Tag Archives: Tantalum Capacitors

How Professional Grade Capacitors Are Used In the Automotive Industry

The challenging conditions faced by automobiles have compelled component manufacturers in the automotive industry to come up with superior capacitors. Two of these advanced capacitors are professional grade capacitors of tantalum and niobium oxide.

A capacitor is comprised of two conducting plates separated by a dielectric (insulating) medium. One plate maintains a positive charge while the other maintains a negative charge.

Benefits of Professional Grade Tantalum Capacitors

A tantalum capacitor has a pellet of tantalum as the positive end separated from the negative conductor by a dielectric, which in this case is a thin layer of tantalum oxide formed on the tantalum pellet surface.

Professional grade variety of tantalum capacitors has several advantages over standard tantalum capacitors. Manufacturers adopt strict design specifications to construct the capacitors and use thicker and better dielectrics. In addition, the manufactures check the devices for high surge current and burn-in procedures.

The use of these capacitors results in a low failure rate of 0.5% in 1000 hours. In addition, the leakage current is almost 75% less than that in conventional tantalum capacitors. Manufacturers make professional grade capacitors available with low and standard equivalent series resistances (ESR). This makes these components suitable for several types of control circuits in automobiles.

The low ESR capacitors are particularly useful in airbag modules, engine control modules and power supply modules.

Functioning at High Temperatures

Automotive engineering requires placing electronic components close to sources of heat like engines, gearboxes, AC circuits and headlights. The temperatures in these regions may be in the region of 175°C. Since tantalum capacitors can function over a wide temperature range from -55°C to +175°C, they are suitable for use in these regions.

Niobium Capacitors

How The Automotive Industry Uses Capacitors

Before deciding on a tantalum or niobium oxide capacitor in a particular automotive circuit, the industry thinks about the nature of the circuit and the device using it. The first factor, which is the maximum voltage drop across the load in the circuit, determines the voltage rating of the capacitor. The second factor is the applied DC voltage. The applied voltage must be 50% of the rated voltage for the capacitors. This takes care of an unexpected surge in voltage. The third factor is the maximum value of the operating temperature. The capacitor selected must be able to withstand the temperature of the operating device.

A circuit operating under high temperature conditions (up to 125°C) can expect to see additional voltage surges. It is crucial that capacitors employed can endure these issues.

Tantalum Capacitor Industry Needs New Resources

Tantalum Capacitor

Tantalum Capacitor

As the demand for tantalum has recorded 5% growth every year, the supply of tantalite has decreased setting up the electronic components industry with a possible shortage.

Tantalite, which is the key component of tantalum used to make tantalum capacitors, is mined primarily in three countries: Australia, Mozambique and Canada. Companies in those countries reduced or suspended production as the economy tanked in 2008 and consumer spending fell.

Recently, most production of tantalum has been taking place in Brazil and Africa but with the previous production facilities not producing the tantalum, a shortage through 2012 is possible.

What does that mean to consumers and companies that need tantalum capacitors?

Increased demand will push prices higher on current stock….and if current supplies are depleted, a shortage like the one that occurred in 2000 may occur pushing up prices even further.

Tantalum capacitors have grown in popularity for many reasons. To start with, tantalum capacitors have a larger volumetric efficiency when compared  to other types of capacitors. To illustrate this point, a 10uF tantalum can be used in place of a 100uF aluminum capacitor.

In addition, tantalum capacitors are able to be inserted on circuit boards easily. When you couple this with the tantalum capacitor’s greater  power dissipation characteristics when looking at other capacitors in this size range, tantalum capacitors  can be inserted in small spaces. This makes them good candidates for tightly designed boards. You will often find tantalum capacitors used in laptops, computers, cellular phones, auto circuits and other similarly sized electronic devices.

Another outstanding characteristic of tantalum capacitors is their nearly unrivaled life span. The shelf life of tantalum capacitors is unparalleled when looking at other capacitor types such as those made from electrolytic material since the performance qualities stay intact over time and they should not lose capacitance like many other popular capacitors.