To-date, the evolution of electronic components such as capacitors, resistors, diodes, and RF filters has trended toward continued miniaturization while retaining as many parametrics as possible and, at times, adding functionality. Improvements across multiple scientific fields have contributed to these designs, but the most notable progress includes purer ceramic, tantalum, and thin-film materials and improved processes, such as closed-loop manufacturing (CLM).
These shifts have enabled extremely accurate computer-aided design (CAD) models which can be translated into marketable, real-world parts. Inventive combinations of other techniques, including packaging designs, fine copper terminations, and photolithography have further expanded components for miniature circuit designs.
OEMs and their electronics designers are looking for miniaturized parts to optimize circuit and system performance, satisfy physical design requirements, and improve product aesthetics. Smaller parts also typically operate at higher speeds with lower parasitics, making them more compatible with integrated circuit (IC) advancements.
This chart depicts decreasing parasitic inductance (ESL) by case size and packaging type.
Over time & markets
Miniaturized capacitor use has evolved from very specialized applications to more mainstream markets. Some highlights include:
- Defense: The Torpedo Data Computer (TDC) was one of the first electromechanical analog computers small enough to fit within a submarine and was used during WWII (1939–1945) to automatically track targets.
A torpedo data computer.
- Aerospace: Launch costs of roughly $10,000 per pound, extreme operating conditions, and the potential risk to human lives required capacitors to deliver improved functionality and utmost reliability in the most size- and weight-efficient packages possible.
AVX developed and supplied the 630 space-level, SRC9000 TBM Series ultralow-ESR, multianode tantalum capacitors that are responsible for powering Curiosity’s ChemCam laser module.
- Consumer: Commercial versions of advanced defense, space-grade, and other high-reliability capacitors shrank living room radios down to portable boom boxes and then cassette, CD, and MP3 players; vacuum-tube televisions down into flat screens and phones; and rotary phones into wireless, mobile, and now smartphones, which contain around 1,000 MLCCs in slim, sleek, lightweight form factors with extensive functionality.
During this slideshow, EBN takes a look at the ongoing development of miniaturized capacitors and the technology behind them.