Re: [SI-LIST] : Decoupling capacitor selection & placement

Fred Townsend ([email protected])
Tue, 28 Oct 1997 23:26:30 -0800

You have hit upon one of my favorite interview questions. I rarely get
the correct answer from recent grads because our schools don't teach
this important subject. Bypass capacitors are necessary because of
trace and lead inductance and di/dt, the changing current in the

Bypasses are usually applied on a prophylactic basis without regard for
their proper functioning. Therefore the application is almost always
wrong, but not so wrong that anyone would notice. In part because there
is no such thing as too many bypass capacitors.

0.1 uf caps typically have a self resonate frequency, the frequency
where a capacitor stops being a capacitor and becomes an inductor, of
somewhere between 10 and 50 MHz depending upon lead length. Ground
inductance usually reduces the effectiveness far below 10 MHz.

Simply, a bypass must be large enough to supply the instantaneous di/dt
and small enough to be below the self resonate frequency. The higher
the current, the larger the bypass capacitor. The higher the di/dt
(frequency) the smaller the capacitor. This frequently results in
impossible locus of values.

The answer is to use multiple capacitors at different sizes. For
instance, the close in (to the circuit) value might be somewhere between
1000pf and 10 nf, followed by a 0.1uf ceramic and finally a 22uf
tantalum at the power entry point for the circuit.

Andrew Phillips wrote:
> Hello,
> Please forgive me if my questions have been asked a million times before
> ...
> When using decoupling capacitors to provide a low-impedance path between
> power and ground it appears to be well-established that we must do the
> following:
> - from device Vcc pin we drop a via to Vcc plane with as short a
> connection as possible (to minimize lead inductance). Same for device
> Gnd pin.
> - from capacitor pads we also drop vias to Vcc and Gnd planes with very
> short connections.
> What is the ruling for how close the capacitor needs to be to the device
> Vcc and Gnd pins?
> For a device such as a microprocessor with multiple Vcc and Gnd pins,
> how do we determine how many capacitors will be required?
> Many references suggest that using 1 x 0.1 uF cap per Vcc-Gnd pair is a
> good rule-of-thumb - how is this value determined, and are there
> situations when it is invalid?
> Thanks for any help,
> Andrew Phillips
> Cooperative Research Centre for Broadband Telecommunications &
> Networking
> Perth, Western Australia
> p.s. anyone interested in the Texas Instruments TMS320C6x DSP, please
> check out my info site:
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Andrew Phillips <[email protected]>
> Design Engineer
> Cooperative Research Centre for Broadband Telecommunications & Networking
> Andrew Phillips
> Design Engineer <[email protected]>
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