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Capacitor &

Dielectrics

SUBTOPICS :

2.1 Capacitance and capacitors in

series and parallel

2.2 Charging & Discharging of

capacitors

2.3 Capacitors with dielectrics

2.0 Introduction

Capacitor

-- is a device that is capable of storing

electric charges.

-- come in different shapes & sizes.

-- used in a variety of electric circuits.

small air gap or insulator.

-- This insulator is known as dielectric could

be made of mica, ceramics, paper or oil.

rigid metal plates facing

each other or a pair of

insulated metal foil

rowed into a cylindrical

casing.

or

Q

C

V

parallel

Capacitance:

the ratio of the magnitude of the charge on

either plate to the potential difference

between them.

V : potential difference across them

Unit of capacitance : C V-1 @ Farad ( F )

Definition of 1 Farad:

1 Farad is defined as the

charge of 1 coulomb stored

on each of the conducting

plates as a result of a

potential difference of 1

volt between the two plates.

change unless it is designed to be a variable

capacitor.

From:

Q

C

V

rearrange

proportional to the potential difference

( V ) across the conducting plate.

Mathematically:

hold more charges than one with a

smaller capacitance for the same

potential difference applied across them.

Capacitors in series

plates :

Q Q1 Q 2 Q 3 Qn

capacitor C1, C2, C3, Cn are V1, V2, V3, Vn

respectively.

Hence

Q

Q

Q

Q

; V2

; V3

V1

; Vn

C1

C2

C3

Cn

V V 1 V 2 V 3 Vn (1)

If CE is the equivalent capacitance for

a single capacitor that could replace

the series combination & store the

same charge at the same voltage.

Q

Q

V

CE

CE

V

Substituting into (1) :

Q Q Q Q

Q

K

CE C 1 C 2 C 3

Cn

Canceling the common Qs, we get :

1

1

1

1

1

K

CE C 1 C 2 C 3

Cn

Value of CE is always smaller than the

smallest capacitance in the combination.

Capacitors in Parallel

same.

V V 1 V 2 V 3 K Vn

C3, Cn are Q1 , Q2 , Q3 , Qn respectively.

Q1 C 1V ; Q 2 C 2V ; Q 3 C 3V and Qn CnV

The total charge ( Q ) is the sum of the

charges on each capacitor :

Q Q1 Q 2 Q 3 K Qn K (1)

A capacitor with the equivalent capacitance,

CE would hold this same total charge when

connected to the battery, so :

Q

Q CEV

CE

V

CE V C 1 V C 2 V C 3 V K C n V

Canceling the common Vs, we get :

CE C 1 C 2 C 3 K C n

For this case, the CE is larger than the

largest individual capacitance.

Example 1

What is the total capacitance in a, b and c ?

C1 5 F

C1 5 F

+

C 2 10 F

+

C1 5 F

C 2 10 F

C 3 15 F

+ -

C 2 10 F

C 3 15 F

(a)

C 3 15 F

+- +- + -

(b)

(c)

given by

CE C 1 C 2 C 3 5 F 10 F 15 F

30 F

(b) In series, the total capacitance is given by

1 1 1 1

1

1

1

CE C 1 C 2 C 3 5 F 10 F 15 F

1

11

CE 30 F

30

CE F 2.7 F

11

capacitors connected in parallel :

Cp C 1 C 2 5 F 10 F

Cp 15 F

series connections is CE where

2

1

1

1

1 1

CE Cp C 3 15 F 15 F 15 F

15

CE F 7.5 F

2

Example 2

Find the potential difference across the

capacitors X, Y and Z .

Find the charges reside on the capacitors X,

Y and Z .

CY 1 F

CX 6 F

CZ 2 F

12 V

is CYZ where

CYZ 3 F

CX 6 F

CYZ CY CZ

1 F 2 F

CYZ 3 F

The equivalent capacitance for X, Y & Z :

CE

1

1

1

1

1

CE CX CYZ 6 F 3 F

1

2 F

CE 2 F

26.4x1065

capacitance is

Q CE V

(2 x10 6 )12

Q 2.4 x10 5 C

Potential difference across X ,

Q

VX

CX

VX 4 V

VY VZ

Thus : V VX VY

VY 12 4

VY 8 V

VZ 8 V

QY CY VY

(1x10 6 ) 8

QY 8 x106 C

QZ CZ VZ

(2 x10 6 ) 8

5

QZ 1.6 x10 C

When the switch is closed, charges begin to

accumulate on the plates.

A small amount of work ( W ) is done in

bringing a small amount of charge ( Q ) from

the battery to the capacitor.

since C Q :

V

W V Q

Q

W Q

C

2

1

Q

W

2C

accumulated charge from zero to Q is given by

Q

W VdQ dQ

C

0

0

We know, Q CV thus :

1W

2

2C

VQ

Q

C can also be written as : C , thus :

V

appears as electric potential energy U

stored in the capacitor.

