by this
capacitor.
How much charge is stored in a 6800F
capacitor with 50V across it? How much
charge is stored by the capacitor?
What voltage will be across the plates of a
2F capacitor if it stores 100C of charge?
Calculate the energy stored by this capacitor?

Controlling the time taken to

charge a capacitor
The

time taken to charge to its

maximum can be varied by placing a
resistor in series.

In

this circuit, when S

is in position 1, C
charges through R
from the supply. The
microammeter
measures the
charging current I and
the voltmeters record
the p.d.s VC and VR
across C and R
respectively at
different times (t).

Graph of charging
Characteristics

Graphs like those in Fig. a

and b can be plotted
from the results and
show that:
I has its maximum value
at the start and
decreases more and
more slowly to zero as C
charges up;
Vc rises rapidly from zero
and slowly approaches
the supply voltage V
which it equals when C is
fully charged; and
VR behaves like I.

Capacitor Discharging In A CR
Circuit
Fig.

12.1, when S is
moved from position
1 to position 2 The
capacitor discharges
through R. If graphs of
I, Vc, and VR are
plotted as before,
they are again
exponential curves,
like those in Figs. 4a
and b.

Capacitor Discharging In A CR
Circuit

They show that:

(i) I, the discharge
current, has its
maximum value at the
start but is in the
opposite direction to the
charging current (as is
VR); and
(ii) VC and VR fall as C
discharges and are
equal and opposite at all
times.

The

charging and discharging of a capacitor

through a resistor do not occur instantaneously.
The time constant is a useful measure of how
long these processes take in a particular CR
circuit.
Charging If a capacitor of capacitance C is
charged at a constant rate through a resistor of
resistance R by a steady current I, it would be
fully charged with charge Q and p.d. V after a
time t where
t = CR seconds if C is in farads and R in ohms.

Example

=CxR
t = 1uF x 1000
T = 1000uS or 1mS or 0.001S

Example contd
This

time constant of 1mS is a

measure of how long it takes for a
63.2% change to occur. After 5 RC
time constants have elapsed, the
voltage across C is practically equal to
its steady state value of 12V.
Vmax = 5 x 1ms
Vmax = 5mS

Activity
What

is the time constant for a circuit

in which C = 1F and R = 1M
(b) How long will it take to reach its
maximum current?

Why

should a capacitor with a working

voltage of 250V not be used on a 230V
ac supply?

Capacitors in parallel
Voltage

in parallel

equal
Q1 = C1 x VT
Q2 = C2 x VT
Q3 = C3 x VT
QT = CT x VT
QT = Q1 + Q2 + Q3

CT

x VT = (C1 x VT) + (C2 x VT) + (C3 x VT)

Divide both sides by VT well achieve
CT

= C1 + C2 + C3
Connecting capacitors in parallel is
equivalent to increasing its plate area.
Therefore, the total capacitance for
parallel connected capacitors is the
sum of the individual capacitances.

Example
Find:

CT, QT, Q1, Q2, Q3, E1, E2, E3, ET

CT = C1 + C2 + C3
CT = 10F + 20F + 50F
CT

= 80F
Q T = CT x V T

= 80F x 12V

= 960C

Q1

E1

= C1 x V T
= 10F x 12V
= 120C
= Q x VT
= x 120C x 12V
= 720J

Activity
Three

capacitors: C1 = 0.5uF, C2 =
1.5uF and C3 = 2uF are connected in
parallel to a battery of 12V.
Calculate the total capacitance
The total charge stored by the network
The charge stored by each capacitor
The energy stored by the entire circuit
The energy stored by each capacitor

Capacitors in series

QT = Q1 = Q2 = Q3
VT = V1 + V2 + V3
QT = QT + QT + QT
C T C1
C2
C3
Divide both sides by QT
well achieve
1 = 1 + 1 + 1
C T C1
C2
C3
Connecting capacitors
in series is equivalent
to increasing the
distance between the
capacitor plates

Example

Find:

Activity

Solve:

stored by C3

Capacitance in a.c. and d.c.

circuit

Capacitive Reactance
When

an alternating voltage is applied

across the plates of a capacitor, the
capacitor will alternatively charge and
discharge.
This means there will be charge and
discharge current flowing to and from
the plates of the capacitor.
How much current flows for a given
amount of applied voltage is determined
by the capacitive reactance (X C)

Capacitive Reactance
XC

= 1/(2 f C)

Example:
A

capacitor of 100F is placed across a

250V, 50Hz supply. Calculate the
current flowing in the circuit.

Practical Capacitors

When choosing a capacitor two factors

need to be considered, apart from its
value and tolerance.
1. The voltage rating: this is the
maximum voltage (d.c. or peak a.c.) it
can withstand before the dielectric
breaks down (it is often marked on it).
2. The leakage current: no dielectric is a
perfect insulator but the loss of charge
by leakage through it should be small.

Testing Capacitors