Capacitors are one of the most fundamental components in electrical and electronic circuits. As an interview candidate for roles involving capacitors, having in-depth knowledge of their working principles, applications, and characteristics is crucial to stand out This article aims to equip you with the top 15 capacitor interview questions that assess your conceptual understanding and practical knowledge of this vital electronic component

Let’s start with some basic questions:

- What is a capacitor and how does it work?

A capacitor is a passive electronic component that stores electrical energy in the form of an electrostatic field. It consists of two conducting plates separated by an insulating material called the dielectric. When connected to a DC voltage source, electrons accumulate on one plate and depart from the other, inducing equal but opposite charges on both plates. This charge separation creates an electric field that opposes further flow of electrons, allowing the capacitor to store energy.

- What are the basic characteristics of a capacitor?

The three key characteristics of a capacitor are:

- Capacitance – Ability to store charge, measured in Farads
- Voltage rating – Maximum working voltage it can withstand
- Tolerance – Variation of actual capacitance from its rated value

Other characteristics include temperature coefficient, frequency response, leakage current, equivalent series resistance and inductance

- What is the unit of capacitance?

The unit of capacitance is the Farad, named after Michael Faraday. It represents the capacitance value when 1 volt potential difference produces a charge of 1 coulomb. Typical capacitors have capacitance in the range of picoFarads to milliFarads.

- Explain the concept of dielectric strength.

Dielectric strength is the maximum electric field intensity that a dielectric material can withstand without breaking down and conducting. It determines the voltage rating of a capacitor. A higher dielectric strength allows thinner dielectric layers between the plates, increasing capacitance density. Common dielectric materials are air, paper, plastic, mica, ceramic etc.

Now let’s move on to some more advanced questions:

- What is the difference between polarized and non-polarized capacitors? Give examples of each.

Polarized capacitors have a positive and negative terminal, requiring correct polarity when used in circuits. Examples are electrolytic and tantalum capacitors. Non-polarized capacitors have no polarity, like ceramic, film and mica capacitors. connecting them incorrectly does not damage them but impacts circuit functioning.

- Why are ceramic capacitors used for high frequency applications?

Ceramic capacitors have low parasitic inductance and resistance due to their smaller size. This allows them to respond better to fast changing voltages in high frequency circuits. Additionally, some ceramics like C0G have very stable capacitance over frequency, temperature and voltage variations, a crucial requirement in high frequency applications.

- What is the role of equivalent series resistance (ESR) in capacitor selection?

ESR causes power loss and heating in the capacitor. High ESR degrades the filtering capability of capacitors used for power supply smoothing and coupling applications. Capacitors with low ESR ratings are chosen for such applications to reduce power losses and ensure stable voltage levels. Low ESR is also critical for high current and pulsed discharging applications.

- Compare aluminum and tantalum electrolytic capacitors.

Parameter | Aluminum electrolytic | Tantalum electrolytic |
---|---|---|

Capacitance range | 1μF to 1F | Lower, 47μF to 470μF |

Voltage range | Lower, around 50V | Higher, up to 125V |

Frequency response | Up to 100kHz | Better, up to 500kHz |

Leakage current | Higher | Lower |

Cost | Lower | Higher |

- Why is the working voltage rating for capacitors derated for use in DC and AC circuits?

In DC circuits, the working voltage is derated to allow a safety margin against dielectric breakdown during voltage surges. In AC circuits, the peak voltage is √2 times higher than RMS voltage. To prevent overstressing the dielectric at peaks, the working voltage must be reduced. Typically capacitors are derated by 20% for DC and 30% for AC use.

- What is RMS current rating for capacitors and why is it important?

RMS current rating indicates the maximum AC current a capacitor can handle without overheating. Capacitors have large impedance to DC but low impedance to AC. Hence AC currents can raise temperatures quickly. Exceeding the RMS current rating causes thermal stresses that can damage the capacitor. It must be checked for capacitor selection in AC circuits.

Let’s move on to some behavioral and application-specific questions:

- What happens when two capacitors are connected in series and parallel?

In series – Total capacitance decreases but voltage rating increases.

Ctotal = 1/(1/C1 + 1/C2)

In parallel – Total capacitance increases but voltage rating stays the same.

Ctotal = C1 + C2

- In a capacitor divider circuit, how do you determine the voltage across each capacitor?

Using voltage divider formula:

V1 = Vin * (C2/(C1+C2))

V2 = Vin * (C1/(C1+C2))

Where V1 is voltage across C1 and V2 across C2.

- Why are decoupling capacitors used for integrated circuits (ICs)?

Decoupling capacitors provide localized charge storage banks to stabilize the power supply at each IC on the board. They filter high frequency noise on supply lines that can affect the IC. They also handle sudden current spikes drawn by fast switching logic gates inside ICs preventing voltage drops.

- What is the role of a capacitor in AC power factor correction?

Capacitors compensate for the lagging power factor caused by inductive loads like transformers and motors. When connected in parallel, they supply reactive power leading the voltage. This cancels the inductive reactance effect, bringing the power factor close to unity, improving efficiency.

- In a timing circuit using RC, how do you calculate the time constant?

Time constant τ = RC

Where R is resistor value in ohms, C is capacitance in farads.

It determines the time to charge up to 63% of maximum voltage. Multiple time constants are required to fully charge a capacitor.

With these questions as part of your preparation, you can demonstrate your depth of knowledge on capacitors to interviewers. Remember to revise the theoretical concepts well and have a good understanding of capacitor behavior in different applications. All the best for your upcoming job interview!

### HWN – Hardware Interviews S1E3 – Current & Capacitors

### FAQ

**What is a capacitor in an interview?**

**What are the three main purposes of a capacitor?**

**What is the basic knowledge of capacitors?**

**What is the basic working principle of a capacitor?**

**How many capacitor MCQs are there for engineering students?**

This article lists 100 Capacitor MCQs for engineering students. All the Capacitor Questions & Answers given below include a hint and a link wherever possible to the relevant topic. This is helpful for users who are preparing for their exams, interviews, or professionals who would like to brush up on the fundamentals of Capacitor.

**What is a capacitor & how does it work?**

This is helpful for users who are preparing for their exams, interviews, or professionals who would like to brush up on the fundamentals of Capacitor. Electrical energy is stored in the form of electric fields in a device called Capacitor.

**How to outperform other candidates in Electronics Engineering interview?**

You need to keep yourself updated with electronics engineering interview questions to outperform other candidates. You do not want someone who has no knowledge about technical questions to outperform you in electronics engineering interview. Here are some of the most asked basic Electronics Engineering interview questions.

**What questions are asked in an electronics engineering interview?**

Some of the electronics engineering interview questions may be more casual like “why you choose this field?” etc. but we are covering more technical question.