Thus:

Example 2

A 4 F and 6 F capacitor connected in

series are charged by a 240 V power supply.

Calculate

(a) The charge on each capacitor

(b) The potential difference across each

capacitor.

(c) The total energy stored in each capacitor.

Sketching Diagram

240 V

4 F

12

C2

C1

6 F

Solution

in series :

1

1

1

CE 4 6

CE 2.4 F

same & is equal to the Q on the combined

capacitor.

Qtotal Q1 Q2

Q CV

4

5.8 x10 C

Potential difference across 4F capacitor :

Q

V1

C1

5.8 x10 4

144 V

6

4 x10

1

W

2Q

1V

(225.8x104)(4496)

4

Q

5

.

8

x

10

V2

96

V

6

C2

6 x10

The total energy stored in 4F capacitor :

0.04176 J

0.02784 J

RC

Capacitors can undergoes two different

process mainly known as:

(i) Charging Process

(ii) Discharging Process

Charging a capacitor

A capacitor in series with a resistor, switch &

battery.

flow setting up a current in the circuit.

Electrons move out of plate A leaving positive

charges on A.

Simultaneously, the battery causes electrons to

move onto plate B, leaving it negatively charged.

As the plates become charged, the potential

difference across the capacitor, Vc increases.

Current, I decreases to zero.

The increase of charges on both plates continues

until the potential difference across it, Vc is

equal to the supply voltage V0 of the battery.

maximum charge Q0 is reached.

the voltage of the battery.

Q0 C V 0

Q

(1e)V(1e)

t0/RC0t/RC

Plots of capacitor

charge, Q vs time t :

Plots of capacitor

voltage, V vs time t :

I0et/RC

During charging process, time constant, is

defined as the time taken for the current to

decrease to 37% of its initial value (I0) or the

voltage across the charging capacitor has

risen to 63% of its maximum voltage (V0)

Discharging a capacitor

discharges.

Electrons will flow from plate B through the

resistor R to plate A neutralizing the

positive charges on plate A.

When the capacitor is fully discharged, I = 0,

V = 0.

Q

eVe

0t/RC0t/RC

Plots of capacitor

charge, Q vs time t :

Plots of capacitor

voltage, V vs time t :

I0et/RC

During discharging process, time constant,

is defined as the time taken for the voltage

across the capacitor and the current in the

circuit decays exponentially with time falling

to 37% of its initial value.

RC

on time constant (the product of RC).

From:

R ;

C ;

is larger, it

would take a longer time to charge the

capacitor.

the current in the circuit is lower, and the

capacitor takes a longer time to get charged.

e

Q

(1e)Q

t0/RC0t/RC

Charging Capacitor

Discharging Capacitor

V(1e)Ve

t0/RC0t/RC

Charging Capacitor

Discharging Capacitor

Ie

0t/RCI

0e

t/RC

Charging Capacitor

Discharging Capacitor

Example 3

An uncharged capacitor and a resistor are

connected in series to a battery. If V = 12.0 V,

C = 5.0 F & R = 8.0x105 . Find

(a) the time constant

(b) the maximum charge on the capacitor

(c) the maximum current in the circuit

(d) the charge & current as functions of time

(e) the charge on the capacitor after one time

constant has elapsed.

Solution

(a) R C (8.0 10 5 ) (5 10 6 )

4.0 s

Q 0 CV 0

(5 10 6 ) (12 )

60 C

(c) The maximum current in the circuit :

12

V0

15 A

I0

5

8 10

R

t

/1

R

C

Ifrom

e:Q

0

500(Aet/R4C)

Q 60 C (1 e t /4 )

(e) t = = 4 s , Q = ?

60 C (1 e

4/4

) 37.9 C

Parallel Plate Capacitor

2 parallel metallic plates of equal area A are

separated by a distance d.

the electric field is uniform between the

plates.

Q

A

Applying the Gausss Law, the value of the

electric field between the plates :

Q

E

(1)

0 A 0

Since the field between the plates is uniform,

the magnitude of the potential difference

between the plates :

V E d ( 2)

C

0

A

d

V

Q

d A 0

8.85x10-12 F m-1

A : area of the plate

d : distance between 2 plates

Dielectric

Dielectric is an insulating material such as rubber,

plastic or waxed paper.

Dielectric materials: high electrical resistivity, but

an efficient supporter of electrostatic fields.

Can store energy / charge.

Able to support an electrostatic field while

dissipating minimal energy in the form of heat.

