### Author Topic: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?  (Read 36391 times)

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#### Jay_Diddy_B

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #25 on: January 24, 2013, 03:47:43 am »
Hi,

For anybody interested in modelling the voltage coefficient of a ceramic capacitor in LTspice I developed this model.

Instead of specify the capacitor in uF it is specified in terms of charge. in LTspice X is the voltage across a component. The model shows a capacitor that has a value of 1.08 times in nominal value, falling by 40% at the rated voltage.

In the test circuit I compare a linear capacitor with a nonlinear capacitor.

Here is a scope shot showing a real nonlinear capacitor:

Top trace is the voltage across the capacitor. The input step is 6V.

The lower trace is the input current.

Jay_Diddy_B
« Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 03:55:34 am by Jay_Diddy_B »

#### (In)Sanity

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #26 on: January 25, 2013, 04:14:02 am »
So in the interests of actually being able to use the capacitors I have on hand I've employed the Fred Flintstone method of testing.   It's called a current limited 1000v DC supply.   So what's an acceptable leakage current for an average ceramic SMD cap,  or should I just blow one up and see where it fails ?

I figure if I can leave it run for days at voltages it's going to be seeing in whatever circuit I'll be using it in..then it has a fighting chance.   The VC however might be a big issue.    How about curve tracing with a variable high voltage AC supply ?

Thanks,

Jeff

#### (In)Sanity

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #27 on: January 25, 2013, 04:43:05 am »
Ok,  so I just tested a 3.3nf cap from the batch of several thousand that I have and it failed @ 930 volts.   Just made a little "tick" sound and the current dropped off.  So I can assume the batch of caps is probably gong to work at a few hundred volts. That pesky VC is what will haunt me.  I had a few others not related to this batch fail @ ~300 volts.   I think I'll try to see if the leakage current is non linear with voltage.

Thanks,

Jeff

#### AndyC_772

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #28 on: January 25, 2013, 07:16:04 am »
The rated voltage of ceramic capacitor is nothing to do with the voltage at which it actually breaks down and fails, it's to do with the voltage at which it retains its capacitance. If you could test the effect on capacitance as the dc bias increases, you'd find that it falls to a fraction of its rated value long before it's actually destroyed.

#### ftransform

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #29 on: January 25, 2013, 09:58:15 am »
I had this theory regarding a 555 timer which uses a capacitor to determine frequency or duty cycle. There is a formula for output waveform of the 555 timer. Can the input voltage of a 555 timer be varied (while holding capacitance constant) in order to perform quick and easy capacitance measurements with regards to voltage (at least from 5-15 volts or whatever it is). Or will it exhibit nonlinear behavior because of other circuit properties?

Or of course if any one can suggest a IC that will work for the scenario that I have described it would be appreciated. I think a single chip solution without micro controller would be in everyone's best interest.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 10:09:47 am by ftransform »

#### (In)Sanity

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #30 on: January 25, 2013, 01:51:36 pm »
The rated voltage of ceramic capacitor is nothing to do with the voltage at which it actually breaks down and fails, it's to do with the voltage at which it retains its capacitance. If you could test the effect on capacitance as the dc bias increases, you'd find that it falls to a fraction of its rated value long before it's actually destroyed.

This part I completely understand.  It's why I mentioned in my post about the VC being the one pesky thing.   My goal was to simply determine a worse case scenario.    If the capacitor physically fails at 300 volts then clearly it's not going to have a working voltage of 500.   Not at all scientific I know,  but it gives me some idea what I'm dealing with.

#### (In)Sanity

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #31 on: January 25, 2013, 02:02:03 pm »
I had this theory regarding a 555 timer which uses a capacitor to determine frequency or duty cycle. There is a formula for output waveform of the 555 timer. Can the input voltage of a 555 timer be varied (while holding capacitance constant) in order to perform quick and easy capacitance measurements with regards to voltage (at least from 5-15 volts or whatever it is). Or will it exhibit nonlinear behavior because of other circuit properties?

Or of course if any one can suggest a IC that will work for the scenario that I have described it would be appreciated. I think a single chip solution without micro controller would be in everyone's best interest.

