The capacitor is perhaps the most mystifying component to people getting in to electronics, so in order to keep your mind from melting lets just hammer out a few basic facts to help us come to grips with reality.

  • a direct electrical current can not flow through a capacitor*
  • an alternating (AC) current can flow through a capacitor
  • The capacitor can store a charge and release that charge later.
  • the physical size of the capacitor doesnt tell you how “big ” it is in terms of capacitance 

I like to use water and pipes as an analogy for electricity and components so this above animation illustrates how you can imagine the capacitor as a tank with a rubber membrane down the middle seperating the two halves and a pipe coming out of either end. the animation shows the capacitor charging, storing the charge and discharging the electricity.

Of course there isn’t water inside capacitors or any other electronics. And electricity doesn’t just spill out of cables when they are cut. Instead cutting an electrical cable is like cutting a waterpipe and then plugging the hole so no water escapes.

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