An electronic circuit is composed of individual electronic components, such as resistors, transistors, capacitors, inductors and diodes, connected by conductive wires or traces through which electric current can flow. To be referred to as electronic, rather than electrical, generally at least one active component must be present. The combination of components and wires allows various simple and complex operations to be performed: signals can be amplified, computations can be performed, and data can be moved from one place to another.
An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields. Electronic components are mostly industrial products, available in a singular form and are not to be confused with electrical elements, which are conceptual abstractions representing idealized electronic components.
A resistor is a passive two-terminal electrical component that implements electrical resistance as a circuit element. In electronic circuits, resistors are used to reduce current flow, adjust signal levels, to divide voltages, bias active elements, and terminate transmission lines, among other uses. High-power resistors that can dissipate many watts of electrical power as heat, may be used as part of motor controls, in power distribution systems, or as test loads for generators. Fixed resistors have resistances that only change slightly with temperature, time or operating voltage. Variable resistors can be used to adjust circuit elements, or as sensing devices for heat, light, humidity, force, or chemical activity.
A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.
Circuits can be constructed of discrete components connected by individual pieces of wire, but today it is much more common to create interconnections by photolithographic techniques on a laminated substrate (a printed circuit board or PCB) and solder the components to these interconnections to create a finished circuit. In an integrated circuit or IC, the components and interconnections are formed on the same substrate, typically a semiconductor such as silicon or (less commonly) gallium arsenide.
A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components or electrical components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from one or more sheet layers of copper laminated onto and/or between sheet layers of a non-conductive substrate. Components are generally soldered onto the PCB to both electrically connect and mechanically fasten them to it.
Solder is a fusible metal alloy used to create a permanent bond between metal workpieces. The word solder comes from the Middle English word soudur, via Old French solduree and soulder, from the Latin solidare, meaning "to make solid". In fact, solder must first be melted in order to adhere to and connect the pieces together after cooling, which requires that an alloy suitable for use as solder have a lower melting point than the pieces being joined. The solder should also be resistant to oxidative and corrosive effects that would degrade the joint over time. Solder used in making electrical connections also needs to have favorable electrical characteristics.
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material that is normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, cheaper, and faster than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.
An electronic circuit can usually be categorized as an analog circuit, a digital circuit, or a mixed-signal circuit (a combination of analog circuits and digital circuits).
Breadboards, perfboards, and stripboards are common for testing new designs. They allow the designer to make quick changes to the circuit during development.
A breadboard is a construction base for prototyping of electronics. Originally it was literally a bread board, a polished piece of wood used for slicing bread. In the 1970s the solderless breadboard became available and nowadays the term "breadboard" is commonly used to refer to these.
Perfboard is a material for prototyping electronic circuits. It is a thin, rigid sheet with holes pre-drilled at standard intervals across a grid, usually a square grid of 0.1 inches (2.54 mm) spacing. These holes are ringed by round or square copper pads, though bare boards are also available. Inexpensive perfboard may have pads on only one side of the board, while better quality perfboard can have pads on both sides. Since each pad is electrically isolated, the builder makes all connections with either wire wrap or miniature point to point wiring techniques. Discrete components are soldered to the prototype board such as resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits. The substrate is typically made of paper laminated with phenolic resin or a fiberglass-reinforced epoxy laminate (FR-4).
Stripboard is the generic name for a widely used type of electronics prototyping board characterized by a 0.1 inches (2.54 mm) regular (rectangular) grid of holes, with wide parallel strips of copper cladding running in one direction all the way across one side of the board. It is commonly also known by the name of the original product Veroboard, which is a trademark, in the UK, of British company Vero Technologies Ltd and Canadian company Pixel Print Ltd. In using the board, breaks are made in the tracks, usually around holes, to divide the strips into multiple electrical nodes. With care, it is possible to break between holes to allow for components that have two pin rows only one position apart such as twin row headers for IDCs.
Analog electronic circuits are those in which current or voltage may vary continuously with time to correspond to the information being represented. Analog circuitry is constructed from two fundamental building blocks: series and parallel circuits.
Voltage, electric potential difference, electric pressure or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points. The difference in electric potential between two points in a static electric field is defined as the work needed per unit of charge to move a test charge between the two points. In the International System of Units, the derived unit for voltage is named volt. In SI units, work per unit charge is expressed as joules per coulomb, where 1 volt = 1 joule per 1 coulomb. The official SI definition for volt uses power and current, where 1 volt = 1 watt per 1 ampere. This definition is equivalent to the more commonly used 'joules per coulomb'. Voltage or electric potential difference is denoted symbolically by ∆V, but more often simply as V, for instance in the context of Ohm's or Kirchhoff's circuit laws.
Components of an electrical circuit or electronic circuit can be connected in many different ways. The two simplest of these are called series and parallel and occur frequently. Components connected in series are connected along a single path, so the same current flows through all of the components. Components connected in parallel are connected along multiple paths, so the same voltage is applied to each component.