In one of my earlier posts I had mentioned a way to use a micro with a DAC, op-amp and ADC to determine the VC at least.   It might need to be a boot-strapped op-amp with the higher voltages.   A PWM controlled switch mode supply might be easier.   My 1000v supply is just a PWM controlled high voltage transformer from some LCD back lighting with a high voltage bridge and high voltage caps.   It does the job.

The theory was to charge to a fixed voltage and measure the amount lost at a constant current for an exact duraciton,   then charge to the next higher voltage and repeat the process.   As the capacitance falls off do to the VC the percentage of loss will increase.   My other post might clarify this more.

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/chat/how-to-determine-the-voltage-rating-of-an-unknown-capacitor/msg184583/#msg184583

#### TerraHertz

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #32 on: January 25, 2013, 03:06:58 pm »
I have the same problem. I got 3 component drawers for free.

<swoon>
Collecting old scopes, logic analyzers, and unfinished projects. http://everist.org

#### ftransform

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #33 on: January 25, 2013, 05:42:04 pm »
I had this theory regarding a 555 timer which uses a capacitor to determine frequency or duty cycle. There is a formula for output waveform of the 555 timer. Can the input voltage of a 555 timer be varied (while holding capacitance constant) in order to perform quick and easy capacitance measurements with regards to voltage (at least from 5-15 volts or whatever it is). Or will it exhibit nonlinear behavior because of other circuit properties?

Or of course if any one can suggest a IC that will work for the scenario that I have described it would be appreciated. I think a single chip solution without micro controller would be in everyone's best interest.

In one of my earlier posts I had mentioned a way to use a micro with a DAC, op-amp and ADC to determine the VC at least.   It might need to be a boot-strapped op-amp with the higher voltages.   A PWM controlled switch mode supply might be easier.   My 1000v supply is just a PWM controlled high voltage transformer from some LCD back lighting with a high voltage bridge and high voltage caps.   It does the job.

The theory was to charge to a fixed voltage and measure the amount lost at a constant current for an exact duraciton,   then charge to the next higher voltage and repeat the process.   As the capacitance falls off do to the VC the percentage of loss will increase.   My other post might clarify this more.

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/chat/how-to-determine-the-voltage-rating-of-an-unknown-capacitor/msg184583/#msg184583

That method looks good but a single chip solution would be nicer. Especially if it could be done with a 555 timer. I think a duty cycle change would be the best because then you would not need a oscilloscope and it could be measured with the lowliest of multimeter, perhaps if some math is done? I think some multimeters even measure frequency?

I'm just trying to think of the simplest solution with lowest part count and greatest availability for everyone.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 05:46:23 pm by ftransform »

#### (In)Sanity

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #34 on: January 25, 2013, 06:21:07 pm »
I'm just trying to think of the simplest solution with lowest part count and greatest availability for everyone.

I had mentioned even perhaps just old fashioned curve tracing?   I've not tried this concept yet,  but might be useful.   It should show the drop in capacitance with increased AC voltage.

Jeff

#### AndyC_772

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #35 on: January 25, 2013, 06:50:21 pm »
I think it's worth revisiting what the voltage rating of a capacitor actually means.

With a ceramic, as we've discussed, it's primarily to do with the fall-off of capacitance with voltage. It's a limit imposed by the useful functional performance of the device. Exceed it and the part just doesn't do its job properly - and that's easily defined and measured.

With other types it's not so clear cut, though. Tantalums catch fire and go bang, so I'd be very wary indeed of trying to measure the rated voltage of one at all.

Other types may simply suffer a reduced lifetime at higher voltage, so you might find that a 10V cap works perfectly well at 20V for a while, but dies prematurely. A test instrument won't tell you that, unless you specifically set out to perform long-term reliability testing.

Personally I still think the cheapest, easiest way to get a capacitor of known value and rating for a project is to buy a new one from a reputable supplier - but I applaud the academic exercise nonethelsss.

#### ftransform

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #36 on: January 25, 2013, 10:58:55 pm »
I think it's worth revisiting what the voltage rating of a capacitor actually means.

