Fun with ultracapacitors!!

In this video we’re going to commit
random acts of destruction and learn a few things about capacitors along the way. Recently “Electronic Goldmine” had a
good price on some ultracapacitors and I bought a lot of them. Ultracapacitors are like regular
capacitors except they can hold much more energy. Here’s an example: This is a 560 microfarad 200 volt
electrolytic capacitor. It is about as big as you will ever see
on a consumer circuit board. The energy stored in a capacitor is
given by this formula. If I apply the formula to this capacitor I can see
that it can store a maximum of 11.2 joules. In certain circumstances that’s enough
to do some serious damage. Now the ultracapacitors I bought are
2600 farads (and that’s not a mistake) 2600 farads with a maximum of 2.5 volts. That means that one of these ultracapacitors
can store 8100 joules of energy which is a huge difference. So let’s see what a few kilojoules can do. Here I have the ultracapacitor charged to 2.35V
and you can already see this thing is dangerous. Let’s start out by burning some soldering braid. Now let’s melt an inductor. Here I’m shorting the capacitor across a five
cent coin. Wow, that beaver really took a pounding. And I thought it was fun to make these
PCB traces light up like glow wire. Finally let’s make some random sparks
again just for fun. After all this, the capacitor is
still charged to 1.7 volts. If you apply the capacitor energy stored
equation before and after blowing things up you can see that I used up
3370 joules of energy. So there’s a lot left over. Now you might be wondering “how did I do
all that with just 2 volts?” If you take two AA batteries and
put them in series you get 3 volts with 2.5 amp-hours of capacity which is equivalent to
27000 joules of stored energy. That’s more voltage and more capacity than the ultracapacitor has and yet there’s no way you could do all
the things I just did with two AA batteries. So what’s the difference? The answer is a non-ideal property
called “equivalent series resistance” “ESR” for short. Batteries, capacitors and a lot of other
electronic components will have a small internal resistance which limits the amount of current
that can flow. For a typical AA alkaline battery the
equivalent series resistance is 120 milliohms. When you put a load on the battery this
resistance will cause a drop in voltage and generate heat within the battery. For example a low power device like a
television remote control might draw 20 milliamps. This would cause a 2.4mV drop
(which is nothing) and generate 48 microwatts of heat
in the battery. (This is also tiny.) But if I try to draw 10 amperes from the
battery, there will be an internal voltage drop of 1.2 volts. And 12 watts of heat will be
generated within the battery. So at higher currents the battery
voltage is unreliable and things get hot enough to be very unsafe. Now let’s see how the ultracapacitor
would perform. This capacitor has an incredibly low equivalent
series resistance of 0.7 milliohms. So with a ten ampere load, the internal voltage drop is 7 millivolts
and only 70 milliwatts of heat are being generated. That’s nothing. Even at 100 amperes there’s only a
70 millivolt drop and 7 watts of heat are being generated. For a capacitor this big that’s
not a problem. So you can see that because of the
extremely low ESR these ultracapacitors can charge and
discharge hundreds of amperes no problem. So anyway I’d say that was pretty
impressive for a 2 volt supply. Now let’s see what happens with a higher
voltage. If I put 4 of these ultracapacitors in series the maximum voltage becomes 10 volts. With a higher voltage I can deliver more
power into a given resistive load. More power means bigger explosions! Here’s what the ultracapacitor array looked
like wired up. But when I tried to charge it up I ran
into a bottleneck. My bench power supply is limited to 5
amperes and for capacitors this big it’s going to take a really long time to
charge them up. Since I have some time to waste, let’s estimate how long it will take using
this formula. 5 amperes divided by 650 farads gives me
a charge rate of 7.69 millivolts per second. Since I want to charge my array up to
10 volts… 10V / 7.69mV/s equals 21.7 minutes. Okay now we’re at 9.65 volts and let the fun begin! Ooh this is going to be good… Now the PCB traces don’t melt anymore
they just vaporize. And it turns out that the insulation on
magnet wire is flammable… I didn’t know that. Let’s try it with 10 cents. (Looks like this ship has sailed) Finally let’s vaporize a nail. And after all that the capacitors were still
charged to 9.33 volts. If I use the same energy storage
formulas as before, you can see that I used up about
2000 joules of energy. In conclusion, ultracapacitors are
awesome and if you care about safety don’t do anything I did in this video!!!

About the author


  1. Interested in learning about wireless power? Subscribers can get up to 80% off Wireless Power to the People – Wireless Charging 101 on udemy using the coupon code "YOUTUBE"

  2. You offer excellent and technical information on the subject however, the experiments you conduct are at a minimum nauseating…

  3. Rated voltage is squared while the capacitance is not, so that tells me to prefer getting higher voltage rated capacitors over their capacity.

  4. Oh wow this is the same company that Tesla just bought. Looks like they've been making good stuff for a while.

  5. I'm howling with laughter immediately when you said, "Wow, that beaver took a pounding." My male ultracapacitor liked it too.

  6. With those 9.33 volts in the finale you could have riveted the nail on the beaver with your ultracapacitor. It would be riding with the wind now (sails).

  7. If we use magnetized graphine in our motorsturbines with ultra capacitors for burn outs and frequency drives for city driving batteries will essentially power heating and air conditioning systems.

  8. I was looking for crypto video's ( I mine BTC and LTC) and I came across your channel YOU ARE THE MAN–I'm a fan now-Thanks-I'll show my daughter in the morning and be super cool dad again!!!

  9. This wonderful capacitor video is hilarious yet contains very important information in my awareness of electronics.

  10. Battery is the old age, capacitor youthful so whats it mean battery to old in nature capacitor is loose young and ready.

  11. Adding these formulas makes a world of difference in understanding how these capacitors work and the explanation of battery vs capacitor is phenomenal. Videos like these actually TEACH us something vs just exciting. Still it was exciting!

  12. Is there an efficient way to turn heat energy into electricity? IWas thinking what if you made a vehicle that took the heat produced by the engine while driving on the highway and made it into electricity to charge the battery for the electric motor that would be used only during city driving. Would there be an efficient way to do that? It just seems that gasoline powered cars waste TONS of energy in the form of heat.

  13. Bang bang! Maxwell's supercapacitor blew the hell out of the trace…

    …doesn't quite fit the original tune…

  14. I don't know about you people… But i want to try this on an electrical fly swatter… The flies in my yard will really ride the lighting this time.

  15. You could litterally Touch both ends of that cap and be fine the current is high but the voltage is real low.

  16. 1:15 That's what I said to my wife last night too…. Though i also said, "You should jam out with your clam out!"

  17. i absolutely love your super informative videos. i am a aspiring young electrical engineer in training, could i ''trouble" you for some further questions and troubleshooting issues. how can i contact you?

  18. Took the old capacitor from the ceiling fan, charged it with the mosquito zapper and scared the shit out of my friend by shorting it 🤣🤣 now he stays away from me whenever I simply take that cap in my hand lmao

  19. I was hoping a big single burst spark 😂. I guess the spark stop at one point cause electron cant all teleport lol

  20. So because the internal resistance is low it can output a lot of amps which is what burns and sparks metal, but since its voltage is so low our bodies are too resistive for this to be dangerous? Is my understanding correct, could you touch both ends of it?

  21. so all you gotta do was just to get the resistor out and literally beam anything like what rick and morty did . ohh thank you for giving me that idea. area 51 are close .

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