In a series circuit, the same current passes through a series of components. A string of Christmas lights is a good example of a series circuit: if one goes out, they all do.
In a parallel circuit, all the components are connected to the same voltage, and the current divides between the various components according to their resistance.
The basic components of analog circuits are wires, resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, and transistors. (In 2012 it was demonstrated that memristors can be added to the list of available components.) Analog circuits are very commonly represented in schematic diagrams, in which wires are shown as lines, and each component has a unique symbol. Analog circuit analysis employs Kirchhoff's circuit laws: all the currents at a node (a place where wires meet), and the voltage around a closed loop of wires is 0. Wires are usually treated as ideal zero-voltage interconnections; any resistance or reactance is captured by explicitly adding a parasitic element, such as a discrete resistor or inductor. Active components such as transistors are often treated as controlled current or voltage sources: for example, a field-effect transistor can be modeled as a current source from the source to the drain, with the current controlled by the gate-source voltage.
A diode is a two-terminal electronic component that conducts current primarily in one direction ; it has low resistance in one direction, and high resistance in the other. A diode vacuum tube or thermionic diode is a vacuum tube with two electrodes, a heated cathode and a plate, in which electrons can flow in only one direction, from cathode to plate. A semiconductor diode, the most common type today, is a crystalline piece of semiconductor material with a p–n junction connected to two electrical terminals. Semiconductor diodes were the first semiconductor electronic devices. The discovery of asymmetric electrical conduction across the contact between a crystalline mineral and a metal was made by German physicist Ferdinand Braun in 1874. Today, most diodes are made of silicon, but other materials such as gallium arsenide and germanium are used.
A memristor is a hypothetical non-linear passive two-terminal electrical component relating electric charge and magnetic flux linkage. It was envisioned, and its name coined, in 1971 by circuit theorist Leon Chua. According to the characterizing mathematical relations, the memristor would hypothetically operate in the following way: the memristor's electrical resistance is not constant but depends on the history of current that had previously flowed through the device, i.e., its present resistance depends on how much electric charge has flowed in what direction through it in the past; the device remembers its history — the so-called non-volatility property. When the electric power supply is turned off, the memristor remembers its most recent resistance until it is turned on again.
Kirchhoff's laws are two equalities that deal with the current and potential difference in the lumped element model of electrical circuits. They were first described in 1845 by German physicist Gustav Kirchhoff. This generalized the work of Georg Ohm and preceded the work of James Clerk Maxwell. Widely used in electrical engineering, they are also called Kirchhoff's rules or simply Kirchhoff's laws. These laws can be applied in time and frequency domains and form the basis for network analysis.
An alternative model is to take independent power sources and induction as basic electronic units; this allows modeling frequency dependent negative resistors, gyrators, negative impedance converters, and dependent sources as secondary electronic components.[ clarification needed ][ citation needed ]
When the circuit size is comparable to a wavelength of the relevant signal frequency, a more sophisticated approach must be used, the distributed element model. Wires are treated as transmission lines, with nominally constant characteristic impedance, and the impedances at the start and end determine transmitted and reflected waves on the line. Circuits designed according to this approach are distributed element circuits. Such considerations typically become important for circuit boards at frequencies above a GHz; integrated circuits are smaller and can be treated as lumped elements for frequencies less than 10GHz or so.
In digital electronic circuits, electric signals take on discrete values, to represent logical and numeric values.These values represent the information that is being processed. In the vast majority of cases, binary encoding is used: one voltage (typically the more positive value) represents a binary '1' and another voltage (usually a value near the ground potential, 0 V) represents a binary '0'. Digital circuits make extensive use of transistors, interconnected to create logic gates that provide the functions of Boolean logic: AND, NAND, OR, NOR, XOR and all possible combinations thereof. Transistors interconnected so as to provide positive feedback are used as latches and flip flops, circuits that have two or more metastable states, and remain in one of these states until changed by an external input. Digital circuits therefore can provide both logic and memory, enabling them to perform arbitrary computational functions. (Memory based on flip-flops is known as static random-access memory (SRAM). Memory based on the storage of charge in a capacitor, dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) is also widely used.)
The design process for digital circuits is fundamentally different from the process for analog circuits. Each logic gate regenerates the binary signal, so the designer need not account for distortion, gain control, offset voltages, and other concerns faced in an analog design. As a consequence, extremely complex digital circuits, with billions of logic elements integrated on a single silicon chip, can be fabricated at low cost. Such digital integrated circuits are ubiquitous in modern electronic devices, such as calculators, mobile phone handsets, and computers. As digital circuits become more complex, issues of time delay, logic races, power dissipation, non-ideal switching, on-chip and inter-chip loading, and leakage currents, become limitations to the density, speed and performance.
Digital circuitry is used to create general purpose computing chips, such as microprocessors, and custom-designed logic circuits, known as application-specific integrated circuit (ASICs). Field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), chips with logic circuitry whose configuration can be modified after fabrication, are also widely used in prototyping and development.
