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What Is Non-polarized Capacitor

Author: Apogeeweb
Date: 13 Sep 2018
polarized capacitor

Ⅰ Introduction

A non-polarized capacitor is one of many capacitors. According to the polarity of the capacitor, the capacitor can be divided into the non-polarized capacitor and polarized capacitor. And this article will elaborate: what is a non-polarized capacitor? What is it used for? How to choose non-polarized capacitors? What is the difference between polarized capacitors and non-polarized capacitors? Let's have a look.


Polarized Capacitor Vs Non-Polarized Capacitor

How to test a Non-Polarized Capacitor?


Ⅰ Introduction


Ⅱ Conception

Ⅲ Function

Ⅳ How to Select Non-polarized Capacitors?

Ⅴ The Difference Between Non-polarized Capacitors and Polarized Capacitors

  5.1 Different Dielectric

  5.2 Different Performance

  5.3 Different Capacity

  5.4 Different Structure

  5.5 Different Using Environment and Usage


Ⅱ Conception

Non-polarized capacitors are capacitors without positive or negative polarity. The two electrodes of non-polarized capacitors can be randomly inserted into the circuit, and will not leak. They are mainly used in circuits of coupling, decoupling, feedback, compensation, and oscillation. The figure below shows the reference diagram of the non-polarized capacitor.

Non-polarized capacitor

Figure1. Non-polarized Capacitor

The ideal capacitor has no polarity. However, in practice, in order to obtain a large capacity, some special materials and structures are used, which leads to the fact that the actual capacitors are somewhat polarized. Common polarized capacitors include aluminum electrolytic capacitors and tantalum electrolytic capacitors. Electrolytic capacitors are generally relatively large in capacity. It is not that easy to make a large-capacity non-polarized capacitor, because the volume will become very large. That is why there are so many polarized capacitors in the actual circuit. Because its size is small, and the voltage in this circuit is only one direction, polarized capacitors can come in handy.


We use polarized capacitors to avoid its shortcomings and make use of its advantages. We can understand it this way: A polarized capacitor is actually a capacitor that can only be used in one voltage direction. For non-polarized capacitors, both voltage directions can be used. Therefore, from the point of voltage direction, non-polarized capacitors are better than polarized capacitors. It is utterly possible to replace polarized capacitors with non-polarized capacitors, as long as the capacity, working voltage, volume, etc. can meet the requirements.

Ⅲ Function

The non-polarized capacitors are applied in pure AC circuits, and because of their small capacitance, they can also be applied to high-frequency filtering. Here is an example to illustrate the application of the capacitor:


In this case, the RC spark suppression circuit is mainly introduced. When the radio and television program is received by the antenna, and at the same time the fluorescent lamp is turned on and the fluorescent lamp flashes, you will hear the irregular sound of the radio or the speaker of the television. Many strong bright lines and bright spots on the TV screen are high-frequency clutter interference caused by electric sparks.


When circuits with inductance are disconnected, the spark will be generated between the contacts. As shown in the circuit at the left in figure 2, the switch S is suddenly turned off, and the current quickly disappear, that is, the change of the current is large, so a large self-inductance is generated at both ends of the coil. This electromotive force may hinder current to change and its direction is consistent with that of the applied voltage. When the two are superimposed, the voltage U1 across the switch will be very high, and when the voltage is higher than a certain value, this "sharp" voltage will break down the air and form an electric spark.


The spark may cause the contacts to be ablated and oxidized, and eventually cause malfunction. Therefore, it is important to eliminate the spark between the contacts. When cutting off the circuit, as long as the current of the control coil does not plummet, the voltage at the two ends of the coil will not be too large, so there will be no spark. As shown in the circuit on the right below, the RC spark suppression circuit is connected at both ends of the inductor. When the switch is suddenly turned off, i1 will charge the capacitor. A portion of the magnetic field energy in the inductor is dissipated on R and r, and a portion is converted into electric field energy in capacitor C, which causes capacitor C to re-discharge, thereby eliminating the spark.


Circuit with inductance and spark absorption circuit

Figure2. Circuit with Inductance and Spark Absorption Circuit

Ⅳ How to Select Non-polarized Capacitors?

