An electrolytic capacitor is a type of capacitor that uses an electrolyte to achieve greater capacitance capabilities than other types of capacitors. An electrolyte is a gel or fluid with a high concentration of ions. There are three types of electrolytic capacitors: aluminum capacitors, tantalum capacitors, and niobium capacitors. Nearly all electrolytic capacitors are polarized, meaning the voltage of anode must be always greater than that of the cathode. The large capacitance of electrolytic capacitors makes them highly useful for sending low-frequency signals. They have many applications, though they are most frequently used for noise filtering or decoupling in power supplies.
The electrical characteristics of an electrolytic capacitor are highly dependent on the type of electrolyte and anode used. This affects the value of the capacitance which also depends on the temperature and frequency. Capacitors featuring non-solid electrolytes display a wider sense over differing temperature and frequency ranges than capacitors with a solid electrolyte. The capacitance of an electrolytic capacitor is measured in units known as microfarads. The capacitance value will be specified in the manufacturers data sheet and listed either as nominal capacitance or rated capacitance. Capacitance is measured at the frequency of 1 kHz and at the temperature of 20 degrees celsius. There is a certain percentage of allowed deviation of measured capacitance from the rated value. This is known as the capacity tolerance.
There are four main applications in which electrolytic capacitors are used. For one, they are used to reduce voltage fluctuations in various filtering devices. They are also used in output and input smoothing to filter when the DC signal to the AC component is weak. Third, electrolytic capacitors are used for noise filtering our decoupling in power supplies, and lastly, they are used for coupling signals between amplifier stages and to store energy in flashlamps. As electrolytic capacitors are complex devices with important uses, it is important to get them from a reliable source.
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