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What Is an Electrolytic Capacitor?

Ever heard someone say: “the capacitor has blown,” when discussing broken electrical equipment?

You might have wondered what an electrolytic capacitor is and what can cause it to fail.

Ready to learn more about an electrolytic capacitor? You’ll love this short guide!

What Is an Electrolytic Capacitor?

An electrolytic capacitors is an electronic component. As electricity flows through a device, a capacitor works much like a dam can. A dam modulates, controls or halts the flow of water. A capacitor modulates, controls or halts the flow of electricity.

There are two main functional parts. There’s a very thin dielectric oxide layer. There’s also an enlarged anode surface. They enable a much higher capacitance-voltage per unit than other capacitor types such as ceramic or film capacitors.

The larger capacitance of electrolytic capacitors makes them particularly suitable for low-frequency signals.

Types of Electrolytic Capacitor

There are many types of electrolytic capacitor but in this short guide, we’ll cover just a few.

Following the pioneering years of electrical science, capacitors were invented. The aluminum electrolytic capacitors was first invented in the 1800s and was originally developed in two forms, ‘wet’ and ‘dry’.

The original wet capacitor had a cartridge full of dissolved borax to function as the electrolyte. It contained folded anode aluminum plate.

The dry type, which is the ancestor of the modern electrolyte capacitor, was patented in 1925. The founders of the company which is now known as Duracell International invented it.

Samuel Ruben and Phillip Mallory were co-founders. They created a component with stacked aluminum construction. It integrated less aqueous, more gel-form electrolytes.

An SMD electrolytic capacitors is usually used for specific applications. Especially those with limited space or flat designs such as laptops. It uses solid, dry electrolytes for conductivity. Now instead of utilizing tantalum, another material niobium is becoming popular.

Niobium is similar to tantalum for creating oxidized layers during anodic oxidation. However, Niobium is more abundant in nature and less expensive.

Electrolytic capacitor markings show the type of capacitors and rated capacitance-voltage information.

Explaining Electrolytic Capacitor Polarity

When electricity flows through a capacitor it must flow from one pole to another. Reversing the pole or direction of flow (even by as little as 1 or 1.5 volts) can destroy the dielectric. That destroys the capacitor.

However, a non-polarized electrolytic capacitor is the opposite of what it sounds like. It’s not ‘non-polarized’, but dual polarized.

Failure of electrolytic capacitors can result in hazardous explosions or fires. One way to avoid that is to use capacitors that enable electricity to flow in either direction.

Bipolar electrolytic capacitors which enable either polarity use special constructions. They have two anodes connected in series.

An electronics professional can also make a bipolar electrolytic capacitor. They connect two regular capacitors anode to anode or cathode to cathode.

Common Electrolytes for an Electrolytic Capacitor

There are two main ‘dry type’ electrolytic chemicals used for electrolytic capacitors. They are tantalum pentoxide and niobium.

Click here to learn more about Tantalum Oxide (Ta2O5). It’s also known as Tantalum Pentoxide. Niobium has a reputation for being cheaper and equally efficient. So, it has also become widely used.

Electrolytic Capacitors Are Essential Components

To summarize, an electrolytic capacitors is an essential component. They provide electrical voltage control for any electronic device.

An electrolytic capacitor is more suitable for uses with variable and low voltages.

Keep reading our blogs to learn more about a range of topics.

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