Difference between Ceramic Capacitor and Electrolytic Capacitor


A capacitor is a circuit component which has ability to store electrical energy in the form of electrostatic field. A capacitor consists of an assembly of two parallel plates that are separated by an insulating material called dielectric.

When a voltage is applied to the capacitor, the dielectric material between its plates get polarized, i.e. its charges or ions get separated. The negative ions accumulated near the positive plate and positive ions accumulated near the negative plate. In this way an electric field is established inside capacitor. Hence the capacitor is said to be charged.

There are several capacitors available. The two commonly used types of capacitor are electrolytic capacitor and ceramic capacitor. This article will help you understand the significant differences between ceramic capacitors and electrolytic capacitors.


What is a Ceramic Capacitor?

A type of capacitor that uses a ceramic material as dielectric medium between its plates is known as ceramic capacitor. The ceramic capacitor is usually a fixed value capacitor, i.e. its capacitance value remains constant.

The ceramic capacitor is formed of two or more alternating layers of ceramic and a metal plate acting as the electrodes of the capacitor. The ceramic capacitors are mainly used in the applications where high stability performance and low losses required.

The ceramic capacitors are usually manufactured in the capacitance ranges from 1 pF to 100 μF. The ceramic capacitors do not have polarity, therefore, it can be equally used in the AC circuit as well.

What is an Electrolytic Capacitor?

A type of capacitor that uses an electrolyte to increase its capacitance value is known as an electrolytic capacitor.

The electrolytic capacitor is a polarized capacitor which has a metallic anode plate (positive electrode) which forms an insulating oxide layer through process of anodization. This oxide layer then acts as the dielectric medium of the capacitor.

An electrolyte, either in solid or liquid or gel form covers the surface of the oxide layer and acts as the cathode plate (negative electrode) of the capacitor. The oxide layer is very thin, due to which the capacitance of the electrolytic capacitor is very high.

Since, the polarity of the electrolytic capacitor is specified, hence it can be used in DC circuits only. The electrolytic capacitors are extensively used for filtering electronic noise or decoupling in power supplies, for coupling of signals between stages of an amplifier, etc.

Difference between Ceramic Capacitor and Electrolytic Capacitor

The following table highlights all the major differences between a ceramic capacitor and an electrolytic capacitor:

Basis of Difference Ceramic Capacitor Electrolytic Capacitor
Definition A type of capacitor which uses ceramic material as the dielectric medium between its plates is called ceramic capacitor. A capacitor that uses an electrolyte (solid, liquid or gel) in order to increase its capacitance value is known as electrolytic capacitor.
Structure In a ceramic capacitor, a ceramic material separates its electrode plates. In an electrolytic capacitor, a layer of metal oxide and an electrolyte separate the electrode plates.
Dielectric material A ceramic capacitor uses a ceramic substance as dielectric medium. An electrolytic capacitor has a thin layer of metal oxide that acts as the dielectric medium in the capacitor.
Circuit symbol

Equivalent series resistance (ESR) The equivalent series resistance of a ceramic capacitor is low. The equivalent series resistance of an electrolytic capacitor is comparatively high.
Microphony Microphony happens in ceramic capacitors. The electrolytic capacitors do not show microphony.
Polarization The ceramic capacitor is a type of non-polarized capacitor. The electrolytic capacitor is the type of polarized capacitor.
Use in AC circuit Ceramic capacitor can be used in AC circuits as well as DC circuits. Electrolytic capacitor cannot be used in AC circuit. It can be used in DC circuits only.
Temperature stability Ceramic capacitors have good temperature stability. The temperature stability of the electrolytic capacitors is poor.
Life span Ceramic capacitors have longer life span. The life span of an electrolytic capacitor is comparatively shorter.
Capacitance The capacitance value of ceramic capacitors is relatively low. Electrolytic capacitors have relatively higher capacitance values.
Tolerance Ceramic capacitors have low tolerance. The tolerance of the electrolytic capacitors is high.
Size Ceramic capacitors are smaller in size. The size of electrolytic capacitors is relatively larger.
Applications Ceramic capacitors are widely in high frequency applications, in resonant circuits in transmitter stations, in power circuit breakers, induction furnaces, as MLCC in PCBs, etc. The common applications of electrolytic capacitors are: to reduce voltage fluctuations, used for noise filtering, for smoothing the rectified AC, in audio frequency amplifiers, etc.

Conclusion

The most significant difference between a ceramic capacitor and an electrolytic capacitor is that a ceramic capacitor is a non-polarized type capacitor, while an electrolytic capacitor is a polarized capacitor.

Updated on: 19-Aug-2022

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