# Does an ideal capacitor dissipate power?

On several circuit simulators I have seen capacitors with a "Power" figure.

Also, I have wondered how capacitive power supplies work.

Does an ideal, zero resistance, zero leakage, zero inductance capacitor dissipate any power?

See image:

Link to simulation of this schematic

• Can you show this "Power" figure? Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 11:56
• See attached image. Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 12:00
• Note that in the simulation, the P value alternates between negative and positive Commented May 14, 2014 at 14:26

No, they don't dissipate energy, but they do store it. So energy can flow into a capacitor, and remain there, and then flow back out. Since power is the rate at which energy is used or moved, the power will be non-zero whenever energy is moving. But it's not being dissipated (converted into heat). It's just being moved around and stored.

It's important to remember the difference between instantaneous power and average power. A 1 ohm resistor with 1 VRMS AC across it will dissipate an average power of 1 W, for instance, but the instantaneous power will vary with the waveform:

With a reactive element (capacitor or inductor) as the load, the power will fluctuate between positive and negative as energy flows in and out, but the average will be zero:

• In the image you posted, the average power seems to be non-zero... so where is all this power going? Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 14:54
• That's a resistive load. The electrical energy is being converted into heat energy. Energy flows, power doesn't. Power is the rate at which energy flows. Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 14:55
• amasci.com/miscon/energ1.html Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 15:34
• So do you mean If we make circuit using Ideal Capacitors and Inductors there wont be any power consumed at all ? Commented May 14, 2014 at 10:31
• What about filter circuits then ? Commented May 14, 2014 at 10:31

An ideal capacitor would not dissipate any power. Real capacitors dissipate a small amount of power whenever current flows through them, due to ohmic losses. Also, when operated under continuous AC there are dielectric losses, which are minor at power line frequencies but can get significant at higher frequencies, depending on the type of cap.

• So the power figure is the power the capacitor is supplying? What happens when the power figure is negative, is that the power it is consuming? Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 11:46
• On average, a capacitor can't supply power. In an AC circuit, a capacitor can supply power during part of the cycle, but only because it absorbed power in the previous half of the cycle. Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 16:39
• In the case of your example, yes, the power is fluctuating between positive and negative because the capacitor is alternately absorbing and then supplying energy. Commented Oct 19, 2010 at 19:21