Hybrid Capacitors


Combine the Advantages of Batteries and Super-Caps for Energy Backup Applications

Norbert Pieper, Senior VP Sales Business Development, Vishay

From home automation to industrial robots, our networked world demands that electronic systems offer constant availability, resulting in the need for permanent — often network-independent — energy supplies. Rechargeable batteries are practical and reliable for these systems until they reach the end of their working life, when they must be replaced or thrown away. Classic solid electrolyte capacitors provide a more environmentally friendly and cost-neutral alternative, but soon reach their limit with output requirements exceeding 100 mW. Super-cap dual-layer capacitors offer high power density and long working life, but low dielectric strength. Electronic systems require a compromise between these technologies, solutions that combine the advantages of classic batteries and dual-layer capacitors without the limitations.Hybrid – ENYCAPTM – capacitors deliver this performance. 

Parameter Dual-layer capacitor (EDLC) Hybrid capacitor ENYCAP Classic battery
Power density W/kg Very high High Moderate
Energy density Wh/Kg Moderate High Very high
Lifetime Very high High Moderate
Price level Moderate High Very high
Charging cycle (80% DoD) Very high High Low
Self discharge resistance Low High Very high
Quick charge resistance Very high High Moderate
Operating temperature range High High Moderate
Equal capacity of cells Low Very high High

[highlight]Table (1): Basic comparison of the systems[/highlight]

The physical single cells of ENYCAP 196HVCdevices have a nominal maximum voltage of 1.4Vand can be interconnectedin series without special balancing measures, thus achieving higher nominal voltage. Currently, voltages of 8.4V and capacitance values between 4F and 90F can be obtained. The requirement regarding increased nominal voltage is also met:


Due to their low constructional height (< 2.5mm) and easy combination options, such cells allow good adaptation to existing construction space, which is often very restrictedand is sometimes located in the “third” dimension outside the PCB level.

Figure 1 – ENYCAP structural form variations

Hybrid systems can reach very high energy densities of >13Ws/g (>3.6Wh/kg) and are therefore a viable alternative to the classic battery. Furthermore, these energy storage capacitors are characterized by very low stray current and self-discharge.

The balance of power is demonstratedin Figure 2, which shows the optimum classification of ENYCAPstorage capacitors according to today’s state-of-the-art technology.

Balance of Power
Figure 2. Balance of Power

As already implied in the examples above, specific parameters must be tuned to the respective application to select the correct component: 

  1. Backup energy and time interval. Here, the periods between very deep discharging and, in particular, the time up until the first backup are particularly critical.
  2. Specific peak power and peak current requirements.
  3. Output voltage level for the backup solution; in particular, the minimum voltage level.
  4. Input voltage range that is available for loading the energy storage; in particular, the maximum range.
  5. Impedance of the primary energy source. For systems with low ESR, extremely high charge current spikes can occur.
  6. Protection against complete discharging, short circuits, reverse polarity, overvoltage, and excess temperature.
  7. Charging status control of the energy storage device and data-bus-capable signals for advancedpower management systems.
  8. Cost of the entire system.

The parameters above are only a selection of the most important design parameters. To make the complexity clear, the following illustrations of the principle will show the basic diagrams of charging current, discharge current, and voltage curve over the course of time. The difference in the behaviorbetween hybrid energy storage and classic super-caps can clearly be seen.

Figure 3 – Dual-layer capacitor as a backup source


backup Source
Figure 4 – ENYCAP as a backup source

The good charging and, where applicable, fast charging behavior of dual-layer capacitorscan be observed from the voltage plot. It can be seen that precautionary measures must be taken against extreme current charge peaks due to the low ESR. Furthermore, with constant backup power, the linear drop of the discharge voltage results in a disproportionate increase of the discharge current and constant back-regulation of the DC/DC converter as well as high current peaks. In some cases, higher ripple currents at the capacitor have to be taken into account.

 The hybrid dual-layer capacitor is characterized by its more gentle charging behavior due to its higher series resistance and optimized construction. The nominal voltage on the capacitor is reached at a very early stage, allowing simple operation of wake-up switching and low power sensor applications. The virtually constant voltage curve and resulting constant discharge current in the operating range is also advantageous. The control electronics can certainly be simplified as opposed to dual-layer capacitors. The relatively high initial voltage drop is a disadvantage.

