Q Factor definition The Q factor of a capacitor, also known as the quality factor, or simply Q, represents the efficiency of a given capacitor in terms of energy losses. It is defined as: where QC is the quality factor, XC is the reactance of the capacitor, C the capacitance of the capacitor, RC is the equivalent series resistance (ESR) of the capacitor, and ω0 is the frequency in radians at which the measurement is taken. In an AC system, the Q factor represents the ratio of energy stored in the capacitor to the energy dissipated as thermal losses in the equivalent series resistance. For example, a capacitor that is capable of storing 2000 joules of energy while wasting only 1 joule has a Q factor of 2000. Since Q is the measure of efficiency, an ideal capacitor would have an infinite value of Q meaning that no energy is lost at all in the process of storing energy. This is derived from the fact that the ESR of an ideal capacitor equals zero. The Q factor is not a constant value. It changes significantly with frequency for two reasons. The first reason is the obvious ω0 term in the above equation. The second reason is that ESR is not a constant value with regard to frequency. The ESR varies with frequency due to the skin effect, as well as other effects related to the dielectric characteristics. A related term, called the dissipation factor(DF), is sometimes defined in capacitor datasheets instead of the Q-factor. In AC circuits the DF is simply the reciprocal value of Q. Why is the Q factor important? Most applications do not have to take the Q factor into serious consideration, and standard capacitors may be used in those applications. However, the Q factor is one [… read more]

Impedance and reactance An element in a DC circuit can be described using only its resistance. The resistance of a capacitor in a DC circuit is regarded as an open connection (infinite resistance), while the resistance of an inductor in a DC circuit is regarded as a short connection (zero resistance). In other words, using capacitors or inductors in an ideal DC circuit would be a waste of components. Yet, they are still used in real circuits and the reason is that they never operate with ideally constant voltages and currents. As opposed to constant voltage circuits, in AC circuits the impedance of an element is a measure of how much the element opposes current flow when an AC voltage is applied across it. It is basically a voltage to current ratio, expressed in the frequency domain. Impedance is a complex number, which consists of a real and an imaginary part: where Z is the complex impedance. The real part R represents resistance, while the imaginary part X represents reactance. Resistance is always positive, while reactance can be either positive or negative. Resistance in a circuit dissipates power as heat, while reactance stores energy in the form of an electric or magnetic field. Impedance of a resistor Resistors in AC circuits behave the same way they do in DC circuits. Basically, the impedance of a resistor consists only of the real part, which is equal to the resistance of the resistor. Therefore, the impedance of a resistor can be expressed as: where Z is the impedance, and R is the resistance of the resistor. It is obvious that a resistor has no reactance, and can therefore store no energy. Also, when a voltage is applied across the resistor, the current flowing through the resistor will be in phase with the voltage, [… read more]

What is electric charge? Electric charge is a fundamental physical property of matter. Electric charge can be positive or negative. Matter repels other matter of the same charge and attracts other matter having the opposite charge. The unit used for electric charge is a Coulomb [C]. While the exact nature of charge is still unknown at a fundamental level, it is generally accepted to represent a specific state of matter which cannot be explained at the current level of scientific knowledge. Electric charge is quantized, meaning that charge can only have discrete values. An elementary charge is denoted as e, and approximately equals 1.602·10-19 C. The electron bears a charge of -e and it is a negatively charged particle. In contrast, a proton is a positively charged particle, bearing a charge of +e. An intuitive way to understand the quantized nature of charge is to imagine an electrically neutral object as a box containing an equal number of protons (positive charges) and electrons (negative charges). Protons are fixed and cannot be taken out or added to the box. Since the number of protons and electrons is equal, the total sum of the electric charge inside the box is zero for electrically neutral objects. In order to make the object negatively charged, the only way to do so is to somehow add more electrons into the box. As electrons are indivisible particles, it is only possible to add an integer number of electrons – one cannot add half an electron into the box. As a result, the total charge of the object is N times the charge of a single electron, which equals -e·N, where N is an integer number. Similarly, in order to make an object positively charged, it is necessary to remove N electrons from the box and the [… read more]

What are polymer capacitors? Polymer capacitors are capacitors which use conductive polymers as the electrolyte. They use solid polymer electrolytes instead of liquid or gel electrolytes that are found in ordinary electrolytic capacitors. By using solid electrolyte, the electrolyte drying is completely avoided. Electrolyte drying is one the factors that limit the lifetime of ordinary electrolytic capacitors. There are several types of polymer capacitors, including aluminium polymer capacitors, polymerized organic semiconductors and conductive polymer capacitors. In most cases, polymer capacitors can be used as direct replacements for electrolytic capacitors, as long as the maximum rated voltage is not exceeded. The maximum rated voltage of solid polymer capacitors is lower than the maximum voltage of classical electrolytic capacitors: usually up to 35 volts, although some polymer capacitors are made with maximum operating voltages of up to 100 volts DC. Polymer capacitors have a number of qualities superior to ordinary electrolyte capacitors: longer lifetime, higher maximum working temperature, better stability, lower equivalent series resistance (ESR) and a much safer failure mode. These qualities come at a price of lower maximum voltage rating and a narrower capacitance range, as well as a higher cost compared to wet electrolyte capacitors. This type of capacitor is not that new: production started in the 1980s and since then, they have been used in many applications including server motherboards and computer graphic accelerator cards. Polymer capacitor definition A polymer capacitor is a capacitor which uses solid polymers as the electrolyte. They have a number of superior qualities including a safer failure mode, lower losses and a longer lifetime than electrolytic capacitors. Characteristics Equivalent series resistance Compared to ordinary electrolytic capacitors, polymer capacitors have a lower equivalent series resistance. This allows polymer capacitors to withstand higher ripple currents during normal operation. A ripple current is the AC component [… read more]