With a ceramic, as we've discussed, it's primarily to do with the fall-off of capacitance with voltage. It's a limit imposed by the useful functional performance of the device. Exceed it and the part just doesn't do its job properly - and that's easily defined and measured.

With other types it's not so clear cut, though. Tantalums catch fire and go bang, so I'd be very wary indeed of trying to measure the rated voltage of one at all.

Other types may simply suffer a reduced lifetime at higher voltage, so you might find that a 10V cap works perfectly well at 20V for a while, but dies prematurely. A test instrument won't tell you that, unless you specifically set out to perform long-term reliability testing.

Personally I still think the cheapest, easiest way to get a capacitor of known value and rating for a project is to buy a new one from a reputable supplier - but I applaud the academic exercise nonethelsss.

me and insanity are chinese quality control.

I think I am going to do some experiments in order to measure these guys tonight.

#### robrenz

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #37 on: January 25, 2013, 10:59:28 pm »
Don't forget the dielectric is an insulator and has a breakdown voltage where it will puncture. A higher voltage capacitor is going to have a thicker dielectric.

#### Fraser

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #38 on: January 26, 2013, 12:07:17 am »
I bought a Duoyi DY294 Semiconductor analyser a couple of years ago that also claims to provide the breakdown voltage of capacitors. I have never used it for such but suspect it works on the leakage across the dielectric as the voltage is ramped up to 200V  I don't like causing a breakdown in a dielectric....it just seems the wrong thing to do somehow. I suppose if the capacitor is sacrificial and not for use it is of little consequence.

I have attached the DY294 manual

A review is here:

http://www.jestineyong.com/review-of-the-dy294-digital-transistor-tester-part-1/

http://www.jestineyong.com/review-of-the-dy294-digital-transistor-tester-part-2/

http://www.jestineyong.com/review-of-the-dy294-digital-transistor-tester-part-3/

Regards

Fraser

« Last Edit: January 26, 2013, 12:30:59 am by Aurora »

#### (In)Sanity

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #39 on: January 26, 2013, 07:58:22 pm »
Well one thing I can say about breaking down the dielectric on a capacitor.   If you thought it was rated at say 200 volts and it goes up in smoke at 150 volts then clearly you were mistaken.   If on the other hand it survives to 930 volts like one of mine did,  then it might be anything from 1 volt to 500 volt rated    Yep I know..so helpful isn't it.

Jeff

#### saturation

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #40 on: January 26, 2013, 09:32:01 pm »
That's a really interesting device.  Rather than just a transistor or any other semiconductor tester, its really a 1kV or 200V current limited supply that you could use for testing anything for its reverse breakdown or voltage limits and a handheld at that.  I don't think anyone else makes such a thing in such a form or cost.

Its very helpful for salvaging parts or overstock and characterizing them.

I bought a Duoyi DY294 Semiconductor analyser a couple of years ago that also claims to provide the breakdown voltage of capacitors. I have never used it for such but suspect it works on the leakage across the dielectric as the voltage is ramped up to 200V  I don't like causing a breakdown in a dielectric....it just seems the wrong thing to do somehow. I suppose if the capacitor is sacrificial and not for use it is of little consequence.

I have attached the DY294 manual

A review is here:

http://www.jestineyong.com/review-of-the-dy294-digital-transistor-tester-part-1/

http://www.jestineyong.com/review-of-the-dy294-digital-transistor-tester-part-2/

http://www.jestineyong.com/review-of-the-dy294-digital-transistor-tester-part-3/

Regards

Fraser

Best Wishes,

Saturation

#### JackOfVA

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #41 on: January 26, 2013, 10:15:29 pm »
The high K ceramic dielectric capacitors have complex C versus V behavior, to say the least.

The first plot below demonstrates two behavior characteristics.

First, hysteresis - the capacitance at a particular voltage depends upon the history of the voltage. This is the electric field analog of B-H hysteresis seen in magnetic core inductors. Note that the starting point, just like a B-H curve, does not fall on the hysteresis loop.

Second, the C versus V relationship depends upon the interval between voltage steps. See Bob Pease on "dielectric soakage" for a discussion of this phenomena. A short version of it is that the dipole charge elements in the dielectric do not all orient and reorient at the same speed with respect to voltage changes.  This is modeled by Pease as multiple RC elements in parallel.

