Current and Voltage Reversal
Current reversal occurs when the flow of current changes direction. Voltage reversal is the change of polarity in a circuit. Reversal is generally described as the percentage of the maximum rated voltage that reverses polarity. In DC circuits this will usually be less than 100%, (often in the range of 0 to 90%), whereas AC circuits experience 100% reversal.
In DC circuits and pulsed circuits, current and voltage reversal are affected by the damping of the system. Voltage reversal is encountered in RLC circuits that are under-damped. The current and voltage reverse direction, forming a harmonic oscillator between the inductance and capacitance. The current and voltage will tend to oscillate and may reverse direction several times, with each peak being lower than the previous, until the system reaches an equilibrium. This is often referred to as ringing. In comparison, critically damped or over-damped systems usually do not experience a voltage reversal. Reversal is also encountered in AC circuits, where the peak current will be equal in each direction.
For maximum life, capacitors usually need to be able to handle the maximum amount of reversal that a system will experience. An AC circuit will experience 100% voltage reversal, while under-damped DC circuits will experience less than 100%. Reversal creates excess electric fields in the dielectric, causes excess heating of both the dielectric and the conductors, and can dramatically shorten the life-expectancy of the capacitor. Reversal ratings will often affect the design considerations for the capacitor, from the choice of dielectric materials and voltage ratings to the types of internal connections used.