 In order not to overburden the user too much with the differences in these systems, it will become more and more important to provide the customer with complex solutions and design references that integrate the basic functions such as charging and discharging (Figure 5) and the required protective circuits.

The manufacturers of the storage elements and charge controllers must collaborate in advance, if possible, in order to adapt the specific conditions to the system.

An example is a reference design that integrates an emergency current solution with a charge controller circuit and a backup converter, including the necessary current measurement sensors to evaluate the function as well as all protective functions. Moreover, this system can be operated using ENYCAP, dual-layer capacitors, classic capacitors, and batteries, and realizes automatic switching between primary supply plus charge function and energy source backup. For this purpose, charging voltage (1.3 V to 3.2V), charging current (35mA to 600mA), discharging voltage (>1V), and discharging current restriction (100mA to 5A) can be varied in several ranges and can easily be adapted to the customer’scircumstances. The charging process can use either constant current or constant voltage regulators.

 The provided buck converter transforms to the programmed supply voltage for the load and charges the backup energy storage device. In case of an interruption of the supply voltage, the boost converter, which is also integrated, maintains the output voltage on the load without any interruption until the secondary energy source is exhausted. On top of this, a simple load switch on the output sideswitches off the load if the minimum capacitor voltage of about 1 V is undercut. This avoids complete discharging and constant linear operation of the connected regulators.

 The LTC3355 IC performs all the functions that are required, for example, within an intelligent power management system for a server or an IPC. Monitoring the voltages VIN, VOUT, and VCAP, basic information (open-drain signal outputs) regarding the load status of the energy source (CPGOOD) and the automatic switchover of the supply to the backup energy storage device (PFOB), as well as load regulation, are available. The regulator processes input voltages of 4.0V to 20V and supplies a regulated output voltage of 3.0 V to 5.0V. The component has integrated overheating protection, which is also used for monitoring the maximum permissible current.

Evalution Design Kit
Figure 5 – Evaluation design kit (MAL219699001E3)

ENYCAP energy storage capacitors have a higher power density than a battery and higher energy density than classic dual-layer capacitors (EDLC). Therefore, faster charging and discharging times are possible than those for a battery. We suggest impulse charging for applications such as backup systems. The idea behind this is that the ENYCAP is initially charged up to the maximum of its energy storage capacity and then the charge status is maintained in a trickle mode by individual electrical impulses. This compensates self-discharge and the capacitor is kept under ideal operating conditions. If charging were to take place constantly and only be switched off when the supply is interrupted, the working life of the product would be reduced dramatically. The maximum charge voltage should be set somewhere between 2% and 3% higher than the specified nominal voltage (rated voltage). This compensates for the voltage drops at the product’s internal resistor. Cell voltage is always lower than charge voltage. It is very important that the energy storage capacitors are loaded up to full nominal voltage. Higher voltages should not be used. It must be taken into account that the product of charge current*charge time is equal to the maximum charge. Only then is the maximum degree of effectiveness and the highest possible energy storage achieved.

 ENYCAP 196 HVC series capacitors are specified for normal storage conditions of -40°C to +85°C. However, after one year’s storage the parts should be powered and charged. Self-discharge is low. The permanent charge voltage of a fully charged capacitor must be limited to less than ≤ 20 µA, otherwise the product will age early. If higher current flows, it must be ensured that the ENYCAP 196 HVC is removed from the circuit. Complete self-discharge must also be avoided. Most of the energy can be removed from the single cell between 1V and 1.4V. Cell voltages under 1V result in deep discharge. As a result, low discharge currents can already have negative influence on the product’s properties.

When selecting the other components, great care was made to ensure low DC circuit loss, low temperature factor, and high efficiencyinductances in order to make the available energy as fully useable as possible. Also, input protection circuitry with TVS diodes was implemented in order to avoid overvoltage events of the complete circuit.

 When taking into account the optimum charging, discharging, and surrounding conditions, ENYCAP series hybrid energy storage capacitors can achieve very long working lives and cycle stability.