Category Archives: Labs

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.