Batteries vs Capacitors: Are capacitors better than batteries

Electricity has become a fundamental part of our daily lives, powering everything from our electronic devices to our homes and businesses. One key aspect of electricity is energy storage, and two common devices used for this purpose are batteries and capacitors. While they both store electrical energy, they have distinct differences in their construction, charging and discharging capabilities, internal resistance, polarity, and applications. In this article, we will explore the differences between batteries and capacitors, and provide insight into when one may be more suitable than the other for specific energy storage needs.

Batteries vs Capacitors: Are capacitors better than batteries

What is a Battery?

A battery is an electrochemical cell that stores energy in an electric charge. A battery contains chemical energy, which can be converted into electricity. A battery’s voltage is the amount of charge that is stored in the battery. It provides power when connected to an external load.

They are available in different types, including: Primary (non-rechargeable), and Secondary (rechargeable).

The amount of electricity stored in a battery is called the battery’s capacity. Batteries can be classified by their storage capabilities, which are measured in milliamp-hours (mAh). Commonly used AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, 12V, and 20V batteries are all classified by their mAh capacity. For example, a typical AAA battery has a storage capacity of 1,000 mAh. How does a Battery work? Batteries consist of a case and are made up of three different parts:

The positive terminal (positive electrode), negative terminal (negative electrode), and middle (electrolyte).

The positive terminal is a metal part that has a positive (+) charge on it. This is where the energy is stored. It is called the Anode. The negative terminal is a metal part that has a negative (-) charge on it. It is called the Cathode. They are usually made of zinc, lead or aluminum, zinc, and manganese.

The middle part is a non-metallic known as an electrolyte that helps to conduct electrons from the anode to the cathode. It’s a gooey paste or liquid that fills the gap between the electrodes. If the anode is connected to the cathode through conducting wire or any circuit, a chemical reaction takes place between the anode and the cathode that can produce an electric current.

When we connect a positive wire to a battery’s (+) terminal, this connects the anode to the (+) terminal. This means that the electrons inside the battery will flow from the anode to the +ve terminal. The (-ve) terminal is connected to the electrons by the wire. This makes the electrons flow in the opposite direction. This is the reason why the (+) terminal is the positive terminal, and the -ve terminal is the negative terminal.

What is a Capacitor?

A capacitor is a device that stores an electrical charge, usually by creating a separation between two different types of material, such as two metal plates in a sandwich. As electricity flows through one plate, electrons from the power source flow to the other plate. When the electrons reach the second plate, they’re trapped, and the capacitor builds a charge.

Capacitors store electrical energy by creating an electrical field that stores energy, which can then be released to power an appliance when needed. They are very useful in audio, video, and computing circuits, where they act as a buffer to protect against short circuits.

They are commonly found in electric appliances such as speakers, computers, cell phones, etc. Capacitors help reduce electrical noise and improve the sound quality of your devices.

How does a Capacitor work? Capacitors contain two conductive plates that are separated by a dielectric material. The two conductive plates act as the positive and negative plates of a capacitor.

When an electric field is applied to the capacitor, the positively charged ions in the material become “trapped” between the two plates, and an electric charge is created. This electric charge then becomes the source of a static electric field that opposes the initial electric field. The result is that there is an overall net decrease in the amount of electric field in the capacitor.

As the charge builds up on the plates, the strength of the electric field decreases until it reaches a point where the field is no longer strong enough to hold the charge. At this point, the flow of electricity stops, and the capacitor is said to be “fully discharged”. A small amount of electric charge will remain on the plates, but it will be too small to cause any significant current flow.

What are the main differences between a Battery and a Capacitor?

The main differences between batteries and capacitors are their storage capabilities, energy release rates, and power densities. Batteries can store more energy over a longer period of time, while capacitors store less energy but can release it more quickly. Batteries have a higher power density than capacitors, meaning they can deliver more power over a shorter period of time.

Another difference is that batteries are available in primary (non-rechargeable) and secondary (rechargeable) forms, while capacitors are typically not rechargeable. Batteries also tend to have a longer lifespan than capacitors.

What do these differences mean for you?

The choice between using a battery or a capacitor will depend on the specific application and its requirements. If the application requires a large amount of energy to be stored for an extended period of time, a battery may be the better choice. However, if the application requires a quick release of energy, a capacitor may be more suitable.

The differences between batteries and capacitors are significant, even though both devices store electrical energy. A battery is an electrochemical device that has two electrodes (positive and negative) separated by an electrolyte, while a capacitor contains two metal plates with a dielectric material between them.

Rechargeable batteries have positive and negative terminals that are connected to initiate the flow of direct current through the circuit. In contrast, capacitors do not have positive and negative terminals. Instead, their two electrical terminals are separated by a thin insulator called the dielectric, which has a high resistance.

