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Electrolytic capacitor is the generic term for three different capacitor family members:
All electrolytic capacitors (e-caps) are polarized capacitors whose anode electrode (+) are made of a special metal on which an insulating oxide layer originates byanodization (forming), which acts as the dielectric of the electrolytic capacitor. A non-solid or solid electrolyte which covers the surface of the oxide layer in principle serves as the second electrode (cathode) (-) of the capacitor.
Due to their very thin dielectric oxide layer and enlarged anode surface electrolytic capacitors have—based on the volume—a much higher capacitance-voltage product compared to ceramic capacitors or film capacitors, but a much smaller CV value than electrochemical supercapacitors.
The large capacitance of electrolytic capacitors makes them particularly suitable for passing or bypassing low-frequency signals up to some mega-hertz and storing large amounts of energy. They are widely used for decoupling or noise filtering in power supplies and DC link circuits for variable-frequency drives, for couple signals betweenamplifier stages, and store energy as in a flashlamp.
Standard electrolytic capacitors are polarized components due to their asymmetrical construction, and may only be operated with a higher voltage on the anode than on the cathode at all times. Voltages with reverse polarity, or voltage or ripple current higher than specified, can destroy the dielectric and thus the capacitor.