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close this bookIntroduction to Electrical Engineering - Basic vocational knowledge (Institut für Berufliche Entwicklung, 213 p.)
close this folder6. Electrical Field
close this folder6.2. Capacity
View the document6.2.1. Capacity and Capacitor
View the document6.2.2. Behaviour of a Capacitor in a Direct Current Circuit
View the document6.2.3. Types of Capacitors

6.2.1. Capacity and Capacitor

Figs. 6.2. to 6.4. show certain phenomena between two charged plates. Two plates provided with connections and separated by a dielectric are called capacitor (Fig. 6.6.). This component is capable of storing a certain charge when a certain voltage is present. This storage capability is called capacity of a capacitor.

Fig. 6.6. Design of a capacitor

1 - Conducting metal plates (electrodes)
2 - dielectric
3 - Connections

C = Q/U

[C] = (A·· s)/V = F









Since the unit 1 F (farad) is very great, the capacity of the capacitors manufactured only reaches fractions of 1 F. These fractions are designated by the prefixes specified by legal regulation:

1 pF = 1 picofarad = 10-12 F
1 nF = 1 nanofarad = 10-9 F
1 µF = 1 microfarad = 10-6 F

The storage capacity of a capacitor is dependent on the area of the electrodes, the distance between them and the type of dielectric.

C = eA/d



e 1)

dielectric constant


area of the electrodes


distance between the electrodes

1) e Greek letter epsilon

The material constant is usually stated for the dielectric inquestion in the form of the product of the absolute dielectric constant times the relative dielectric constant.

e = e0 · er




absolute dielectric constant


relative dielectric constant

The absolute dielectric constant applies to vacuum and is

e0 = 8.86 · 10-12 (A·· s)/(V·· m)

Table 6.2. er of Some Insulating Materials

Insulating material






transformer oil






Epsilon (special ceramic compound for the production of capacitors)

up to 10,000

Like resistors, capacitors can be connected in series or in parallel. The total capacity obtained in this way is to be determined. Fig. 6.7. shows the series connection of two capacitors. The two capacitors have the same charge Q. The following holds:

QAB = Q1 = Q2
UAB = U1 + U2

Fig. 6.7. Capacitors connected in series

When dividing the voltage equation by the charge, we have

UAB/Q = U1/Q + U2/Q

After inversion, we obtain from equation 6.2.

1/C = U/Q

and, for the total capacity of a series connection of capacitors we have

1/Cequ = 1/C1 +1/C2


This equation has the same structure as the equation for the determination of Requ of a parallel connection of resistors.

The parallel connection of two capacitors is shown in Fig. 6.8. The same voltage is applied to the two capacitors, and each capacitor has tored a charge in accordance with its capacity.

Fig. 6.8. Capacitors connected in parallel

Thus, we have

U = UC1 = UC2
QAB = Q1 + Q2

After division, we obtain

QAB/U = Q1/U +Q2/U

and with equation 6.2. we have

Cequ = C1 + C2


This equation has the same structure as the equation for the determination of Requ of a series connection of resistors.

From the equations 6.5. and 6.6., the following general statement can be derived: In a series connection of capacitors, the total capacity is always smaller than the smallest individual capacity, and in a parallel connection of capacitors, the total capacity is always greater than the greatest individual capacity.

Example 6.1.

Two capacitors with a capacity of 470 nF and of 680 nF have to be connected in series and then in parallel. Determine the total capacity of each of the two types of connections!


C1 = 470 nF

To be found:

C in series connection and in parallel connection


Series connection of C1 and C2

1/Cequ = 1/C1 +1/C2 = (C2 + C1)/(C1 · C2)
Cequ = (C1 · C2)/(C1 + C2)
Cequ = (470 nF · 680 nF)/(470 nF + 680 nF)
Cequ = 277.9 nF

Parallel connection of C1 and C2

Cequ = C1 + C2
Cequ = 470 nF + 680 nF
Cequ = 1150 nF
Cequ = 1/15 µF

In series connection, a total capacity of 277.9 nF is obtained while in parallel connection the total capacity is 1.15/µF.