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Capacitors

A capacitor is a device that stores electric

charge.

A capacitor consists of two conductors

separated by an insulator.

Capacitors have many applications:

Computer RAM memory and keyboards.

Electronic flashes for cameras.

Electric power surge protectors.

Radios and electronic circuits.

Types of Capacitors

Parallel-Plate Capacitor

Cylindrical Capacitor

been rolled up with an insulating layer between the plates.

A capacitor in a simple

electric circuit.

Charge Q stored:

Q CV

The stored charge Q is proportional to the potential

difference V between the plates. The capacitance C is

the constant of proportionality, measured in Farads.

Farad = Coulomb / Volt

Parallel-Plate Capacitor

A simple parallel-plate

capacitor consists of two

conducting plates of area

A separated by a

distance d.

Charge +Q is placed on

one plate and Q on the

other plate.

An electric field E is

created between the

plates.

+Q

+Q

-Q

-Q

What is a capacitor?

Electronic component

Two conducting surfaces separated by an insulating

material

Stores charge

Uses

Time delays

Filters

Tuned circuits

Capacitor construction

Two metal plates

Separated by insulating

material

Sandwich construction

Swiss roll structure

Capacitance set by...

A

C

d

Defining capacitance

when only a small voltage is applied

Capacitance is charge stored per volt

Capacitance is measured in farads F

Big unit so nF, mF and F are used

Q

C

V

Graphical representation

Equating to the equation of a straight line

Q

C

V

Q CV

y mx

Gradient term is

the capacitance

of the capacitor

Charge stored is

directly

proportional to

the applied

voltage

By general definition E=QV

product of charge and voltage

By graphical consideration...

Q

1

E QV

2

V

Area term is

the energy

stored in the

capacitor

By substitution of Q=CV

1

E QV

2

1

2

E CV

2

2

1Q

E

2 C

Charging a capacitor

Current flow

Initially

High

Finally

Zero

Exponential model

Charging factors

Capacitance

Resistance

Discharging a capacitor

Current flow

Initially

High

Opposite to

charging

Finally

Zero

Exponential model

Discharging factors

Capacitance

Resistance

Discharging a Capacitor

Initially, the rate of discharge is high because the

potential difference across the plates is large.

As the potential difference falls, so too does the

current flowing

Think pressure

As water level

falls, rate of

flow decreases

capacitor, the current that flows in an

interval t is:

I = Q/t

And I = V/R

But since V=Q/C, we can say that

I = Q/RC

So the discharge current is proportional to

the charge still on the plates.

charge, Q is given by:

Q = -It (minus because charge Iarge

at

t = 0 and falls as t increases)

So Q = -Qt/RC

Or -Q/Q = t/RC

(because I = Q/RC)

V

or

Q

V

or

Q

t

Charging Discharging

V V0 (1 e

RC

Q Q0 e

RC

Dielectrics

A dielectric is an insulating material (e.g.

paper, plastic, glass).

A dielectric placed between the conductors of

a capacitor increases its capacitance by a

factor , called the dielectric constant.

C= Co (Co=capacitance without

dielectric)

0 A

A

C

d

d

For a parallel-plate capacitor:

= o = permittivity of the material.

dielectric can withstand without becoming a conductor.

Dielectric materials

increase capacitance.

increase electric breakdown potential of capacitors.

provide mechanical support.

Material

Dielectric

Constant

Dielectric

Strength (V/m)

air

1.0006

paper

3.7

mica

3 x 106

15 x 106

150 x 106

8 x 106

Practice Quiz

capacitor with an air gap between the electrodes,

then the capacitor is electrically isolated.

A sheet of paper is then inserted between the

capacitor plates.

What happens to:

a) the capacitance?

b) the charge on the capacitor?

c) the potential difference between the plates?

d) the energy stored in the capacitor?

Capacitors in Parallel

Q Q1 Q2 Q3

C1V C2V C3V

(C1 C2 C3 )V

CeqV

Capacitors in Parallel:

Ceq C1 C2 C3 ...

Capacitors in Series

V V1 V2 V3

Q Q Q

C1 C2 C3

1

1

1

Q

C1 C2 C3

Q

Ceq

For n capacitors

in series:

1

1

1

1

...

Ceq C1 C2 C3

Parallel

C1

15 F

C2

3 F

C4

20 F

b

6 F

C3

?

Cab

What is the effective capacitance Cab between points a and b?

Time constant

Product of

Capacitance of the capacitor being charged

Resistance of the charging circuit

CR

Symbol Tau

Unit seconds

Q V

CR

V Q t

CR t

Q Q0 e

Q Q0 e

Q Q0 e

RC

RC

RC

Q Q0 0.37

has fallen to 37% of its

original value.

By a similar analysis tau

can be considered to be

the time taken for the

capacitor to reach 63% of

full charge.

V at 37%

Q at 37%

Compared to initial

maximum discharge

t

t RC

C t

R

V

or

Q

Mathematical

consideration of discharge

Exponential relationship

Taking natural logs

equates expression to

y=mx+c

Gradient is -1/Tau

V V0 e

RC

t

V

e RC

V0

ln V ln V0 t

RC

1

ln V

t ln V0

RC

lnV

Gradient term

is the -1/Tau

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