Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Capacitor: What’s the Difference?

Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Capacitor: What’s the Difference?

If you’re an electronics hobbyist, chances are you’ve encountered the terms “polarized” and “non-polarized” while searching for capacitors. It can be incredibly confusing trying to make sense of it all, so we created this Ultimate Guide to help you understand the differences between polarized and non-polarized capacitors. We’ll cover everything from basic definitions to their respective applications and even a few useful tips in between. So if you’re ready, let’s dive in and explore the world of polarized vs non-polarized capacitors!

Capacitors in General

Capacitors are electronic components that store energy in the form of an electric field. They are used to store energy for later use and can be found in a variety of applications, from power supplies and battery backups to audio amplifiers and AC/DC converters.

Capacitors consist of two conductive plates separated by an insulator called a dielectric. As current flows through the capacitor, it accumulates on one plate while transferring energy away from the other plate. This causes a potential difference between the plates, which generates an electric field that stores energy until it is discharged when needed.

Capacitors in General

The capacitance of a capacitor is determined by its physical construction. Typically, larger capacitors have higher capacitance values than smaller ones, as the larger surface area allows for greater charge storage. The type of dielectric material and its thickness also affects the capacitance; thicker or higher-quality materials can allow for better charge storage. Additionally, some capacitors are designed with an adjustable plate spacing to alter their capacitance value.

Capacitors are typically measured in Farads (F), which is a unit of electrical capacitance. A Farad is defined as one coulomb of charge per volt of potential difference across the plates of a capacitor. Generally, most applications use much smaller values than a Farad—capacitances between 0001μF and 1000μF are more common in electronic circuits.

In addition to storing energy, capacitors are also used as filters and in signal coupling. Because they can store and release energy rapidly, capacitors are often used in power supplies to filter out noise and reduce the ripple voltage. They can also be used for signal coupling by blocking direct current while allowing alternating current to pass through, which is useful for protecting sensitive components from damage or interference.

What are Polarized and Non-Polarized Capacitors

Polarized and non-polarized capacitors are two types of capacitors that have distinct characteristics and applications. It’s important to understand the differences between them in order to choose the appropriate component for your project.

Polarized capacitors

Polarized capacitors are electrical components that require a specific polarity in order to function properly.

They contain two terminals, of which one must be connected to the positive voltage and the other to the negative voltage. The electrodes on these capacitors are typically marked with a plus sign (+) for the positive terminal and a minus sign (-) for the negative terminal.

The most common type of polarized capacitor is the electrolytic capacitor, which consists of an anode (the positive side), cathode (the negative side), and dielectric material between them. This type of capacitor is constructed from metals or metal oxides as its electrodes, separated by an electrolyte solution or polymer film as its dielectric layer. It can store a large amount of charge, making it highly useful in applications that require high capacitance.

Polarized capacitors are used in many circuits to filter out any AC components from the DC signals, improve power supply stability, reduce ripple and noise, or increase the output voltage. They also play an important role in preventing damage to sensitive electronic devices caused by electrostatic discharge (ESD).

It is essential that they be installed correctly in order for them to work as intended; otherwise, they will not function properly and could possibly cause damage to other components. Therefore, if you’re working with polarized capacitors make sure you pay close attention to the polarity and always double check your work.

What are Polarized and Non-Polarized Capacitors

Non-polarized capacitors

Non-polarized capacitors are electrical components that store energy in the form of an electric field. They consist of two conductive plates separated by a dielectric material such as ceramic, paper, plastic film, air or vacuum.

Non-polarized capacitors are commonly used in AC circuits, where they can help filter noise and reduce power consumption. Their ability to pass current in either direction makes them ideal for use in many types of electronic applications. Unlike polarized capacitors, non-polarized capacitors do not require a specific polarity – meaning they can be connected to both positive and negative voltage sources without fear of damaging the device.

They also offer advantages over polarized capacitors such as greater tolerance to temperature variations and a broader range of capacitance values. Non-polarized capacitors are typically rated for higher voltage, making them suitable for use in high power circuits. As such, they are often used in power supplies, motor control circuits and other DC applications. They can also be used to filter signal noise in audio gear. Overall, non-polarized capacitors offer an ideal solution for many electronic applications due to their versatility and wide range of available sizes and tolerance levels.

