Advanced Ceramics

Low-Profile, Low-ESL Multi-Anode "Mirror" Tantalum Capacitor Structure Improves Cost/Performance Ratio

October 1, 2009
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This paper received the Outstanding Technical Paper Award at the 2008 CARTS Europe Conference.

Figure 1. Multi-anode construction.


Abstract

Traditional tantalum capacitors are known for their excellent reliability, robustness and stable parameters. This is why conventional tantalum capacitors with counter MnO2 electrodes are still a popular choice for long-life and high-reliability applications. However, one of the downsides of the MnO2 electrode system is its higher equivalent series resistance (ESR) when compared with polymer tantalum capacitors. The multi-anode concept (i.e., the use of several node elements within one capacitor body) significantly reduces ESR and is an ideal choice for most demanding applications, such as servers and high-power telecommunication boards. This paper describes a novel multi-anode configuration that has been developed to lower the height of the components and reduce the ESL and manufacturing costs. This approach will be compared to standard single-anode designs.

Introduction

One common trend in switch-mode power supplies, micro-processors and digital circuit applications is the reduction of noise while operating at higher frequencies. In order to make this possible, components with low ESR, high capacitance and high reliability are required. One way to significantly reduce the ESR of tantalum capacitors is to use a multi-anode approach in which more anode elements are used within one capacitor body (see Figure 1).1-6

MnO2 technology provides excellent field performance, environmental stability, and high electrical and thermal stress resistance over a wide voltage range (from 2.5 to 50 volts). Devices are designed for operation in temperatures of up to 125°C. The overall surface area of a tantalum capacitor anode, particularly its surface-to-volume ratio, is one of the key parameters that define its ESR value; the higher the overall surface area, the lower the ESR.

Figure 2. Anode design in cross-section: (a) single, (b) fluted anode and (c) multi-anode.

Single anode (see Figure 2a) is the standard general-purpose design due to its excellent cost vs. performance ratio. Though the multi-anode design (see Figure 2c) offers the lowest possible ESR, the downside to this approach is a higher manufacturing cost compared to a single-anode solution. The fluted anode design (see Figure 2b), using standard chip assembly processes, is a compromise between low ESR and low cost. The flute design is used in price-sensitive, low-ESR designs, while the multi-anode concept has been used in applications where low ESR and high reliability are required without compromise, such as telecom infrastructure, networking, servers or military/aerospace projects.

Aside from the aforementioned differences between single-, multi- and fluted-anode capacitors, the multi-anode concept has two additional advantages:
  • Because the multiple-anode design provides better thermal dissipation than the single-anode, a multi-anode capacitor can be loaded to a higher continuous current. For the same reason, multi-anode capacitors are also more robust against current surges. When compared to the single-anodes of the same case size, the power dissipation of conventional multi-anode devices is higher.
  • Compared to the single-anode design, the volumetric efficiency (the active zone) of multi-anode capacitors is lower, which can lead to a presumption that multi-anodes cannot reach the same capacitance voltage (CV) factor. In practice, thinner anodes are easier to process and better penetrated by the second MnO2 electrode system, which enables the use of higher CV tantalum powders and allows multi-anode capacitors to achieve the same or even better CV levels.


Figure 3. Multi-anode concept cross-section: (a) vertical construction and (b) horizontal construction.

New Multi-Anode Construction

Most conventional tantalum multi-anodes available on the market today use three to five anodes inside one body in a vertical configuration, as shown in Figure 3a. This is practical from a manufacturing point of view but inferior to a horizontal layout where thinner, flat anodes will reduce the ESR even further (see Figure 3b). The cost of the multi-anode design grows exponentially with the number of anodes. The three-anode configuration currently used in most designs is close to the optimum cost vs. ESR ratio.

The individual anodes in the vertical design configuration are connected by silver glue epoxy to a second electrode lead frame. The same system is used in standard single-anode capacitors, hence the manufacturing technology is similar to the established process and no major investment into new technology flow is required for the multi-anode design. The horizontal design, on the other hand, requires a new solution to the problem of connection between the anodes, which can result in costly modifications of established technology. To date, this design has therefore not been used for a single-body multi-anode capacitor in volume production. Horizontal designs are used more often in special applications by stacking two or more finished capacitors together through soldering or jigging systems into arrays or modules.

Figure 4. ESR of horizontal and vertical layout.

The difference in ESR performance between horizontal and vertical configurations is shown in Figure 4. This example is based on a theoretical calculation for D-case capacitors. It shows that the two-anode horizontal layout has a similar ESR to the three-anode system in vertical configuration, though the ESR vs. cost value is better for the horizontal structure. Limited potential for height reduction puts the vertical design at a disadvantage to the horizontal construction due to the fact that capacitors currently measure between 3.5 to 4.5 mm high. Today, this factor is increasing in importance for applications where the miniaturization of electronics is becoming an issue, even in applications like telecom infrastructure or military where it has not been so in the past.

