Exploding Capacitors

What happens when you hook a capacitor to a voltage source backwards?


The labs were one of my favorite parts of electrical engineering. Of course building things was fun, but some of my memories of lab were of breaking/exploding/burning things. Chemists think they have all the fun, but really, it’s the electrical engineers that have all the fun. I’ve taken many chemistry labs outside of engineering. While I enjoyed making esters and beautiful dyes, the most fun shenanigans to be had existed in the electrical engineering labs.

Often times during a lab session, this odor of burnt electronics wafts through the hallways. There are many things to destroy. Capacitors, diodes, resistors—they are all fair game in an undergraduate electronics course. I’ve also tried various food items in electronic circuits as well. Marshmallows are fairly uninteresting, but if you find a nice salty watery food like a pickle, you are in for a treat. Yes, the halls of the electrical engineering wing are always filled with the faint smell of burning.

8 responses to “Exploding Capacitors

  1. My husband is an electrical engineer. What’s really cool and fun in the lab, is not so funny in my house!

  2. Ah yes. One of my main regrets about having gone into social sciences is the way that it’s considered, well, highly impolite to go around messing with your subjects like that… 😉

    • There might be quite a learning curve for me to go into the social sciences. You mean, I can’t zap someone just to see what happens? :p

      • You would not believe how cranky that makes the ethics committees.

        Nope, I think that social science is a lot like astronomy. Except that it’s actually considered unusual for stars and galaxies and whatnot to toddle off and make a cup of tea when you’re halfway through observing ’em. And they’ve never been known to have extremely strong opinions on that matter.

      • Oh, very interesting comparison to astronomy. I like it 🙂

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