Types of non-polarized capacitors

Non-polarized capacitors come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each of which has its own unique characteristics and applications. The most common types include ceramic, electrolytic, mica, paper, plastic film and tantalum capacitors.

Ceramic capacitors

Ceramic capacitors are non-polarized, fixed-value components made from two layers of ceramic material separated by a metal oxide layer. They offer high dielectric strength, temperature stability and excellent resistance to moisture and corrosion. Ceramic capacitors can be used in AC circuits, where they provide noise filtering and power supply smoothing. They are also ideal for use in radio frequency (RF) circuit designs due to their small size and low cost.

Polyester capacitors

Polyester capacitors, also known as plastic film capacitors, are non-polarized capacitors made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene films. They have a dielectric layer between two conductive electrodes which are connected to the plates on either side. The dielectric layer is usually composed of multiple thin layers of polyester films, with each layer having alternating positive and negative charges. This allows the capacitor to store electrical charge for longer periods of time.

Polystyrene capacitors

Polystyrene capacitors are non-polarized, fixed-value components made from a sheet of polystyrene plastic between two metal electrodes. They have low losses and provide excellent high frequency performance. Polystyrene capacitors are one of the most affordable types of capacitors and are used in various consumer electronics, including radios and amplifiers. They can also be found in power supplies, filters and high frequency circuits.

These capacitors are available in various values (ranging from 1nF to several milli farads) with different voltages (from ~25V up to around 2000V). They also have excellent frequency response characteristics and can be found in applications such as audio circuits, signal filters and bypassing.

What are Polarized and Non-Polarized Capacitors

Polycarbonate capacitors

Polycarbonate capacitors are non-polarized, film-based electrolytic capacitors that provide high temperature stability and excellent ESR (equivalent series resistance) over a wide frequency range. These capacitors are made of polycarbonate material, which consists of two thin layers of plastic between an anode layer and a dielectric layer separated by a thin electrolyte solution. They offer a much higher dielectric constant than other types of non-polarized capacitors, making them suitable for applications with high voltages such as power supplies and motor controllers.

Polypropylene capacitors

Polypropylene capacitors, also known as PP caps or PPCs, are a type of non-polarized film capacitor. They offer many advantages over other types of capacitors, such as high stability and low dielectric absorption. Additionally, their construction makes them ideal for use in AC circuits where they can help reduce signal distortion and noise. Their compact size also makes them suitable for use in a variety of electronic devices and equipment, including radios, audio amplifiers, receivers and more. They are pretty expensive however, and can cost up to three times as much as other types of capacitors.

Teflon capacitors

Teflon capacitors are a type of non-polarized capacitor that is typically used in high power applications due to its superior dielectric properties. It consists of two metal plates, which are covered with a sheet of Teflon material. This provides them with excellent temperature stability and a wide range of operating voltages. They also have an extremely low loss factor, making them ideal for use in filter circuits. Teflon capacitors can serve as direct replacements for ceramic or paper capacitors, although they tend to be more expensive and difficult to work with since the Teflon sheets must be manually cut and shaped to fit the desired application. As such, they are generally reserved for specialized applications where their unique characteristics make them the best choice.

Glass capacitors

Glass capacitors are non-polarized, high voltage devices that use a specially treated glass dielectric. They offer excellent temperature stability, very low losses and high insulation resistance. Glass capacitors can be used in both AC and DC circuits, however they should not be connected to ripple currents as this will reduce their life expectancy. The most common applications for glass capacitors include filters and power supplies.

Overall, there are a wide variety of non-polarized capacitor types available which offer different features and benefits for various applications. The type of capacitor needed will depend on the purpose it is being used for. Choosing the right type is essential in order to ensure proper performance and reliability. It is important to do your research before purchasing any capacitors so that you get the best value for your money. With careful consideration, you should be able to find the right non-polarized capacitor that meets all of your needs. [1], [2], [3]

What are Polarized and Non-Polarized Capacitors

The Difference Between Non-Polarized Capacitors and Polarized Capacitors

Now that you know the basics of both non-polarized and polarized capacitors, let’s dive into the differences between them.

The main difference is that polarized capacitors can only be used in one direction in a circuit while non-polarized capacitors can be used in either direction.

Polarized capacitors must also be connected with the correct polarity; otherwise they won’t function properly and may even cause damage to other components. Non-polarized capacitors, on the other hand, do not require a specific orientation and can handle much higher voltages than polarized ones.

