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Electrolytic capacitor vs electrolytic cell

  1. May 1, 2013 #1
    Is there a difference between these two things or is an electrolytic cell just a larger version of an electrolytic capacitor?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2013 #2

    NascentOxygen

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    Staff: Mentor

    To form an electrolytic capacitor, they manufacture a compact package that's an electrolytic cell (a pair of electrodes with electrolyte) and apply DC! Simple. :wink:

    Most electrolytic cells serve some other purpose and don't end up as capacitors. Your car battery, for example. :smile:
     
  4. May 5, 2013 #3
    So you really couldn't replace a capacitor with an electrolytic cell, right? It seems to me the only difference is that one has a dielectric in between two plates and the other has an electrolyte, which conducts electricity.
     
  5. May 5, 2013 #4

    NascentOxygen

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    Staff: Mentor

    They are called different names, and there is no possibility of accidently substituting one for the other. A capacitor requires that the plates be really, really, really close together, but still not touching, to produce much capacitance.

    It needs to be made clear that it is only the electrolytic capacitor that is a cell; plastic dielectric capacitors are not electrolytic cells.

    The dielectric in an electrolytic capacitor actually comprises an aluminium oxide layer plus the electrolyte. The electrolyte does "conduct electricity" and you'll find this out if you accidently connect the device in a circuit so that the DC polarity dissolves the oxide layer instead of maintaining it. As soon as there is any chink in the insulating layer, BANG!
     
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