Ceramic Capacitor vs. Electrolytic Capacitor

What's the Difference?

Ceramic capacitors and electrolytic capacitors are two common types of capacitors used in electronic circuits. Ceramic capacitors are known for their small size, high capacitance values, and low cost. They are made of ceramic material and have a wide range of applications due to their stability and reliability. On the other hand, electrolytic capacitors are larger in size and have higher capacitance values. They are made of two conductive plates separated by an electrolyte, which allows them to store a larger amount of charge. Electrolytic capacitors are commonly used in power supply circuits and audio applications due to their ability to handle high voltages and provide high capacitance values. Overall, both types of capacitors have their own advantages and are used in different electronic applications based on their specific characteristics.


AttributeCeramic CapacitorElectrolytic Capacitor
Dielectric MaterialCeramicAluminum Oxide
Capacitance RangeLow to moderateHigh
Operating VoltageLow to moderateHigh
Temperature CoefficientLowHigh
Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR)LowHigh

Further Detail


Capacitors are essential components in electronic circuits, used for storing and releasing electrical energy. Two commonly used types of capacitors are ceramic capacitors and electrolytic capacitors. While both serve the same purpose, they differ in terms of construction, performance, and applications. In this article, we will explore the attributes of ceramic capacitors and electrolytic capacitors, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.


Ceramic capacitors are made of alternating layers of ceramic material and metal electrodes. The ceramic material acts as the dielectric, while the metal electrodes provide the conductive plates. These layers are then stacked and encapsulated in a protective coating. On the other hand, electrolytic capacitors consist of two conductive plates, an anode, and a cathode, separated by an electrolyte-soaked paper or aluminum oxide layer. The anode is typically made of aluminum, while the cathode is a conductive liquid or gel electrolyte.

Capacitance and Voltage Rating

Ceramic capacitors generally have lower capacitance values compared to electrolytic capacitors. They typically range from picofarads (pF) to microfarads (μF). On the other hand, electrolytic capacitors offer higher capacitance values, often in the range of microfarads (μF) to farads (F). This difference in capacitance makes electrolytic capacitors suitable for applications requiring larger energy storage. In terms of voltage rating, ceramic capacitors usually have lower voltage ratings, typically up to a few hundred volts. Electrolytic capacitors, on the other hand, can handle higher voltage ratings, often ranging from tens to hundreds of volts.

Size and Form Factor

Ceramic capacitors are known for their compact size and small form factor. They are available in various surface mount packages, making them ideal for space-constrained applications. Electrolytic capacitors, on the other hand, are generally larger in size due to their construction and higher capacitance values. They are commonly found in through-hole packages, which require more space on the circuit board. However, surface mount electrolytic capacitors are also available, although they are less common.

Frequency Response and ESR

Ceramic capacitors exhibit excellent high-frequency response due to their low equivalent series resistance (ESR) and low parasitic inductance. This makes them suitable for applications requiring fast switching and high-frequency filtering. Electrolytic capacitors, on the other hand, have higher ESR and parasitic inductance, limiting their performance at high frequencies. They are better suited for applications where frequency response is not critical, such as power supply filtering and energy storage.

Temperature Stability

Ceramic capacitors offer good temperature stability, allowing them to maintain their capacitance value over a wide temperature range. They are available in different temperature coefficients, such as X7R and C0G, which determine their stability. Electrolytic capacitors, on the other hand, are more sensitive to temperature variations and may experience a decrease in capacitance at higher temperatures. Specialized electrolytic capacitors with higher temperature ratings are available for applications that require better stability in harsh environments.

Polarity and Lifespan

One significant difference between ceramic capacitors and electrolytic capacitors is their polarity. Ceramic capacitors are non-polar, meaning they can be connected in any direction in a circuit. Electrolytic capacitors, on the other hand, are polarized and must be connected with the correct polarity to avoid damage. Additionally, the lifespan of electrolytic capacitors is generally shorter compared to ceramic capacitors. Electrolytic capacitors have a limited lifespan due to the degradation of the electrolyte over time, while ceramic capacitors can last for decades without significant degradation.


Due to their different characteristics, ceramic capacitors and electrolytic capacitors find applications in various electronic circuits. Ceramic capacitors are commonly used in high-frequency circuits, such as RF filters, decoupling capacitors, and timing circuits. They are also suitable for bypass capacitors in digital circuits and voltage regulation. Electrolytic capacitors, on the other hand, are often used in power supply circuits, audio amplifiers, and applications requiring large energy storage, such as motor starting and smoothing capacitors.


In conclusion, ceramic capacitors and electrolytic capacitors have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different applications. Ceramic capacitors offer compact size, high-frequency response, and good temperature stability, making them ideal for high-frequency circuits and space-constrained designs. Electrolytic capacitors, on the other hand, provide higher capacitance values, higher voltage ratings, and are commonly used in power supply and energy storage applications. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each type allows engineers to select the appropriate capacitor for their specific circuit requirements.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.