Testing High Capacitance MLCC’s


Most LCR meters are incapable of testing high value MLCC’s due to their internal impedance. The impedance of all MLCC’s 1.0uF and higher is so low at 1KHz that the supplied current of the meter is essentially drained, in-turn dropping the specified voltage to basically 0 Volts so the capacitor never sees the required voltage. This can be verified by measuring the voltage across the capacitor while it’s under test with a true RMS meter. If the voltage is less than 0.4Vrms, the capacitance reading will be low every time.

Some mid-range LCR meters have an impedance matching capability ALC (Automatic Level Control) Function. This allows the meter to decrease its own impedance until it’s lower than the device under test. However, in the case of most high value MLCC’s, this alone is not enough. With these caps, an amplifier unit is necessary to increase the current through the capacitor until the voltage across it reaches the pre-set level (.5Vrms – 1Vrms). We have an Agilent 4284A machine here at Digi-Key and it has both of these capabilities.

There could also be an issue of aging with these caps, however you want to ensure that you are testing them correctly before trying to correct any aging issue.

Here is a excellent article from Steve Maloy that also talks about aging with the MLCCs.

We also have another great article from Mark Waldrip and Richard Tse at TDK that dives into Capacitance Measurement

An LCR meter is a meter or electronic test equipment used to measure the inductance (L), capacitance (C), and resistance (R) of an electronic components.
Here is a short video me made that helps explain Testing MLCCs

See also:
MLCC Common failure issue: Flex Cracking post
Why ceramic capacitors may seem out of spec but aren’t

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How to measure the capacitance of MLCC SMT Capacitors
Ceramic Capacitor Aging / What is a Decade Hour?

Also from TDK this is a great video showing high capacitance measurement and techniques https://www.digikey.com/en/videos/t/tdk/high-capacitance-capacitor-measurement-tutorial-by-tdk .

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See also aging from Johanson Dielectrics Inc.:
“After the soldering process, the capacitors have essentially been De-Aged. Capacitance
measurements may be erratic in the initial 10 hours after testing. This is due to the initial
capacitance value, dielectric type and the time between reflow and the capacitance
measurement. For this reason, it may be necessary to wait for the capacitance to stabilize
after reflow before testing. In “High K” dielectrics, the capacitance may also appear
slightly high after the soldering process. This is normal as the capacitance is intended to
be stable after 1000 hours so that there is adequate capacitance throughout the life of the

Here is an additional post that may be helpful.