Capacitor Quick Reference Guide

The table below provides a brief summary of different capacitor types and their relative merits, arranged approximately in terms of decreasing quantity (or increasing quality) of capacitance offered by each type.

Capacitor type Sub-type/variant Approx. value range C*V product range Advantages Disadvantages/things to beware of Good for Lousy for
C V
Electric double layer, Supercaps 6.8mF to 4000F 2.1 to 75v .03 to 10,000 Exceptionally high C/V ratio. Possible alternative to secondary (rechargeable) batteries, variations suitable for low power (memory, RTC backup supplies) and high power (battery replacement/automotive/traction) applications available. Polarized, low per-cell voltage; power management circuitry usually req.d for use as energy storage device. Leakage current often quite high. Service life strongly temperature dependent, possible toxicity issues depening on electrolyte formulation. Storage for energy harvesting applications, battery supplement/replacement Signal applications, high-temperature applications
Aluminum Standard Electrolytic 0.1u to 2.2F 4 to 550V 5E-6 to 22 Inexpensive, high C/V ratio, large values available. Capable of self-healing. Polarized, service life & device parameters strongly temperature dependent. High ESR, poor linearity, dielectric degrades if stored discharged for extended periods. Potentially toxic depending on electrolyte formulation. Bulk filtering at frequencies into the 10’s of kHz Precision filtering, RF, signal applications
Bipolar .22u to 6.8mF 6.3 to 50V 1E-5 to 0.05 Similar to standard aluminum electrolytic, but capable of withstanding polarity reversal Similar to standard electrolytic, though non-polarized. Not recommended for continuous AC use due to high ESR & resulting power dissipation DC applications with uncertain or occasionally-reversed polarity Precision filtering, RF, signal applications, continuous AC applications
Polymer 22n to 4.7mF 2 to 100V 2E-6 to 0.016 Improved ESR & device longevity vs. standard electrolytic types due to use of solid electrolyte instead of liquid. Higher cost, limited range of available device values, limited self-healing capability. Bulk filtering at frequencies into the low 100’s of kHz. Precision filtering, RF, signal applications
Tantalum Ta/MnO2 100nF to 2.2mF 2.5 to 125V 2E-6 to 0.12 Good C/V ratio & loss characteristics among electrolytic types, good service life potential due to absence of evaporable/leakable liquids. Wide temperature range, self-healing when properly applied Device construction/chemistry is similar to many pyrotechnic devices and may behave as such upon failure; careful design is mandatory. As a rule of thumb, de-rate voltage by 50% minimum and ensure that application will not apply surge current in excess of the test value. Bulk filtering up to low 100’s of kHz in space-constrained, extreme temperature, or long-life applications. precision filtering, RF,signal applications, any application developed without due caution and attention.
Wet 1.7uF to 24mF 10 to 125V 2E-4 to 1.2 Good C/V ratio, low ESR, good reliability & stability among liquid-electrolytic types. Good self-healing characteristics, little to no risk of pyrotechnic failure, reduced voltage de-rating and higher capacitance/voltage values available relative to solid tantalum devices. Costly, mechanically vulnerable to vibration when improperly secured. Enclosed electrolyte is generally quite corrosive. Bulk filtering to 10’s of kHz, legacy high-reliability applications. Cost-critical applications, signal & RF applications
Polymer 4.7nF to 1.5mF 2.5 to 75V 3E-5 to 1E-2 Good C/V ratio, Low ESR among electrolytic types, little to no risk of pyrotechnic failure. Improved high-frequency performance over other tantalum types. Poorer temperature tolerance, less effective self-healing, higher leakage than other tantalum types. Bulk filtering up to low 100’s of kHz, particularly in high-density, temperature-limited applications. Precision filtering, RF,Signal applications
Niobium Oxide 2.2uF to 1mF 1.8 to 10V 2E-5 to 4E-3 Good C/V ratio, low ESR among electrolytic types, tantalum alternative with reduced risk of pyrotechnic failure & less de-rating required. Potential supply chain advantages over tantalum due to differences in material availability. Limited voltage ranges available Bulk filtering at frequencies from upper 10’s of kHz to lower 100’s of kHz, particularly in high-density applications. Alterntive to tantalum for many applications. Precision filtering, RF, signal applications
Film Polyester/Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) 270pF to 220uF 50V to 1kV 3E-8 to 0.07 Lowest cost, highest C/volume of common film types. Modest temperature capability, though most devices not reflow-compatible. Good self-healing characteristics with certain construction types Relatively high losses and parametric variance with temperature and frequency compared to other common film types. AC line filtering applications, signal applications < 100kHz where cost is a dominant consideration. RF applications, low-voltage power filtering.
