Guide to Ceramic Capacitors- Uses, Types, Characteristics & FAQs

Ceramic capacitors are a class of non- polarized fixed-value electrostatic capacitors that use a variety of ceramic powder materials as their dielectric to obtain particular performance characteristics.  Ceramic capacitors are used in a wide variety of electronic devices, including radios, TVs, computers, and mobile phones. They are especially well-suited for use in high-frequency applications because they have a very low self-inductance and small physical size.

Ceramic Capacitor
Ceramic Capacitor

Ceramic capacitors typically have a capacitance range of 10 pF to 0.1 μF. In this article, you will learn about ceramics, capacitor construction, its types, and some frequently asked questions.

Note: Since the Ceramic capacitor does not have any polarity, it is widely used in AC circuits.

What is ceramic in a ceramic capacitor?

Ceramics are inorganic, non-metallic, crystalline oxide, nitride, or carbide substances like silicon and carbon. The composition of a ceramic material affects its electrical behavior and its uses.

Construction of Ceramic Capacitor
What’s inside a Ceramic Capacitor.

The easy-to-mold feature of ceramic material is the reason for the production of precise and larger forms of ceramic capacitors for high-voltage, high-frequency (RF), and power applications. Multilayer ceramic (MLCC) and ceramic disc capacitors are the two forms of ceramic capacitors used in modern electronics.

Are ceramic capacitors AC or DC?

If the capacitor has polarity (polarized capacitor), it is used in DC circuits. If the capacitor has no polarity (non-polarized), it can be used in both AC and DC circuits. Since a ceramic capacitor is a non-polarized capacitor, it can be easily used in AC circuits.

Ceramic capacitors are produced with a capacitance ranging from 10pF to 100F with DC operating voltages ranging from 10 volts to 5000 volts.

What is a ceramic capacitor used for? Applications

  • To reduce RF noise. These capacitors are connected in parallel with a DC motor to reduce interference and noise.
  • They are used as bypass capacitors, in op-amp circuits and filters, etc.
  • Used in frequency discrimination (decoupling) or bypass applications where Q factor and stability are not important concerns.

The important applications of Ceramic capacitors are explained below:

Coupling Capacitor

In a coupling circuit, a ceramic capacitor transmits only the AC signal and not the DC signal. It extracts the AC component from the AC+DC component.

Ceramic capacitor in a Coupling circuit
Ceramic capacitor in a Coupling circuit

In simple words, the capacitor allows AC signals to pass from one circuit to the other while blocking DC signals. Coupling capacitors are often used to connect a signal source, such as a microphone or an audio amplifier, to a load, such as a speaker or an oscilloscope. By doing this, the capacitor prevents any DC offset voltage that may be present in the signal source from being applied to the load.

Decoupling Capacitor

A ceramic capacitor, when used as a decoupling capacitor, bypass AC signals around an electrical circuit. This is done by connecting the capacitor between the power supply and the ground, which effectively couples the AC signals together while allowing the DC signal to flow uninterrupted.

Ceramic capacitor in a Decoupling circuit
Ceramic capacitor in a Decoupling circuit

The capacitor acts as a filter, allowing only the DC signal to pass while blocking the AC signals. This process is known as decoupling, and it helps to reduce noise and improve the quality of the power supply.

  • High pass and Low pass Filter

Capacitors help in transmitting signals of a particular low-pass filters that filter out low-frequency components and high-pass filters that filter out high-frequency components.

Low Pass Filter
Low Pass Filter
High Pass Filter
High Pass Filter

What are the characteristics of a ceramic capacitor?

The capacitor that uses ceramic material such as paraelectric like titanium oxide (with additives like Magnesium, Tantalum, Zinc, and Zirconium) or ferroelectric like barium titanate ( with additives like Aluminium oxide, Magnesium silicate, and Aluminium silicate) as the dielectric is known as the Ceramic Capacitors. The permittivity of the capacitor is determined by these added additives.

