Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma
An electrical device consisting of two conducting plates separated by an electrical insulator (the dielectric), designed to hold an electric charge. Charge builds up when a voltage is applied across the plates, creating an electric field between them. Current can flow through a capacitor only as the voltage across it is changing, not when it is constant. Capacitors are used in power supplies, amplifiers, signal processors, oscillators, and logic gates. Compare induction coil, resistor.
An electronic device that can store electrical charge. The charge stored Q in Coulombs is related to the capacitance C in Farads and the voltage V across the capacitor in Volts by Q = CV.
The basis of a dynamic RAM cell is a capacitor. They are also used for power-supply smoothing (or "decoupling"). This is especially important in digital circuits where a digital device switching between states causes a sudden demand for current. Without sufficient local power supply decoupling, this current "spike" cannot be supplied directly from the power supply due to the inductance of the connectors and so will cause a sharp drop in the power supply voltage near the switching device. This can cause other devices to malfunction resulting in hard to trace glitches.