Capacitors are essential passive components for designing any electrical circuit. But there are so many options to choose from with a wide range of specifications that it can be overwhelming to determine what capacitor may be the best fit for your application. One early decision that circuit designers must make is to determine if a single-layer capacitor (SLC) or multi-layer ceramic capacitor (MLCC) is the right fit for their application needs.
At a high-level, these capacitor types seem similar as both SLCs and MLCCs can be used for charging and storing, filtering, or bypass functions in a circuit. To determine which one is the best fit for your application, let’s first look at the basic structure of each capacitor type. SLCs are the most basic capacitor type available since these capacitors consist of a single layer of dielectric material, or insulating layer, sandwiched between a positive and a negative electrode.
An MLCC uses the basic principle of this capacitor design to build multiple layers in the same capacitor, resulting in a single capacitor that provides a capacitance level that is equivalent to using multiple SLCs connected in parallel. This multi-layer design in slightly thicker (taller) than an SLC but decreases the overall footprint needed for a capacitor to achieve higher capacitance – a critical concern for many RF and microwave applications today as size, weight, and power (SWaP) are driving many design decisions. Figure 1 illustrates the construction of an SLC versus an MLCC.