Development progress: Passive components vs microchips
When Gordon Moore formulated his Moore's Law, later named after him, in 1965, it was initially only about production efficiency and less about the performance of semiconductors. However, the industry quickly realized that by doubling the number of transistors on the same surface area within 2 years, significant performance increases could be achieved at a rapid pace. Apple has just introduced the M3 chip family based on ARM technology in 3 nm technology for the new Macs in October 2023. In 1970, there was space for around 1,000 transistors on a microchip. Today, there are already 92 billion transistors in the M3-Max on an area only slightly larger than a fingertip.
Rapid development by miniaturization
Microchips have structures 5,000 times finer than a human hair and are produced using light with an extremely short wavelength. The production technology of the Dutch company ASML, which is based on EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography technology from Carl Zeiss, is once again pushing the boundaries of Moore's law. So what about passive components? Complex electronic solutions are not just about semiconductor chips. The functionality of electrical engineering is far more complex and requires corresponding, so-called passive components. According to common definitions, these have no amplifying or signal-changing properties. Inductors, capacitors and resistors are always part of electronic assemblies. In addition, there are also necessary connecting elements such as connectors etc. The technological development of inductors, resistors and capacitors was much slower. Manufacturing technologies, materials, physics and electrochemistry set narrower limits for analog physical parameters than one might expect. The saying that I was always told as a student, that physics cannot be cheated, still holds true.
Tighter physical limits for passive components
The smallest changes in a ferrite core have enormous effects on the magnetic properties, temperature response, inductance or quality of a coil. For example, the proportion of water in the ferrite raw material during sintering has a significant influence on the magnetic parameters. Nevertheless, great progress has also been made with these materials, especially with high-quality primary materials and highly qualified manufacturing processes, particularly for very large quantities, such as those required in today's large-scale production. It has not been possible to double performance every two years, because physics does not allow this.
Major advances in capacitor development
There have also been many new technological leaps in capacitors in almost 60 years. Ceramic chip capacitors in multilayer technology have become an integral part of modern SMT manufacturing. EDLCs as energy storage and battery supplements are another milestone. But here too, unfortunately, there is no equivalent to Moore's law. The electrolytes, the carbons, the surfaces and thus the specifications of the capacitors have undergone considerable further development in response to pressure from industry and the automotive industry in particular in recent years. However, the known basic technologies - film, polymer, ceramic and electrolytic capacitors - have essentially remained the same. One of the main demands of the industry was to specify higher operating temperatures, which was not easy. The properties of different known technologies have therefore been combined to create hybrid products.
Expanding boundaries with hybrid capacitor designs
Conductive polymer hybrid aluminum electrolytic capacitors are a successful example of these efforts. These mark another milestone in the long history of electrochemical capacitors. This technology combines the advantages of aluminum electrolytic capacitors and "conductive polymer electrolytic capacitors". It consists of an anode made of aluminum foil, a cathode made of conductive polymer and an electrolyte that is a combination of a liquid electrolyte and a conductive polymer material. This hybrid design enables high capacitance while maintaining the low equivalent series resistance (ESR) and low leakage current of conductive polymer capacitors, while providing the high voltage rating and high ripple current capability of aluminum electrolytic capacitors.
One of the main advantages for safety in electronic circuits is the "open" failure mode. This guarantees that the current flow is interrupted in the event of a malfunction. Further details see on our product page for conductive polymer hybrid AL Ecaps.