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Problem Create a Plate Capacitor with a Certain Capacitance

Plate capacitor
Level 2 (without higher mathematics)
Level 2 requires school mathematics. Suitable for pupils.
Plate capacitor
Plate codensator with area \( A \), charge \( Q \), distance \( d \), voltage \( U \) and the dielectric between the plates.

Capacitors are characterized by the electrical capacitance. It tells you how good a capacitor can "store" electric charge. The goal of modern technology is usually to produce the smallest possible capacitors with the largest possible capacitance so that such a component also fits into your smartphone.

You want to have a plate capacitor which has a capacitance of \( C = 0.5 \, \text{nF} \) (nano farad). The area of a capacitor plate is given as \( A = 12 \, \text{cm}^2 \).

  1. How large do you have to choose the distance \( d \) of the plates to reach this capacitance?

  2. What else can you do to achieve the specified capacitance when the plate distance is set to \( d = 1.5 \, \text{mm} \)?

Solution tips

All you need is the formula for the capacitance of a plate capacitor.

Exercise solutions

Solution for (a)

We use the following formula:

Formula for the capacitance of a plate capacitor
Formula anchor

Assuming a vacuum (or air), the relative permittivity is \( \varepsilon_{\text r} \approx 1 \). Insert it and rearrange 1 for the plate distance \( d \):

Plate distance via capacitance
Formula anchor

Substitute the given values into Eq. 2, namely \( C = 0.5 \, \text{nF} = 0. 5 \cdot 10^{-9} \, \text{F} \) and \( A = 12 \, \text{cm}^2 = 12 \cdot 10^{-4} \, \text{m}^2 \) and \( \varepsilon_{\text 0} = 8.8 \cdot 10^{-12} \, \frac{\text{As}}{\text{Vm}} \):

Determined plate distance
Formula anchor

As you can see from the result: The plates have to be very close to each other to just reach a small capacitance of \( C = 0.5 \, \text{nF} \).

Solution for (b)

Since the plate distance \( d = 0.021 \, \text{mm} \) determined in (a) is incredibly small, the desired capacitance can be achieved in an alternative way without making the distance so small. In this exercise, we want to have at least a spacing of \( d = 1.5 \, \text{mm} \).

To do this, looking at the formula (a) 1, you must select a suitable dielectric (i.e., a particular material between the capacitor plates), which is characterized by the relative permittivity \( \varepsilon_{\text r} \). Rearrange (a) 1 for \( \varepsilon_{\text r} \):

Relative permittivity using capacitance
Formula anchor

Insert the given values ( including the desired distance \( d = 1.5 \, \text{mm} = 1.5 \cdot 10^{-3} \, \text{m} \)):

Example - How to determine relative permittivity
Formula anchor

This is the approximate value of pure water. So you would have to immerse the plate capacitor in pure water to achieve the desired capacitance of \( 0.5 \, \text{nF} \) with plate distance of \( 1.5 \, \text{mm} \).