The capacitor is a component which has the ability or “capacity” to store energy in the form of an electrical charge producing a potential difference (Static Voltage) across its plates, much like a small rechargeable battery.
There are many different kinds of capacitors available from very small capacitor beads used in resonance circuits to large power factor correction capacitors, but they all do the same thing, they store charge.
In its basic form, a capacitor consists of two or more parallel conductive (metal) plates which are not connected or touching each other, but are electrically separated either by air or by some form of a good insulating material such as waxed paper, mica, ceramic, plastic or some form of a liquid gel as used in electrolytic capacitors. The insulating layer between a capacitors plates is commonly called the Dielectric.
A Typical Capacitor
Due to this insulating layer, DC current can not flow through the capacitor as it blocks it allowing instead a voltage to be present across the plates in the form of an electrical charge.
The conductive metal plates of a capacitor can be either square, circular or rectangular, or they can be of a cylindrical or spherical shape with the general shape, size and construction of a parallel plate capacitor depending on its application and voltage rating.
When used in a direct current or DC circuit, a capacitor charges up to its supply voltage but blocks the flow of current through it because the dielectric of a capacitor is non-conductive and basically an insulator. However, when a capacitor is connected to an alternating current or AC circuit, the flow of the current appears to pass straight through the capacitor with little or no resistance.