Switches are the foundation on which nearly all electrical devices operate. From complex computers to lamp and appliance buttons, most electrical devices contain switches. Some switches, however, rely on capacitive sensing to function. Known as capacitive switches, they offer an attractive alternative to mechanical switches. For a better understanding of capacitive switches and how they work, keep reading

What Is a Capacitive Switch?

A capacitive switch is a type of electrical switch that responds to touch with a conductive object. Like all other switches, including mechanical switches, they feature a circuit that alternates between an open and closed state. Switches change between an open and closed state in response to user input. Capacitive switches require a physical touch with a conductive object to alternate from an open state to a closed state or vice versa.

How Capacitive Switches Work

While capacitive switches may sound complex, they work in a very simple manner. They create a uniform static electric field while constantly measuring it for changes. If a conductive object touches a capacitive switch, the switch’s capacitance will change. Therefore, the capacitive switch will respond by opening or closing the circuit.

Advantages of Capacitive Switches

Capacitive switches offer some key advantages that make them an attractive choice among business owners and consumers. For starters, they are better protected against premature failure than mechanical switches Since capacitive switches measure capacitance to detect input, they don’t contain moving parts. The end result is a longer-lasting switching solution that’s able to withstand the hands of time.

In addition to protecting against premature failure, capacitive switches are attractive and stylish. You might be surprised to learn, in fact, that they support backlighting. Light-emitting diode (LED) backlighting can be used in capacitive switches to create a colorful illuminated effect. The LEDs can be used independently for backlighting, or they can be used for light guides.

Keep in mind that capacitive switches only work with a conductive object. Since the human body is an excellent conductor of electricity, you can use a bare finger to control a capacitive switch. Unfortunately, though, you won’t be able to wear gloves. Most gloves, especially thick gloves, will prevent electricity from flowing between your finger and the switch Therefore, you can’t wear gloves when using a capacitive switch. The only exception is if you are wearing capacitive gloves, which are designed specifically for use with capacitive switches and other capacitive-powered touch devices.