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Published 05/04/2023

Electrolytic capacitors are commonly used in electronic circuits to filter out unwanted AC signals and smooth DC voltage. However, they are not immune to failure, and one of the major factors that can cause the failure of electrolytic capacitors is the ripple current.

Ripple current is the AC component of the current flowing through an electrolytic capacitor. It is generated by the voltage ripple that is present on the DC voltage source, which is usually caused by the switching action of the power supply or by the AC component of the load current. Ripple current can cause heating and stress on the capacitor, which can lead to premature failure.

The ripple current rating of an electrolytic capacitor is the maximum AC current that it can handle continuously without exceeding its maximum temperature or causing significant degradation in its performance. This rating is typically specified in the datasheet of the capacitor and is an important parameter to consider when selecting a capacitor for a particular application.

When selecting an electrolytic capacitor, it is important to ensure that the ripple current rating is adequate for the application. If the ripple current is too high, the capacitor may overheat and fail prematurely. On the other hand, if the ripple current is too low, the capacitor may not provide adequate filtering and may lead to a noisy or unstable circuit.

The actual ripple current that a capacitor experiences in a circuit depends on various factors, such as the magnitude and frequency of the voltage ripple, the capacitance of the capacitor, and the ESR (Equivalent Series Resistance) of the capacitor. The ESR of an electrolytic capacitor is the sum of its internal resistance and the resistance of its leads and terminals. It is an important parameter that affects the performance of the capacitor, especially at high frequencies.

To calculate the ripple current rating for a particular application, it is necessary to take into account the expected voltage ripple, the capacitance of the capacitor, and the ESR of the capacitor. The ripple current rating can be calculated using the following formula:

Irms = (Ipeak x duty cycle x sqrt(2)) / K

where Irms is the maximum RMS ripple current, Ipeak is the peak-to-peak ripple current, duty cycle is the ratio of the on-time to the total period of the voltage waveform, sqrt(2) is the RMS to peak conversion factor, and K is a factor that depends on the type of capacitor and the operating temperature.

It is important to note that the ripple current rating is only one of the factors to consider when selecting an electrolytic capacitor. Other factors, such as the voltage rating, temperature rating, form factor, and lifetime, should also be taken into account to ensure that the capacitor is suitable for the intended application.

In summary, the ripple current of electrolytic capacitors is a critical parameter that affects the performance and reliability of electronic circuits. When selecting a capacitor for a particular application, it is important to ensure that the ripple current rating is adequate and that other important parameters are also taken into account. By doing so, you can ensure that your electronic circuit is reliable and performs as intended.

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Fenghan Electronics (Fencon®️) is an ISO certified professional global manufacturer of electronic components. We offer our customers the wide range of selection of capacitors which are including SMD types, radial types, snap-in types, screw types.




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