Combat MLCC Shortage with KEMET's Polymer Tantalum Capacitors

By WPG AmericasJune 25, 2018

Today, ceramic capacitors, particularly, multi-layer ceramic chip capacitors (MLCC), serve as a key component while designing electronic equipment. They are primarily incorporated into electrical circuits for coupling, decoupling, to store energy, suppress filter noise, and sense changes in start motors. From smartphones to automotive, home appliances, and industrial robotics — there’s hardly any electronic equipment that runs without capacitors.

MLCC has been an integral part of electrical circuits for nearly three decades, and over the years, it has earned the reputation of being the workhorse of the electronic component industry — thanks to its extremely high capacitance. Additionally, the stability, low cost, and robustness of MLCCs facilitate the designing of high-performance products, while reducing production costs.

However, MLCC is currently in short supply and it’s one of the major challenges OEMs, engineers, and supply chain managers in the electronics industry are having to deal with.  

MLCC supply crunch started in the second quarter of 2016, and it’s showing no signs of revival. With lead times stretching for all MLCC product lines, the global electronic component industry is left in the lurch by an unprecedented price rise. Bad news is, industry analysts are predicting this shortage to continue beyond 2020.

What Exactly Is Fueling the MLCC Shortage?

Increasing demand from mobile manufacturers and the automotive sector is overstressing MLCC supply chain like never before. According to Hideki Maruyama, President of Murata, new-generation electric vehicles require 4X more MLCCs than traditional automobiles, which is consuming a large portion of the MLCC supply.

Moreover, with the rapid development of alternative fuel automobile and ADAS auto pilot supporting system, the demand for MLCC is increasing with every passing day. Plus, a majority of Chinese smartphone makers are entering into the high-end product market, which is also tightening the supply of MLCC further. 

Polymer Tantalum Capacitor as an MLCC Alternative

As the demand for MLCC grows exponentially, electronic component manufacturers are left with no choice but to distance themselves from their excessive dependence on ceramic chip capacitors and find an alternative for MLCC.

A sustainable replacement for ceramic chip capacitors is coming in the form of Polymer Electrolytic Capacitors, which are mostly deployed in power supplies of integrated electronic circuits as decoupling, bypass, and buffer capacitors. While they may not be a perfect substitute, they are a decent workaround that can get you through these difficult times.

Top-grade polymer electrolytic capacitors feature superb bias characteristics with no microphonic effect, as well as exceptionally high capacitance, which multi-layer ceramic capacitors can never match.

Though not as low as MLCC, still, polymer capacitors have fairly low ESR and ESL characteristics that can be improved to a great extent by making structural changes. Additionally, a major concern of polymer capacitors related to the dry-out of electrolyte is being efficiently managed by utilizing solid polymer materials, which is enabling the capacitors to deliver extremely low-temperature characteristics.

Currently, there are several multinational companies manufacturing polymer capacitors of various kind, including KEMET, an industry-leading supplier of high-quality polymer electrolytic capacitors.

KEMET’s T52x/T530 Polymer Electrolytic Capacitor Solutions

KEMET’s organic capacitor T52x/T530 is a solid electrolytic capacitor with a conductive polymer cathode, which combines the low ESR characteristics of multi-layer ceramic, the volumetric ability of tantalum, and the high capacitance of aluminum electrolytic into a single surface mount package.

Unlike liquid electrolyte-based capacitors, the T52x/T530, featuring the industry’s widest range of case sizes, voltages, and capacitance, significantly extend the operational life while providing superior reliability and exceptionally high ripple current capabilities.

KEMET's organic polymer electrolytic capacitor, complying with RoHS (6/6), according to Directive 2002/95/EC, is ideal for general purpose DC applications for up to 48 volt DC voltage rails. Typical applications include power supply inputs, audio/sound circuits, DC/DC converters, and diverse space-critical circuits in consumer electronics, telecommunications, and portable electronics applications.

Considering options for MLCC substitutes or simply want to know more about KEMET’s polymer electrolytic capacitors? Contact WPGA today!