Another difference is that non-polarized capacitors can run at higher frequencies, meaning they can be used for high-frequency applications such as signal noise filtering in audio equipment or for motor control circuits. Polarized capacitors, however, are not well suited for these types of applications since they are designed to work best at lower frequencies.

On the other hand, polarized capacitors offer much higher capacities than non-polarized ones, meaning they can store much more charge. This makes them ideal for use in applications that require high capacitance such as power supplies and voltage regulators. [1], [2], [3]

The Difference Between Non-Polarized Capacitors and Polarized Capacitors


How do you know if a capacitor is polarized?

The easiest way to determine if a capacitor is polarized or not is to look at the physical markings on it.

A polarized capacitor will have one of its leads marked with a stripe or negative sign (-). This indicates that the lead should be connected to the negative side of the circuit, while the unmarked lead should be connected to the positive side. Non-polarized capacitors will not have any such markings.

What are the advantages of non-polarized capacitors?

Non-polarized capacitors offer several advantages over polarized capacitors. As they are not bound by orientation limitations, non-polarized capacitors can be used in circuits where the direction of connections change often. This makes it easier for engineers to work with the circuit quickly and efficiently as there is no need to check the orientation of each component. Additionally, non-polarized capacitors are typically more cost effective than their polarized counterparts since they require fewer parts and less labor to assemble. Furthermore, due to their symmetrical design, non-polarized capacitors are less susceptible to damage from ESD (electrostatic discharge). Lastly, when high levels of ripple current (AC current) is present in a circuit, non-polarized capacitors can often be used instead of polarized capacitors, as the ripple current has no effect on the capacitor.

How can you identify if a capacitor is polarized or non-polar?

The simplest way to identify if a capacitor is polarized or non-polarized is by its physical shape. Polarized capacitors often have a stripe down one side, which is the negative terminal, and the other end of the capacitor will be positive. Non-polarized capacitors are generally cylindrical in shape and do not have any markings on them that indicate polarity. Additionally, if you look at the package of most capacitors, it will usually indicate whether it’s polarized or unpolarized.

It’s important to note that when connecting polarized capacitors in an electronic circuit, it’s essential for the correct orientation of positive and negative terminals to prevent damage to components. On the other hand, it’s safe to connect non-polarized capacitors in any orientation.

For further information and help identifying capacitors, consult the manufacturer’s datasheet or contact an experienced electronics technician for advice.

What is the advantage of a polarized capacitor?

A polarized capacitor is designed to allow current to flow in one direction while blocking it in the opposite direction. This makes them ideal for use in circuits with DC power sources, as they can protect other components from being damaged due to voltage spikes or reversed polarity. Moreover, because of their design, polarized capacitors often have a much higher capacitance than non-polarized types and can store more energy for larger applications.

What are Polarized and non Polarised capacitor examples?

Polarized capacitors are those which contain a positive and negative lead, allowing them to only be connected in one way. Common examples of polarized capacitors include electrolytic, tantalum and bipolar electrolytic types.

Non-polarised capacitors do not have a positive or negative lead and can easily be connected in either direction without worry of damage or incorrect orientation. Ceramic disc, mica, some film models and silver mica types are all common examples of non-polarised capacitors.

Useful Video: what are the deference between POLAR and NON-POLAR CAPACITOR


Polarized and non-polarized capacitors are both beneficial for different purposes. Polarized capacitors are generally used in circuits that rely on a specific direction of current for them to function correctly. Non-polarized capacitors, meanwhile, can be used in any circuit without concern for the direction of current since they have no polarity.

In this article, we’ve gone over the differences between polarized and non-polarized capacitors. We hope you have a better understanding of when and why each type is used in electronics. The choice between polarized and non-polarized capacitors ultimately depends on the application you’re using them for, as well as your own preferences as an engineer or electronics hobbyist. With this article, we hope you now have all the information you need to make an informed decision when it comes to selecting the right capacitor type for your project! Good luck!


  1. https://www.linquip.com/blog/what-is-a-non-polarized-capacitor/
  2. https://www.circuitsgallery.com/polarized-vs-non-polarized-capacitor/
  3. https://www.jakelectronics.com/blog/what-is-non-polarized-capacitor