The capacitor with paraelectric material and its additives will have

  • low permittivity
  • linear behavior over temperature changes
  • stable

The capacitor with ferroelectric material and its additives will have

  • High permittivity

Ceramic capacitors have a high value of k (dielectric constant) which allows them to achieve a high capacitance value in a small physical size.

Ceramic capacitors are available in various styles and shapes. Some of them are listed below:

What are the types of Ceramic capacitors?

Multilayer Ceramic Chip Capacitor (MLCC): It is created by stacking a number of individual capacitors one after the other via a terminal surface. The material used is paraelectric with pre-determined additives.

The capacitance value is determined by the number of capacitors and their size. It is rectangular in shape and used for surface mounting purposes.

Multi Layer Ceramic Capacitors
Multi-Layer Ceramic Capacitors

Disc capacitors: These capacitors are created by coating two sides of small porcelain or ceramic disc with silver and then stacking the discs together. It has through-hole leads.

Disc Ceramic Capacitor
Disc Ceramic Capacitor

A single ceramic disc of 3-6 mm can be used for low capacitance values. It has voltage ratings up to 750 V D.C. and 350V concerning A.C

Feedthrough Ceramic Capacitor (FCC): It is a three-terminal capacitor that resembles a tube. It is made with external metallization for soldiering and an inner metallization that is in contact with a lead.

Feedthrough Ceramic Capacitor
Feedthrough Ceramic Capacitor

FC capacitors reduce high frequencies and can be used as a by-pass capacitor.

Ceramic Power Capacitor (CPC): These types of capacitors have a larger ceramic body. They are used in high voltage power systems, electrical transformers, and various electrical installations. They have higher power ratings of more than 200 volt-amps.

Power Ceramic Capacitor
Power Ceramic Capacitor

How do I choose a ceramic capacitor?

The ceramic capacitors’ dielectric classes can help you choose the right one for your application.

Ceramic Capacitors Dielectric Classes:

ClassDescriptionCommon types
Class 1Highly stable with respect to temperature change, voltage, and frequency.
Exhibit low loss.
Used in resonant circuits, filters, and oscillators.
  NP0, P100, N33, N75
Class 2They possess a non-linear temperature coefficient.
Offers high volumetric efficiency.
Used in coupling, decoupling, smoothing, and by-passing applications.
X7R, X5R, Y5V, Z5U
Class 3They offer high volumetric efficiency than class 2 capacitors.
They have a permittivity value in the range of 50,000 times greater than the class 2 capacitors.
Their temperature stability is not so good.
Only leaded components are available. not yet standardized.
Features of each class of ceramic capacitors

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) are two international organizations that have standardized these ceramic capacitor classes. (Read More)

How does a ceramic capacitor get damaged?

There are multiple ways that ceramic capacitors can malfunction and some are:

1. Cracking of Ceramic Capacitor:

Ceramic capacitors may undergo mechanical cracks due to too much physical stress i.e., bending of the board or pressure on the part. This excessive bending can develop short circuits between layers. Depending on the amount of current available from the power supply, it will either explode or simply sit there and overheat.

crack in a Ceramic capacitor
Crack in a Ceramic capacitor

2. Overvoltage

Overvoltage failure of Ceramic capacitor
Overvoltage failure of Ceramic capacitor

Overvoltage is the second possible cause of ceramic capacitor failure. The dielectric (insulating) layers may burst under excessive voltage, creating short circuits. Excessive voltage might cause the capacitor to flex and result in a stress crack.

What is the difference between the ceramic and electrolytic capacitor?

Ceramic capacitorElectrolytic capacitor
Ceramics are used to separate the conductive surfaces.Metal oxide layers and an electrolyte are used to separate the conductive surfaces.  
The dielectric is made of ceramic material.The dielectric consists of a very thin oxide layer.
Non-polarized capacitorPolarized capacitor
They have a low ESR (Equivalent series resistance) value  They have higher ESR and are more strongly dependent on the frequency.  
They exhibit microphonyThey  do not exhibit microphony
Note : Microphony is an effect in which electrical noise in circuits is produced by mechanical vibrations.

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