Polyethylene Napthalate 1nF to 1uF 16 to 630V 1E-7 to 3E-4 Similar to polyester/PET, but with improved temperature capability that enables reflow solder process compatibility Higher cost, somewhat poorer dielectric performance than polyester/PET Applications calling for polyester-like performance but with higher temp. & reflow process capabilities Low-voltage power filtering
Polypropylene 100pF to 3mF 50V to 3 kV 6E-9 to 2 Good parameter stability over time, temp, & frequency relative to to other film types, low losses & susceptiptibility to moisture absorption. Relatively low cost, fair self-healing characteristics with certain construction types. Poorest temperature capability among common film types. Precision filtering where relatively high C values are called for, high-power mid-frequency (10^3~10^6 Hz) applications such as induction heating & inverter drives. High-temperature applications, RF applications & low-voltage power filtering
Polyphenylene Sufide 100pF to 0.39uF 10 to 250V 2E-9 to 4E-5 Similar to polypropylene, but with improved temperature capability that enables reflow solder process compatibility Higher cost, somewhat poorer dielectric performance than polypropylene. Applications calling for polypropylene-like performance but with higher temp. & reflow process capabilities Low-voltage power filtering
Other types 470pF to 22uF 16V to 1.5kV Variable performance depending on dielectric, less common than other film capacitor types. Includes paper, polystyrene, polycarbonate, etc.
Ceramic Class 1 dielectrics (ex: C0G) 0.1pF to 0.1uF 16V to 3 kV 3E-12 to 4E-5 Stable device parameters over temperature, voltage, frequency. Good linearity, commonly used for timing & signal applications. Devices with controlled temperature coefficients available for temperature compensation applications. Little to no piezoelectric/microphonic behavior, low cost compared to other temp.-stable device types. Available only in relatively small values, prone to mechanically-induced failure due to brittleness of materials used. Precision filtering, timing, signal applications, some RF applications Bulk filtering, decoupling of frequencies below a few 100s of kHz
Class 2 dielectrics (Ex: X5R, X7R, etc.) 10pF to 100uF 4V to 5 kV 4E-10 to 2E-3 Low ESR, good C/V ratio among ceramic types, commonly used for decoupling supply rails & low-precision filtering. Significant parameter shifts with time, voltage, temperature, prone to mechanically induced failure, piezoelectric/microphonic IC supply rail decoupling, power filtering at high 10’s of kHz to several MHz, low-precision signal filtering Low frequency bulk filtering, precision filtering/timing/signal applications
Class 3 dielectrics (Ex: Z5U, Y5V) 100pF to 470uF 6.3V to 50 kV 1E-8 to 1E-2 Highest C/V ratios of all ceramic types, often used in AC line filtering applications. Extreme parameter dependence on time, voltage, temperature negates advantages of high C/V ratio in many applications. Prone to mechanical failure due to material brittleness. Highly piezoelectric/microphonic. EMI filtering on AC lines, other applications calling for low-cost capacitors and having a wide tolerance for parametric variation. Any application reqiring parameter stability or linearity.
Mica/PTFE 1pF to 15nF 50V to 30kV 1E-10 to 5E-5 Excellent parameter stability, very low loss, wide temperature range High cost, only low C values available RF applications (filtering, tuning, broadcast TX) timing circuits, precision test & measurement Bulk filtering
Silicon 0.2pF to 3.3uF 10 to 100V 1E-11 to 4E-5 Good electrical properties, very small packages available, often suitable for embedding in PCB. High part and assembly costs. Filtering, decoupling up to RF frequencies in extremely space-constrained applications. cost-sensitive applications
Thin film 50fF to 0.1uF 10 to 50v 8E-13 to 5E-6 Excellent electrical properties, very tight parameter tolerances available, commonly sold in industry-standard surface mount packaging. Only small values available, attention to layout particularly important with smaller values. RF & microwave tuning, filtering applications Bulk filtering
Trimmers, variable caps 1pF to .18nF 25 to 500V 3E-11 to 2E-8 Allow mechanical adjustment of a capacitance value. Wide variation in construction & dielectric types yields significant variance in performance. Limited to relatively small capacitance values. Correlation of mechanical input to capacitance value varies with design, some types more susceptible to drift due to environmental factors than others. tuning, matching, & calibration circuits bulk filtering, decoupling