Mixed-signal or hybrid circuits contain elements of both analog and digital circuits. Examples include comparators, timers, phase-locked loops, analog-to-digital converters, and digital-to-analog converters. Most modern radio and communications circuitry uses mixed signal circuits. For example, in a receiver, analog circuitry is used to amplify and frequency-convert signals so that they reach a suitable state to be converted into digital values, after which further signal processing can be performed in the digital domain.
An electrical network is an interconnection of electrical components or a model of such an interconnection, consisting of electrical elements. An electrical circuit is a network consisting of a closed loop, giving a return path for the current. Linear electrical networks, a special type consisting only of sources, linear lumped elements, and linear distributed elements, have the property that signals are linearly superimposable. They are thus more easily analyzed, using powerful frequency domain methods such as Laplace transforms, to determine DC response, AC response, and transient response.
Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. The identification of the electron in 1897, along with the invention of the vacuum tube, which could amplify and rectify small electrical signals, inaugurated the field of electronics and the electron age.
Microelectronics is a subfield of electronics. As the name suggests, microelectronics relates to the study and manufacture of very small electronic designs and components. Usually, but not always, this means micrometre-scale or smaller. These devices are typically made from semiconductor materials. Many components of normal electronic design are available in a microelectronic equivalent. These include transistors, capacitors, inductors, resistors, diodes and (naturally) insulators and conductors can all be found in microelectronic devices. Unique wiring techniques such as wire bonding are also often used in microelectronics because of the unusually small size of the components, leads and pads. This technique requires specialized equipment and is expensive.
In electronics, an analog-to-digital converter is a system that converts an analog signal, such as a sound picked up by a microphone or light entering a digital camera, into a digital signal. An ADC may also provide an isolated measurement such as an electronic device that converts an input analog voltage or current to a digital number representing the magnitude of the voltage or current. Typically the digital output is a two's complement binary number that is proportional to the input, but there are other possibilities.
Capacitive coupling is the transfer of energy within an electrical network or between distant networks by means of displacement current between circuit(s) nodes, induced by the electric field. This coupling can have an intentional or accidental effect.
In electronics, a comparator is a device that compares two voltages or currents and outputs a digital signal indicating which is larger. It has two analog input terminals and and one binary digital output . The output is ideally
In electronics, a digital-to-analog converter is a system that converts a digital signal into an analog signal. An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) performs the reverse function.
Resistor–transistor logic (RTL) is a class of digital circuits built using resistors as the input network and bipolar junction transistors (BJTs) as switching devices. RTL is the earliest class of transistorized digital logic circuit used; other classes include diode–transistor logic (DTL) and transistor–transistor logic (TTL). RTL circuits were first constructed with discrete components, but in 1961 it became the first digital logic family to be produced as a monolithic integrated circuit. RTL integrated circuits were used in the Apollo Guidance Computer, whose design was begun in 1961 and which first flew in 1966.
In electronics, a sample and hold circuit is an analog device that samples the voltage of a continuously varying analog signal and holds its value at a constant level for a specified minimum period of time. Sample and hold circuits and related peak detectors are the elementary analog memory devices. They are typically used in analog-to-digital converters to eliminate variations in input signal that can corrupt the conversion process. They are also used in electronic music, for instance to impart a random quality to successively-played notes
Integrated circuit design, or IC design, is a subset of electronics engineering, encompassing the particular logic and circuit design techniques required to design integrated circuits, or ICs. ICs consist of miniaturized electronic components built into an electrical network on a monolithic semiconductor substrate by photolithography.
An analog chip is a set of miniature electronic analog circuits formed on a single piece of semiconductor material.
A resistor ladder is an electrical circuit made from repeating units of resistors. Two configurations are discussed below, a string resistor ladder and an R–2R ladder.
An open collector is a common type of output found on many integrated circuits (IC), which behaves like a switch that is either connected to ground or disconnected.
A flash ADC is a type of analog-to-digital converter that uses a linear voltage ladder with a comparator at each "rung" of the ladder to compare the input voltage to successive reference voltages. Often these reference ladders are constructed of many resistors; however, modern implementations show that capacitive voltage division is also possible. The output of these comparators is generally fed into a digital encoder, which converts the inputs into a binary value.
A linear circuit is an electronic circuit in which, for a sinusoidal input voltage of frequency f, any steady-state output of the circuit is also sinusoidal with frequency f. Note that the output need not be in phase with the input.
CircuitLogix is a software electronic circuit simulator which uses PSpice to simulate thousands of electronic devices, models, and circuits. CircuitLogix supports analog, digital, and mixed-signal circuits, and its SPICE simulation gives accurate real-world results. The graphic user interface allows students to quickly and easily draw, modify and combine analog and digital circuit diagrams. CircuitLogix was first launched in 2005, and its popularity has grown quickly since that time. In 2012, it reached the milestone of 250,000 licensed users, and became the first electronics simulation product to have a global installed base of a quarter-million customers in over 100 countries.
Capacitors have many uses in electronic and electrical systems. They are so ubiquitous that it is rare that an electrical product does not include at least one for some purpose.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to electronics:
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