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The Capacitor

Ceramic capacitors do not have high capacity, this means they store relatively little electrical energy. A typical capacity of a ceramic capacitor be in the range of nanofarads (nF).

A selection of electrolytic capacitors (left) and ceramic capacitors (right) of different capacity. (Enlarge)

Symbol electrolytic capacitor in circuit diagrams.

Symbol ceramic capacitor in circuit diagrams.

Electrolytic capacitors have a much higher capacity than ceramic capacitors. It is typically a thousand times higher. This means the capacity is in the range of microfarads (μF).

However, there is another important difference. The electrolytic capacitor has a polarity, that is it has a plus- and a minus pole. However, the ceramic capacitor has no polarity. To make this clear in circuit diagrams, they have different circuit symbols.


The amount of energy a capacitor can hold is called capacity. The unit of capacity the farad (symbol F). In circuit diagrams and formulas a capacitor is represented by a C.

In practice, capacitors have much lower capacity than 1 farad ...

1 millifarad     = 1 mF    = 0,001 F

1 mikrofarad   = 1 μF    = 0,000 001 F

1 nanofarad    = 1 nF    = 0,000 000 001 F

1 pikofarad     = 1 pF    = 0,000 000 000 001 F