By Austin Mori, Senior Business Development Engineer, Murata Electronics North America
Supercaps—Achieve High Power
Capability in Miniature Packages
Vehicles, smart cards, and Io T applications can leverage the peak load leveling and storage capabilities of supercapacitors.
The increasing demand for batteries in power- intensive applications has laid the groundwork for
a charged market. Design engineers are on a perpetual
hunt for solutions that achieve high power, an extended
lifespan, and maintenance-free energy harvesting.
Supercapacitors deliver this and much more—like high
peak load leveling, power function, and back up—all in a
However, this wasn’t always the case. This current
go-to solution has evolved over the last several years.
Having been considered a niche product not so long ago,
supercaps are now ubiquitous and helping to shape the
markets of tomorrow.
In the not-so-distant past, batteries were considered
more suitable products in many design situations. However,
with improvements in both performance and underlying
technologies (of which there are more details further on
in this article), supercaps have cemented their market
position, especially as a storage solution in energy harvesting
systems. These systems require maintenance-free, long-life
options—benefits that batteries could just not deliver.
For manufacturers, it was imperative to develop
supercaps that deliver excellent durability, reliability and
counter degradation factors. Plus, they must enable the
• High Peak Load Leveling: When the electrical load is
too high for the battery and voltage becomes unstable
(Figure 1), high-power supercaps must assist to
decrease the load. This improves quality in RF, audio,
• High Power Backup: When backup energy is needed
in case of an unexpected shutdown, supercaps help
mitigate. Moreover, engineers can design both high
energy and power backup into slim and small devices.
• High Peak Power Function: When high power is
needed, supercaps deliver.
• Storage for Energy Harvesting: Supercaps can easily
charge and discharge various power levels, making
them ideal for unstable power generation devices.
Of course, these features must be wrapped in a
miniaturized package. So how do we push the limits
and make them smaller? To meet consumer demand
for mobile devices with greater efficiency and
functionality, manufacturers have enhanced the design
and manufacturing of supercapacitors to achieve the slim
packaging required today (Figure 2).
Consider everything from Internet of Things (Io T)
products to smartcard devices. One of the close links
is their miniaturized, yet robust needs. For example,
wearable products require miniscule thickness, an mF
order capacitance, low ESR, and capability to output
instantaneous power. Because of that, manufacturers are
driven to optimize construction materials and structure to
deliver such a solution to design engineers. We have heard
from them (loud and clear) that they are on the perpetual
hunt to find new types of energy solutions that meet their
limited-space, power-hungry situations. The end-result is
a demand for slim packages that can be mounted into the
dead space of devices.
As mentioned earlier, supercaps were not always
considered for broadline applications. However,
advancements have made it a reality as they can be used in
place of a battery or conventional capacitor. Low-ESR and
high-capacitance solutions can be used as auxiliary power
supplies for assistance during peak output or backup.
Additionally, they reduce the load of a battery or serve as
a maintenance-free power supply in combination with a
power generation element. They also decrease the size of a
power supply to attain higher functionality and save energy.
When a supercap is used as an auxiliary power supply
during peak output, it reduces the size of supply units,
adds a higher output function, and improves overall
performance. Applications include a peak-output auxiliary
power supply for LPWA RF modules for Io T or smart
meters, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), compact DC motor
devices, and Remote Keyless Entry (RKE) systems.
Design engineers also achieve a high-output backup in
Figure 1: Supercapacitors help level high peak loads to safer
levels and stabilize voltages.