Non-polarized capacitors are very convenient to be selected and used. You can directly select the capacitors with the same model and the same specifications. If none of the above conditions are met, you can refer to the following methods:


    1. Choose a reasonable capacitor accuracy. In most cases, the capacity requirements are not very high, and it is acceptable to have a capacity roughly the same as reference capacity. In the oscillation circuits, filtering circuits, delay circuits and tone circuits, the absolute value of the error needs to be within 0.3%-0.5%.


    2. Select the capacitor according to the circuit requirements. The paper capacitor is generally used for the low-frequency AC bypass circuit. The mica capacitor or the ceramic capacitor are generally used in circuits of high frequency or high voltage.


    3. Capacitors can be selected with a rated voltage higher or equal to the actual needs.


    4. High-frequency capacitors cannot be replaced by low-frequency capacitors.


    5. Consider the operating temperature, working range, temperature coefficient of the capacitor according to the application occasion.


    6. The series or parallel method can be used when the nominal capacity cannot be met, but the voltage added to the capacitor should be less than the withstand voltage of the capacitor.

Ⅴ The Difference Between Non-polarized Capacitors and Polarized Capacitors

Both polarized and non-polarized capacitors have the same principles, that is, storing and releasing charges; the voltage on the plate (here the electromotive force of charge accumulation is called voltage) cannot change suddenly.


The different media, different performance, different capacity and different structure results in different using environment and usage. Conversely, more excellent and diversified capacitors will emerge with the development of science and technology and the discovery of new materials.

Different Capacitor Types

Figure3. Different Capacitor Types

5.1 Different dielectric    

What is the dielectric? In other words, it is the substance between two capacitor plates. Most of the polarity capacitors use electrolytes as a dielectric, which makes polarity capacitor has a larger capacitance than other capacitors that have the same volume. In addition, polarized capacitors produced by different electrolyte materials and processes will have different capacitance.


Meanwhile, voltage withstand is mostly related to the dielectric material. And there are also many non-polarized materials, including the most widely used metal oxide film and polyester,  the use of polarized and non-polarized capacitors is determined by whether the nature of the dielectric is reversible.

Non-polarized Capacitor and Polarized Capacitor

Figure4. Non-polarized Capacitor and Polarized Capacitor

5.2 Different performance

Performance and the demand maximization is the requirement of use. If the power supply of the TV uses a metal oxide film capacitor as a filter, and if the capacitance and voltage withstand are required to meet the filter, I'm afraid only a power supply can be installed inside the shell.


Therefore, the filter can only use a polarized capacitor, and polarity capacitance is irreversible. Generally, the electrolytic capacitor is above 1 MF, which participates in coupling, decoupling, power supply filtering and so on. The non-polarized capacitor is mostly below 1 MF, which is involved in resonance, coupling, frequency selection, current limiting and so on. Of course, there are also non-polarized capacitors with large capacity and high voltage, mostly used in reactive power compensation, motor phase shifting, frequency conversion power phase shifting and other purposes. There are many kinds of non-polarized capacitors.


Figure5. Capacitors

5.3 Different capacity

As mentioned before, capacitors of the same volume have different capacitance under different dielectric.

5.4 Different structure

In principle, it is possible to use a capacitor of any shape in the environment without considering the point discharge. The most using electrolytic capacitors are circular, and the square type is rare. The shape of capacitors is varied, such as tubular, deformed rectangular, sheet, square, circular, combined square or circular and so on, depending on where they are used. Of course, there are also invisible ones called a distributed capacitor, which must not be ignored in high frequency and intermediate frequency devices.

5.5 Different Using Environment and Usage

Because of the internal material and structure, the capacity of polarity capacitors (such as aluminum electrolysis) can be very large. However, their high-frequency characteristics are not good, so it is much suitable for power filters and other occasions. There are also polarized capacitors of good high-frequency characteristics-tantalum electrolysis, whose price is relatively high.


Including ceramic capacitors, monolithic capacitors, polyethylene (CBB) capacitors and so on, these non-polarized capacitors are small in size, low in price and good in high-frequency characteristics, but they are not suitable for the large capacity.  Ceramic capacitors are generally used in high-frequency filtering and oscillation circuit.

Different Capacitors

Figure6. Different Capacitors

The magnetic dielectric capacitors use ceramic material as meson and use silver layer on the surface as an electrode. Having stable performance and small leakage, the magnetic dielectric capacitors are suitable for high frequency and high voltage circuits.


