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Reactivating Leaky Electrolytic Capacitors
January 1956 Popular Electronics

January 1956 Popular Electronics

January 1956 Popular Electronics Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Popular Electronics, published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

Unlike the Roll Your Own Foil Capacitors article in the same issue of Popular Electronics magazine, this one advising how to reactivate leaky capacitors might be of use to a lot more people. The process is called "reforming," and consists of applying a DC voltage to the faulty capacitor, beginning at a very low voltage, and then slowly raising the voltage until the rated working voltage (WVDC) is reached. Doing so, if the capacitor is not beyond rehabilitation, will reconstitute the oxide layer that serves as the dielectric. This particular item was presented as the answer to a question posed by a reader. A Google search on "reform capacitor" will turn up more detail about the procedure. Most people recommend against reforming unless you have no other option, as this writer from India might have faced at the time.

Reactivating Leaky Electrolytics

Semcor RC-115 Capacitance Test Box - RF Cafe (business name: Kirt Blattenberger)

Semcor RC-115 reforming a old Mallory 30 MFD 450V electrolytic capacitor sold by Lafayette Radio. Note that  the original University of Ohio web page is gone, so the hyperlink now goes to The Wayback Machine on Archive.org.

Making purchases of electrolytic capacitors through the post is quite risky, as nearly half of the stuff you receive may turn out to be leaky due to long storage. Is there any method of re-activating such leaky electrolytics?

A. H. Purti

Jamshedpur, India

It is frequently possible to rehabilitate electrolytic capacitors which have become excessively leaky after long periods of inactivity. The process is known as "reforming" and consists of rejuvenating the insulating film in the capacitor. To accomplish this, a variable-voltage d.c. power supply having good regulation is necessary. With the voltage set very low, the capacitor is connected across the supply and the voltage gradually increased over a period of several minutes until it is equal to the working voltage rating of the capacitor. The voltage is held at this point for several minutes, or until the leakage current has decreased to its normal value. During this process, the leakage current should be checked frequently. If it is allowed to rise too high, the capacitor may be permanently damaged.



Posted January 20, 2022
(updated from original post on 11/24/2014)

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