The effect of a dielectric is to increase the

capacitance by a factor of ( increase the charge

storage capacity of the capacitor )

is called dielectric constant / relative

permitivity. dimensionless & is greater than 1.

r

0

vacuum but filled with a dielectric

mica

(dielectrics)

Rearrange: = r 0

A

(

)

A

r

o

C

dd

with dielectrics :

where

: dielectric permittivity of the

material ( always greater than 0 )

r : relative permittivity

Example : r = 7.0 for mica

r = 3.7 for paper

Strength of Various Materials at Room

Temperature

Material

Dielectric Constant

Dielectric Strength

(V/m)

Air (dry)

1.00059

3 x 106

Bakelite

4.9

24 x 106

Fused quartz

3.78

8 x 106

Neoprene rubber

6.7

12 x 106

Nylon

3.4

14 x 106

Paper

3.7

16 x 106

Polystyrene

2.56

24 x 106

Polyvinyl Chloride

3.4

40 x 106

12 x 106

Pyrex Glass

5.6

14 x 106

Silicone Oil

2.5

15 x 106

Strontium Titanate

233

8 x 106

Teflon

2.1

60 x 106

1.00000

80

Porcelain

Vacuum

Water

Example 4

A parallel plate capacitor consists of 2 plates

each with area 200 cm2 separated by a 0.4 cm

air gap.

(a) compute its capacitance

(b) if the capacitor is connected across a 500

V source, what are the charge on either plate

?

Solution

Air gap r = 1.0 thus = 0

A = 200 cm2 = 200x10-4 m2

d = 0.4 cm = 0.4x10-2 m

(a)

ffrroom

0

A

:m

C

1

2

4

.:C

5V

8

x(Q

14.x10041()25x10)

44 x1012 F 44 pF

(b)

22 x10 C

Purpose of dielectric :

1. To limit the potential difference that can

be applied between the plates to certain

value, Vmax called breakdown potential.

2. It keeps the plates from coming into

contact.

3. Allows flexible plates of metallic foil to be

rolled into a cylinder, giving the capacitor

a more compact size.

A dielectric material is inserted between the

plates of an isolated charged capacitor.

dipoles orient themselves with the field,

creates a `reverse` electric filed ( Ed ).

cancels the field due to the

plate charges.

the net field ( E ) between the

plates is reduced the voltage

across the plates ( V = Ed ) also

decreases.

Since the stored charge

remains the same, the

capacitance increases.

Consider a parallel plate capacitor in air ( no

dielectric ) is charged by a battery to a charge

Q0 .

V

0

Er0r

is :

Q0

V0

C0

capacitor plates , the voltage drops by a factor

r to the value V.

Generally : V E d , thus :

to an external circuit, no pathway for charge

to leave or to be added to the plates, thus Q0

remains same.

CdAw

C

rh

0

err0

Q

C

V

Q0

Q0

r

(V 0 / r )

V0

dielectric, the capacitance is increased over

its ( air ) value by a factor r :

PITFALL Prevention

Is the capacitor connected to a

battery ?

In problems in which you are modifying a capacitor

( by inserting of a dielectric , for example ), you

must note whether modifications to the capacitor

are being made while the capacitor is connected to

a battery or after it is disconnected.

If the capacitor remains connected to the battery,

the voltage across the capacitor necessarily remains

the same.

If you disconnected the capacitor from the battery

before making any modifications to the capacitor, the

capacitor is an isolated system and its charge remains

the same.

Example 5

A parallelplate capacitor has charge of

magnitude 9x10-6 C on each plate &

capacitance 3F when there is air between the

plates. The plates are separated by 2.0 mm.

With the charge on the plates kept constant, a

dielectric with r = 5.0 is inserted between the

plates.

What is the potential difference & electric field

between the plates of the capacitor before &

after the dielectric has been inserted ?

6

Q

9

1

0

V

0E

C

0

3

0

3

dV

2

3

0

50

E

rr01

Solution

The potential difference before :

3 V

1.5 10 V m

3

0.6 V

300 V m -1

-1

connected to a battery. A piece of insulator is

then inserted into the capacitor.

insulator

battery

capacitor

(a) the potential difference across the

capacitor.

(b) the capacitance of the capacitor

(c) the charge in the capacitor.

Answer

(a) Since capacitor still connected to

battery, V remain unchanged.

(b) As dielectric is inserted, capacitance

increase by a factor r .

(c) From:

Q CV

For V constant,

QC C Q

Capacitor

has a capacitance Co in the absence of a dielectric.

What is the capacitance when a slab of dielectric

material of dielectric constant and thickness d/3 is

inserted between the plates as shown.

Pictures from Serway & Beichner

SOLUTION

Two capacitors in

series : 1/C = 1/C1 + 1/C2

where

oA

C1 =

and C2 =

d/3

1 = d/3 + 2d/3

C oA

oA

d

= 3 A

o

oA

2d/3

+2

3 oA

C = 2 + 1

d

Pictures from Serway & Beichner

CAUTION !!! Capacitors are located inside of all laboratory equipment. They

come in many different shapes and sizes. Capacitors can remain energized and

produce harmful shocks long after a piece of equipment has been unplugged.

4/10/16

End of Chapter 2

Matriculation Physics SF027

81

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