Figure 5. Multi-anode “mirror” horizontal design: (a) cross-section of 2.0 mm height 7343-case and (b) 3-D internal construction.

A novel multi-anode construction has been developed using two anodes in a horizontal “mirror” configuration (see Figure 5). The mirror construction uses a modified lead frame shape where the lead frame is positioned between the two anodes. This configuration solves the connection issues of the horizontal anodes and brings the manufacturing modification cost down to an acceptable level.

The ESR performance of the two-anode mirror design is slightly inferior to the three vertical anode equivalent, but it is cheaper to make. However, the main benefit achieved by this new mirror design is that the configuration enables multi-anode capacitors to be reduced in height down to 3.1 mm for the 7343-31 D-case size and, in the very near future, even 2.0 maximum height for 7343-20 Y-case sizes. The other advantage of the mirror design is its symmetrical layout, which helps to reduce self inductance (ESL).

Figure 6. Typical ESR of different internal anode design configurations.

Figure 6 compares the ESR performance of a typical 22 µF 35 V capacitor using different internal design configurations. As described previously, the greater the surface area, the better the ESR performance. Also, the ESR distribution range is much tighter in low-ESR designs. Hence, low-ESR parts are recommended for circuits with a bank of parallel capacitors due to a more equal load share among the individual capacitors. It should also be noted that there is no direct comparison in the case of the vertical multi-anode design, as it is available in the taller E-case size only, as opposed to other designs that are available in the lower D-case size. Three vertical D-case size anodes in the vertical multi-anode style would show a higher ESR value compared to the E-case size (data available for this comparison only).

Figure 7. ESL of D330/4 capacitor in mirror design and single-anode construction.

The other benefit of the mirror design is its symmetrical internal design, which was mentioned briefly earlier. Because symmetrical construction helps to compensate part of the inductance loop (see Figure 7), ESL is lower than in a design that uses a classical lead frame with a pocket. Table 1 shows typical ESL values for a D-case size mirror and single-anode capacitor. The catalogue ESL value for a D-case single-anode design is 2.4 nH (typical values are around 2.1 nH).

Figure 8. Capacitance and ESR vs. frequency for mirror multi-anode and single-anode D-case 330 µF 4 V capacitors.

The mirror-design ESL is about 1 nH, half that of the conventional design. This moves the resonant frequency of mirror multi-anodes to higher values. Figure 8 shows the resonant frequency of the mirror design at 500 kHz, while the single anode is 340 kHz. The capacitance drop with frequency is lower in the case of the mirror structure due to the thinner anodes that can be used.

Figure 9. Cooling effect of (a) single anode and (b) mirror design.

The change in resonant frequency of the mirror design due to the lower ESL significantly improves its working range for today’s favorite DC/DC converter switching frequency range, 250-500 kHz. Another benefit of the mirror design lies in its improved power dissipation capability. Heat generated in the anode by ripple current is cooled through leads and tantalum wire to PCB pads (see Figure 9).

Thus, while the single-anode D-case capacitor has the capability to continuously dissipate only 150 mW, a mirror construction capacitor of the same case size can handle 255 mW. This represents a ripple current handling capability of 2.7 A; the single-anode design handles only 1.0 A (D 330 µF 10 V 150 mΩ).

Mirror-type horizontal multi-anode capacitors currently reach capacitance values in TPM D-case of 220 µF to 1000 µF, with voltages ranging from 2.5 to 10 V and ESR from 25-35 mΩ. Further developments will extend the voltage range up to 35 and 50 V, making the new capacitors attractive for telecommunications applications where design height is becoming a crucial parameter. Capacitance values of 10-22 µF and ESR performance of 65-140 mΩ on a single 35-50 V capacitor are difficult to attain within the 3.1 mm maximum height by any other technology.

Table 1. Typical ESL values for a D-case-size mirror and single-anode capacitor.

Summary & Conclusion

A novel mirror design approach for horizontal multi-anode tantalum capacitors has been developed. The new construction excels in the following fields:
  • Better low-ESR configuration
  • Lower-profile D-case 7343-31 (3.1 mm maximum height) with potential down to Y-case 7343-20 (2.0 mm)
  • Reduced manufacturing costs
  • Lower ESL (symmetrical design) significantly expands the working frequency up to 500 kHz (D-case)
  • Lower ESL is achieved on the standard footprint without the need for PCB layout change
  • Significantly higher ripple current capability
A patent covering the mirror assembly of solid electrolytic capacitors has been filed as U.S. Serial No.11/602,451 in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

For additional information, contact AVX Czech Republic, s.r.o., Dvorakova 328, 563 01 Lanskroun, Czech Republic; (420) 467-558-111; fax (420) 467-558-128; e-mail zednicekt@avx.cz; or visit www.avx.com.

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