Generally speaking, according to the insulating material between the two poles of the capacitor. Material with large dielectric permittivity (such as ferroelectric ceramics, electrolytes) is suitable for capacitors of large capacity and small volume, whose loss is also large. Material with small dielectric permittivity (such as ceramics) has a low loss and is suitable for high-frequency applications.


1. Can we use a non-polarized capacitor in place of a polarized capacitor?

You can almost always replace an electrolytic (polar) capacitor with electrostatic one (non-polar) of same value having necessary voltage rating. However, the reverse is not possible.


2. What is the main difference between a polar and non-polar capacitor (except having poles or not)? Where do we use them?

The main difference is what they're made of. Incidentally, that also determines how big they have to be for a given capacitance, and how much they cost.


Polar capacitors are also known as electrolytic capacitors, because they use an electrolyte as the dielectric. It allows for extremely high capacitance with some small leakage current in a small package. A ceramic capacitor with equivalent capacitance would have to be very, very large.


There are lots of different kinds of non-polar capacitors. The two most common ones I've seen are ceramic and mica. Ceramic is cheap, mica is more expensive, but I believe mica capacitors can take a higher voltage. Altogether, they offer lower leakage current than electrolytics but also lower capacitance per size. The main advantage is that they maintain their capacitance with bias in both directions.


Electrolytic capacitors are useful in places where the voltage will never switch polarity on them under proper use conditions. Their high capacitance means they can be used more effectively for power supply filtering, reducing ripple in a rectifier, and softening on/off switching.


But for component decoupling, they aren't so good because without a very good bias, they'll end up with a voltage applied backward, and under backward voltage they break down, lose their capacitance and leak like crazy.


They also let out the "magic smoke" when reverse biased too high. Non-polar capacitors don't.


3. What are polar and non-polar capacitors?

All electrostatic capacitors can be connected in AC or DC circuits without reference to any connection being marked for positive or negative polarities. They have the same properties whichever way they are connected. These are non-polar capacitors.


Electrolytic capacitors have their dielectric formed as an oxide layer on one electrode through chemical action by action of current in one direction. Passing a current in opposite direction will damage the capacitor.


Therefore terminals of electrolytic capacitors are specifically marked with positive and negative polarities (mostly tge negative terminal is marked). The capacitors have to be necessarily connected with the same corresponding polarities in the circuit. These are polar capacitors.


4. How do you know if a capacitor is non-polarized?

In the case of non – polarized capacitor, connect it either way as they do not have polarity. Now, check the readings on the Digital Multimeter. If the multimeter readings are closer to the actual values (mentioned on the capacitor), then the capacitor can be considered a good capacitor.


5. Why non-polarized capacitors are preferred?

Electrolytic capacitors have higher capacitance, but for most purposes, the non-polarized capacitor is preferred. They are cheaper, can be installed in either direction and last longer.


6. Can I replace a polarized capacitor with a non-polarized one?

Non-polarized capacitors are supersets of polarized capacitors. ... In general, you can replace a polarized capacitor with a polarized or non-polarized capacitor with the same capacitance, and with a voltage rating of the original or higher.


7. Can a non-polarized capacitor be connected to a DC circuit?

Non-polarized capacitors can be connected to DC or AC circuits. ... Current can flow only during the time a capacitor is charging or discharging.


8. What is the difference between fixed and polarized capacitors?

Electrostatic capacitors are nonpolar, meaning they can be connected in any direction of polarity, and there is no difference. Electrolytic capacitors are polar by nature. They can only be connected with fixed terminal polarities. Positive and negative terminals are marked.


9. What is the use of a non-polarized capacitor?

Non-polarized capacitors are capacitors without positive or negative polarity. The two electrodes of non-polarized capacitors can be randomly inserted into the circuit, and will not leak, mainly used in circuits of coupling, decoupling, feedback, compensation, and oscillation.


10. Are all electrolytic capacitors polarized?

Almost all electrolytic capacitors are polarized, which means that the voltage on the positive terminal must always be greater than the voltage on the negative terminal. ... These have a typical capacitance between 1µF to 47mF and an operating voltage of up to a few hundred volts of DC.


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