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Note: Part 1 of this column appeared in the June 2017 issue of The PCB Magazine.
Technology and processes for embedding capacitor and inductor elements rely on several unique methodologies. Regarding providing capacitor functions, IPC-4821 defines two methodologies for forming capacitor elements within the PCB structure: laminate-based (copper-dielectric-copper) or planar process and non-laminate process using deposited dielectric materials.
Distributed (planar) capacitors
Considered the simplest solution and commonly used to replace discrete power supply decoupling capacitors the planar capacitors utilize closely spaced power and ground planes separated by a thin dielectric layer. The dielectric can be a layer of the glass-reinforced epoxy material, a thin layer of non-reinforced polymer, or a polymer sheet material filled with ceramic powder. This technique will provide significant capacitance and delivers very low inductance. The capacitance range for planar capacitors is 1pF to 1mF, dependent on the dielectric constant, material thickness and area.
Because the planar capacitance is proportional to the dielectric thickness between the power and ground planes, thin dielectrics are preferred. This will increase planar capacitance while reducing planar spreading inductance and minimizes overall board thickness. The reduction of planar spreading inductance also results in a lowering the impedance path while increasing the effectiveness of discrete capacitances.
The total capacitance of the power and ground pair is determined by the effective common (overlapping) area of the copper electrodes. This area, times the capacitance density, represents the total capacitance.
To read this entire article, which appeared in the June 2017 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.