Capacitor

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A capacitor is an electrical device that can store energy in an electric circuit. A capacitor functions much like a battery, but charges and discharges much more efficiently. A basic capacitor is made up of two plates separated by a dielectric. The process of storing energy in the capacitor is known as "charging", and involves electric charges of equal magnitude, but opposite polarity, building up on each plate. A capacitor's ability to store charge is measured by its capacitance, in units of farads.

Capacitors are often used in electric and electronic circuits as energy-storage devices. They can also be used to differentiate between high-frequency and low-frequency signals. This property makes them useful in electronic filters. Practical capacitors have series resistance, internal leakage of charge, series inductance and other non-ideal properties not found in a theoretical, ideal, capacitor.

Capacitors are occasionally referred to as condensers. This term is considered archaic in English, but most other languages use a cognate of condenser to refer to a capacitor. A wide variety of capacitors have been invented, including small electrolytic capacitors used in electronic circuits, basic parallel-plate capacitors, mechanical variable capacitors, and the early Leyden jars, among numerous other types of capacitors.