Niobium Capacitor FAQ

  Q1 : Why was a niobium capacitor developed?
  Q2 : Is the quality of a niobium capacitor exactly the same as that of a tantalum capacitor?
  Q3 : What was the breakthrough that led to the successful development of this capacitor?
  Q4 : Have plans to develop a niobium capacitor been on the drawing board for some time?
  Q5 : It is rumored that other companies have also developed a niobium capacitor.
  Q6 : Does NEC make a manganese-type niobium capacitor?
  Q7 : Why is a 2.5 V/220 mF capacitor the only type available?
  Q8 : How can we obtain a sample?
  Q9 : What are the future development plans for niobium capacitors?
  Q10 : Can we obtain more detailed information than that contained in the press release?


Q1 Why was a niobium capacitor developed?
A1 The rarity of the mineral tantalum makes it vulnerable to supply shortages and sudden price jumps. This was particularly apparent last year, when a shortage of tantalum caused the price to rise to a 20-year high, making it impossible to supply products to some customers. With at least 100 times more deposits than tantalum, niobium offers stability in terms of both supply and price. Also, because we can produce a niobium capacitor that has almost the same quality as a tantalum capacitor, we are able to offer customers a stable supply of small-size high-capacity solid electrolytic capacitors. This is why we developed a niobium capacitor. Moreover, with today's market demanding higher capacity, the cost merits of niobium, if the supply is increased, will enable us to proceed with commercialization of high-capacity products, which we were unable to do with tantalum due to its supply and cost uncertainties.
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Q2 Is the quality of a niobium capacitor exactly the same as that of a tantalum capacitor?
A2 The leakage current characteristics of niobium are slightly inferior to those of tantalum. However, the polymer-type niobium capacitor developed this time achieves an almost equivalent quality level to that of current polymer-type capacitors due to the employment of an original fabrication method. Although leakage current and other characteristics do not quite match those of the NeoCapacitor PS/L Series, we can produce a niobium capacitor to be included in this series lineup.
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Q3 What was the breakthrough that led to the successful development of this capacitor?
A3 The thermostability of niobium is intrinsically bad, but by using our original technology, we were able to stabilize the formation of a dielectric niobium oxide film. Also, following the start of full-scale employment of niobium by capacitor manufacturers, niobium suppliers have made significant efforts to raise the quality of their materials, leading to considerable advances in Hi-CV (granulation). As a result, we achieved our aim of a capacity almost the same as that of tantalum.
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Q4 Have plans to develop a niobium capacitor been on the drawing board for some time?
A4 Niobium has been known as a mineral for longer than tantalum, and the potential for using a dielectric niobium oxide film as a capacitor dielectric has been indicated for more than 20 years. In fact, most manufacturers have already experimented with producing a niobium capacitor, but have failed due to the problems in the characteristics mentioned above, which have remained unresolved until now.
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Q5 It is rumored that other companies have also developed a niobium capacitor.
A5 A European manufacturer announced the development of a niobium capacitor in January this year, but this was a manganese type, not a polymer type. Recently, there has been a great demand for low ESR in the high-capacity band, in which the cost merits of niobium capacitors are particularly striking. At NEC, by placing emphasis on the development of a niobium capacitor that uses the conductive polymer that was so successful in the NeoCapacitor, we have overcome considerable technological difficulties to produce a product that answers the needs of today's market. It would be fair to say, therefore, that compared with the manganese-type capacitors developed by other companies, we have produced a "next-generation" type niobium capacitor.
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Q6 Does NEC make a manganese-type niobium capacitor?
A6 Polymer Capacitor (NeoCapacitor) capacitors, whether niobium or tantalum, are extremely difficult to make from a technological point of view. We could manufacture a manganese type capacitor, but due to the superior features of the polymer type in the high-capacity band, such as better ESR characteristics and non-combustibility, we have no particular plan to include a manganese-type capacitor in our lineup. If we find there is a demand for a manganese-type capacitor, we will consider producing one.
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Q7 Why is a 2.5 V/220 mF capacitor the only type available?
A7 This product is only for sample shipment and for checking the performance. Volume production may be difficult at the moment because the materials suppliers are still preparing their production lines. We plan to start enhancing our lineup in line with the completion of these preparations (which is estimated to be in 2002).
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Q8 How can we obtain a sample?
A8 Please contact the following NEC TOKIN sales department.
TEL : 03-3402-9412
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Q9 What are the future development plans for niobium capacitors?
A9 Although niobium capacitors are more difficult to manufacture than tantalum ones, we expect that the increased supply of niobium compared with tantalum will enable a reduction in development costs. We therefore plan to focus development of niobium capacitors in the high-capacity band (1000 uF or higher), where the cost of producing a tantalum capacitor is prohibitive. Our aim for the future is to produce a chip product (surface mount product) for each capacity in the electrolytic capacitor range.
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Q10 Can we obtain more detailed information than that contained in the press release?
A10 This site includes all the information available at this point. This site will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.
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