The data is taken with an HP4192A impedance meter using the internal bias voltage, with the HP 4192A controlled over the IEEE-488 interface by a program I wrote. Data analyzed and plotted with Origin software.  I intentionally used a Z5U part for these measurements to illustrate how far their behavior diverges from the perfect capacitor we often think of.

To illustrate the dielectric soakage further, I ran the same 0u1 Z5U capacitor through a series of alternating +35V/-35V cycles. The first plot shows the full data run and the second shows an expanded view of a couple of reversal periods.

To show how badly the non-linear capacitor can be in real life, I looked at current through a Y5U at 1000 Hz and compared it with a high quality film cap. Voltage is the upper trace, current through the capacitor is the lower trace. The distortion is obvious just looking at the current waveform.

Finally, it's not just capacitance that can change with applied voltage; so can the dissipation factor. The D versus V plot is older data, taken with a General Radio bridge.

#### robrenz

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #42 on: January 26, 2013, 10:22:01 pm »
Nice work JackOfVA

#### Fraser

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #43 on: January 26, 2013, 10:54:28 pm »
Saturation,

I bought the DY294 because it looked useful for all manner of tests and appeared well made for the money. I must be honest and say that I have not used it in anger. It does seem to be a lot of test capability for not a lot of money. I know of no other kit in my lab that will voltage test a capacitor or VDR so easily.

The user manual is pretty appalling and no new versions beyond V3 seem to be available. The ergonomics of the unit are not optimum either....but for GBP30 delivered....its not bad.

Worth having in the test kit inventory ? I think so.

Fraser
« Last Edit: January 27, 2013, 08:08:26 pm by Aurora »

#### (In)Sanity

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #44 on: January 27, 2013, 06:32:30 pm »
Well the graphs provided by JackOfVA certainly add more complexity to this puzzle.   It's starting to sound like their is no simple way to perform these tests.   That's not to say I've given up.

Thanks,

Jeff

#### JackOfVA

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #45 on: January 28, 2013, 12:58:03 am »
To return this to the original question, if you have sufficient number of capacitors of a particular type to test to destruction, apply a current limited DC voltage to a representative sample of the lot, increasing the voltage until the dielectric ruptures, calculating the max, min, mean and standard deviation.

Apply a reasonable safety factor to the result, perhaps 3:1 or 4:1 from the mean.

That strategy won't be useful if you have 5 or 10 parts of each particular type, but if you have 100 or 200, sacrificing 5 or 10 for a destructive breakdown test isn't too bad a price to pay.

With a knowledge of a reasonable maximum recommended operating voltage, you can then look at C versus V over the rated voltage to get an idea of the dielectric class. NP0/C0G ceramic will have next to no change in capacitance with applied voltage. X7R will have a lot and Z5U even more. (I assume these are ceramic capacitors.)

If you want, I'll can run a destructive test on a few parts for you - at least up to 1KV, don't think I can easily go beyond that point without kludging up a HV transformer and a Variac and I don't have time for that. But, I can run up to 1 KV with a standard lab HV supply. Contact me directly if you are interested. I can't run hundreds of different parts, but be glad to look at a dozen or so samples of four or five different values and/or capacitor types.

With respect to surface mount ceramic caps, most every C0G/NP0 part I purchase is  light gray color whilst the X7R types are brown or tan. That's not universal and I don't suggest it as a definitive test for dielectric class, but I can say that I've never seen a light gray ceramic surface mount cap that was not a C0G/NP0 type and that I've never seen an X7R of light gray color. I have seen a few C0G/NP0 parts that are brownish, particularly in values of a 100 pF or less.

#### (In)Sanity

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##### Re: How to determine the voltage rating of an unknown capacitor?
« Reply #46 on: January 28, 2013, 03:20:44 am »
I have no problems with 1000V AC or DC.   I've only done DC destruction tests so far.  I can try AC of various frequencies.   I'll see what I get.  My focus has shifted to trying to fix a 60 inch TV with back-lighting that acts up after 10 hours.   But that's another subject.

Jeff

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