  • Construction and Components
    • Batteries are constructed with an electrochemical cell, which includes two electrodes (positive and negative) separated by an electrolyte. The positive electrode is called the anode, and the negative electrode is called the cathode. The electrolyte is usually a liquid or gel substance that conducts ions between the anode and cathode. In contrast, capacitors are made up of two metal plates, one of which is charged positively and the other negatively. These plates are separated by a dielectric material, which can be made from materials such as ceramic, plastic, or paper. The dielectric material prevents the two plates from touching and allows them to store an electrical charge.
  • Charging and Discharging
    • Batteries take longer to charge and discharge, and their charge and discharge rate is limited by their chemical reactions. They can hold a charge for a longer time than capacitors and are better suited for storing large amounts of electrical energy over time. Capacitors, on the other hand, have a much higher charge and discharge rate than batteries. They can be charged and discharged quickly and can handle frequent power surges. However, they do not hold a charge for as long as batteries and are better suited for applications that require quick bursts of energy.
  • Internal Resistance
    • Capacitors have very low internal resistance, which means they can deliver power almost instantly without significant energy loss. Batteries, on the other hand, have a higher internal resistance, which means they take longer to deliver power and lose more energy in the process.
  • Polarity
    • Batteries have positive (+) and negative (-) ends, which determine their polarity. When connected to a circuit, the positive end of the battery connects to the positive end of other components in the circuit, and the negative end connects to the negative end of the other components. Capacitors do not have positive or negative ends, and their polarity is determined by the charge on their plates. When a capacitor is connected to a circuit, it becomes polarized, and the charge on its plates determines its polarity. The capacitor can hold an electric charge even after the power has been turned off, while batteries lose their polarization once the power is removed.
  • Applications
    • Capacitors are useful for applications that require quick bursts of energy, such as in camera flashes, electronic ignition systems, and power supplies for computers. They are also used in high-frequency circuits, such as in radios, where they can handle high voltage applications. Batteries are useful for applications that require long-term storage of electrical energy, such as in flashlights, portable radios, and electric vehicles. They are also used in low-frequency circuits, such as in watches and calculators, where they can provide a stable and consistent source of power.

Understanding the differences between batteries and capacitors is essential for choosing the right energy storage device for your specific needs. Consider factors such as charging and discharging rates, internal resistance, polarity, and application requirements when deciding between these two devices.

Quick Comparison Chart between Battery and Capacitor

Best for energy storage durationLong-termShort-term
Ability to deliver energy without a power sourceCannotCan
Energy storage capacityHigh and constantSmall
Size and energy storage capacity relationThe more energy a battery can hold, the bigger it isThe bigger a capacitor is, the more energy it can hold
Energy storage durationStores energy for a long amount of timeStores energy for a short amount of time
DependabilityDependableNot dependable
Energy storage formStores energy in the form of chemical bondsStores energy in the form of an electric field
Internal resistanceHas internal resistanceHas no internal resistance
CostCheap, but need periodic rechargingMore expensive than batteries

This chart summarizes the key differences between batteries and capacitors, including their energy storage duration, ability to deliver energy without a power source, energy storage capacity, dependability, energy storage form, internal resistance, and cost. Understanding these differences can help you choose the right energy storage device for your specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why use a capacitor instead of a battery?

A capacitor is preferred over a battery when you need to store and discharge energy quickly. Capacitors can store a significant amount of energy, and their charge and discharge rates are much faster than those of batteries. Capacitors are commonly used in electronic circuits, such as power supplies and radio frequency equipment.

Can a capacitor replace a battery?

Capacitors can be used as a temporary power storage device, but they cannot replace a battery for long-term energy storage. Capacitors are ideal for applications that require short bursts of energy, such as powering a radio or microphone for a few seconds. They can be charged quickly, but they will discharge quickly as well.

What is the main disadvantage of capacitors compared to batteries?

The main disadvantage of capacitors compared to batteries is their low energy density. Capacitors can store a limited amount of energy per unit mass, making them less practical than batteries for long-term energy storage. In contrast, batteries have a high energy density, making them suitable for extended use.

How long can a capacitor hold a charge?

Capacitors can hold a charge for 5-7 years, depending on their type and usage. However, their lifespan can be extended by storing them in a dry and cool environment, away from dust and moisture. Capacitors will lose their charge over time, so it is essential to replace them when you notice a significant loss of voltage.

Are rechargeable batteries capacitors?

No, rechargeable batteries are not capacitors. Rechargeable batteries are lithium-ion cells that store energy in a chemical reaction. Capacitors, on the other hand, store energy in an electric field.

Are super-capacitors safer than batteries?

Super-capacitors are safer than batteries because they do not contain toxic chemicals. Super-capacitors are also more reliable and do not have a memory effect like regular batteries. However, they are not as powerful as rechargeable batteries and must be used with caution.

Is a mobile power bank a capacitor?

A mobile power bank is not a capacitor, but it contains one or more super-capacitors. Super-capacitors are used in mobile power banks to store energy and provide fast charging capabilities.


Batteries and capacitors are both essential energy storage devices that play a vital role in powering modern technology. Each device has its own unique properties that make them ideal for specific applications. While batteries are great for long-term energy storage, capacitors are ideal for short bursts of energy. Capacitors have higher charge and discharge rates, lower internal resistance, and can store energy in an electric field. In contrast, batteries have higher energy density and can store energy in chemical bonds. Understanding the differences between these two devices is crucial in choosing the right one for your specific needs.

It’s worth noting that as technology continues to advance, we’re likely to see further developments in both battery and capacitor technology. Perhaps one day, there will be a device that can store large amounts of energy for long periods of time while also being able to discharge that energy rapidly when needed. Until then, we must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of batteries and capacitors and choose the right one for each application.