When you hear an electronic circuit pop or smell burning, it's often due to problems with capacitance.

    If you don't account for capacitance, you might either have not enough power or too much power flowing through your circuit.

    You'll also find that if you don't account for fluctuations in voltage or current, your circuit might not work as well as you'd expect.

    In this guide, we'll help you understand capacitors and how to measure their effects. If you need help converting units, try our free unit converter to go from F to C/V and more!

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


    What can this capacitance calculator do?

    This tool can help you convert capacitance units.

    The calculator creates precise results that can be rounded up to 6 decimal places. Using a capacitance calculator is essential for complicated work.

    Conversions are necessary for building devices or figuring out what they can do.

    Try out our calculator to get a better hands-on understanding of how to figure out what kind of capacitance your project requires.

    What are capacitors?

    Capacitors are a storage device.

    In every electrical circuit, energy can fluctuate and pulse. Electricity doesn't flow in a steady stream and capacitors manage that. They allow any device or circuit to store an electrical charge.

    Capacitance relies on the components of a capacitor. Based on the material, they will have a certain capability for storing a charge.

    Today, the most basic capacitors consist of flat metal plates separated by a tiny amount of space.

    The charge amount is then expressed as the voltage between the plates multiplied by potential capacitance.

    How is capacitance measured?

    The standard unit of capacitance is in Farads (F).

    Capacitance is a figure that states how much of a charge a capacitor can store for every unit of voltage.

    It can be expressed using a simple equation:

      Capacitance = Q / V

    Where,

    • Q is the charge (in Coulombs)
    • V is the voltage (in volts).

    That "coulomb" is the charge transferred by a current of one amp per second.

    One Farad means that a capcitor can store one coulomb of a charge with the applied potential of a single volt.

    Alternative Method

    Capacitance can also be measured with certain tools, some that are more expensive than others.

    Using something called a digital multimeter can help you get a rough idea of capacitance without breaking the bank. But when precision and accuracy are vital, consider getting an LCR meter.

    How are capacitors used?

    You can find capacitors in active electronics circuits dependent on oscillating energy.

    Oscillating signals are in electric radios and any kind of electronic audio equipment.

    They charge and discharge at immeasurable speeds. In a near instant, they can respond to spikes and dips in electrical charges.

    They can produce certain frequencies and help to filter out others.

    Signals that oscillate will charge one plate while the other plate will begin to discharge. If the current reverses, the second plate charges while the other discharges.

    This allows desired frequencies to flow through while prohibiting the rest.

    Higher frequencies will be allowed into the capacitor. Any lower frequencies will be blocked by the capacitor.

    The cut-off for frequencies that the capacitor blocks depend on the size of the capacitor itself.

    The frequencies that are allowed to pass help achieve the desired sound signal in the end.

    Summary

    Much like a set filter on a mixing board, capacitors can be used to keep frequencies measuring in certain ranges out of the end result.

    Depending on the range of frequencies that you're looking for, you'll need the capacitance to respond in kind.

    How are capacitors made?

    Capacitors are very space efficient. They're usually plates stacked in layers or wound in coils spaced very close together.

    They use dialectical material placed between plates, which works better than an air gap.

    With the electric field between the materials blocked, they can store more of a charge without shorting out.

    Technology has developed to such an extent that capacitors are now able to cluster in very small spaces.

    Electronic circuits use capacitors that are so small, they're measured in prefixes such as micro-, nano-, or pico-farads.

    These are millionths, billionths, or trillionths of a full farad used in electronics. That's because small circuits only need low amounts of capacitance.

    More recently, larger capacitors have been made using thin film to make layers with a thickness of mere atoms.

    What are supercapacitors?

    Using nanotechnology, very thin layers of material can create supercapacitors. They have very high capacitance.

    Pros

    Instead of conventional materials, material like graphene is now used.

    That material can create a capacitor that's 100 times what you'd find in a typical electronics shop.

    Cons

    The only downside is that these capacitors have much slower response times than those made of conventional materials.

    While the time differences might only be measurable in units that seem nominal, they make a difference.

    When in an active circuit, even the smallest measure of time matters. Think of how slow a battery charges, whether on your laptop or your phone.

    This is the basic concept of storage and release.

    Capacitors are faster than the average battery. They can also withstand thousands more charging cycles than a battery.

    The biggest problem with these capacitors is that they take up more space to store the same amount of energy.

    Final words?

    When you first begin calculating, you'll make mistakes. Your first experiments with electronics and circuits will mean lots of trial and error.

    If you're working with audio circuits, you'll find capacitors are very important to achieving the types of sounds you want from your work.

    To get some additional help along the way, check out our full list of math and physics calculators today!

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