App note: Ceramic input capacitors can cause overvoltage transients

Posted on Sunday, August 19th, 2012 in app notes by DP

This app note from Linear Technology describes why ceramic capacitors aren’t an ideal replacement for tantalum based caps. The higher internal inductance of ceramic capacitors creates high voltage spikes:

Applying a voltage step to a ceramic capacitor causes a large current surge that stores  energy in the inductances of the power leads. A large voltage spike is created when the stored energy is transferred from these inductances into the ceramic capacitor. These voltage spikes can easily be twice the amplitude of the input voltage step.

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3 Responses to “App note: Ceramic input capacitors can cause overvoltage transients”

  1. AMS says:

    It’s not that the ceramics have high internal inductance (they don’t) it’s that they have such low internal resistance that they allow the parasitic inductance of the power leads an wall-wart to charge up. A TVS is an easy way to deal with it and will help other overvoltage problems as well.

  2. hardcorefs says:

    Yep well this is wrong:
    “The input ripple current is usually in the range of 1A to 2A.”, the cap is a short until it is charged.
    I worked on some PSU designs back in the late 80’s and in some cases we were seeing inrush >120A
    Basically only limited by the resistance /inductance of the supply cables.
    We corrected it by adding an inductor.

  3. Pieter says:

    This happens because ceramic caps are too good. They have very little resistance and their Q is very high. To fix this problem, just add a little series resistance. There is no need for a protection circuit. A little series resistance also helps with stability when used with LDO regulators. Do not add too much resistance.

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