Ceramic capacitors are some of the most widely used passive components in today’s analog and digital electronic circuits. These components come in different sizes and packages. The performance characteristics of these passive components are greatly determined by the dielectric material used. There are many types of ceramic dielectrics, and each type has different properties.
The dielectric material is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting a capacitor for a particular application. Some of the most commonly used ceramic dielectric materials include C0G (NP0), U2J, X7R, X5R, Z5U, and Y5V. Ceramic dielectrics are broadly classified into Class I, Class II, and Class III dielectrics. C0G is the most common Class I dielectric material. Class I dielectrics are ultra-stable, and they are used for designing capacitors for applications that demand high stability. Variations in frequency, temperature, voltage, or time have minimal effects on the characteristics of Class I capacitors. C0G capacitors are widely used in resonant circuits.
Characteristics of Class I ceramic dielectrics
The Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) classifies ceramic dielectrics into different categories depending on their dielectric constant, also known as relative permittivity (ϵr). This property of a dielectric material determines the amount of energy that a capacitor can store as compared to vacuum. A class of ceramic dielectrics is further divided into sub-classes depending on the temperature characteristics of the materials. Some of the most common Class I dielectrics include C0G and U2J.
C0G, also commonly known as NP0, is an ultra-stable dielectric material. This ceramic dielectric material has low relative permittivity. Due to its low permittivity, C0G ceramic capacitors have low capacitance. Manufacturers use different formulations to produce C0G since the EIA classification does not define the material. Most C0G dielectrics are made of non-ferroelectric materials. The response of these materials to temperature and voltage is linear. Moreover, Class I dielectrics do not exhibit microphonic characteristics and have low dielectric loss.
Advancements in C0G formulations have helped to improve the performance characteristics of C0G ceramic capacitors. Traditionally, C0G dielectric materials use barium neodymium titanate (BNT). These dielectric materials are compatible with Precious Metal Electrodes (PME) such as silver-palladium (AgPg) alloy. To enhance the performance characteristics of ceramic capacitors, most manufacturers have switched to Base Metal Electrode (BME) C0G dielectrics. These dielectrics are mainly based on calcium zirconate (CaZrO3). As compared to BNT, calcium zirconate has a lower dielectric constant. To obtain high reliability and high insulation resistance, thin layers of calcium zirconate are used. BME C0G capacitors offer higher capacitance as compared to PME C0G components of same voltage rating and same physical size.
U2J dielectrics have high capacitance levels as compared to NP0. This characteristic makes U2J a suitable choice for applications that demand high capacitance levels and stable performance. Furthermore, U2J offers superior temperature performance as compared to most Class II dielectrics.
The capacitance and dissipation factor of a ceramic capacitor are dependent on frequency. For C0G-type capacitors, changes in capacitance and dissipation factor with frequency are minimal. In comparison, variations in frequency cause significant changes in the characteristics of X7R and Z5U dielectrics. The capacitive reactance and inductive reactance of a capacitor are dependent on frequency. An increase in frequency causes an increase in inductive reactance and a decrease in capacitive reactance.
Variations in temperature affect capacitance and dissipation factor of ceramic capacitors. This change varies from one dielectric material to another depending on the formulation. Class I dielectrics have a linear temperature coefficient of capacitance (TCC). The temperature coefficient of C0G is 0 ± 30 ppm/°C for the temperature range of -55ºC to +125ºC while that of U2J is -750±120ppm/°C for the same temperature range. In addition, Class I capacitors have high insulation resistance. The insulation resistance of C0G is 106 MΩ at 250C and 105 MΩ at 125°C.
The capacitance and dissipation factor of some ceramic capacitors are significantly affected by variations in applied voltage. The amount of capacitance loss varies depending on the formulation of the dielectric. Class I ceramic capacitors have superior voltage stability and most C0G formulations do not exhibit DC bias. In comparison, Class II and III dielectrics are made of ferroelectric materials, and they are significantly affected by variations in applied voltage. Just like NP0, U2J ceramic dielectrics offer excellent voltage stability. At the rated voltage, these capacitors can retain over 99% of their nominal capacitance.
Capacitor aging is a gradual process that causes a decline in the capacitance of a component with time. For some ceramic dielectric materials, a drop in temperature below the Curie temperature causes realignment in the material’s crystalline structure. This change results in a gradual loss of capacitance. Class I dielectrics do not lose capacitance with time, and C0G has an aging rate of 0% per decade hour. The aging rate of U2J is 0.1% per decade hour. In comparison, Class II and III dielectrics are highly susceptible to aging. This gradual loss in capacitance is logarithmic with time.
Applications of Class I ceramic dielectrics
Class I capacitors are mostly used in applications that demand stable performance, low acoustic noise, and low dielectric loss. C0G is used in the designing of capacitors for use in filter circuits and high-frequency circuits. U2J dielectric technology is used in the manufacturing of capacitors for use in DC blocking, tuning, transient voltage suppression, energy storage, critical timing, decoupling, data acquisition filters, PLL low pass filter, and bypassing. Although temperature compensating capacitors offer superior stability, they have low volumetric efficiency.
The performance characteristics of ceramic capacitors are greatly determined by the properties of the dielectric material. Class I dielectrics are ultra-stable, and they are usually made of non-ferroelectric materials. Although these dielectric materials have low volumetric efficiency, they yield ceramic capacitors with superior performance stability. Changes in frequency, temperature, voltage, or time have minimal effects on the performance characteristics of Class I dielectrics such as NP0 and U2J. Moreover, Class I dielectrics have low dissipation factor, high stability, and relatively low dielectric constant values. Manufacturers use additives to increase the dielectric constant of these dielectric materials. Class I capacitors are mostly used for coupling, decoupling, and filtering applications in high frequency circuits. Such applications demand components with narrow capacitance tolerances and low losses.