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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.
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.
An electromagnetic field is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. It affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature.
Electrical elements are conceptual abstractions representing idealized electrical components, such as resistors, capacitors, and inductors, used in the analysis of electrical networks. All electrical networks can be analyzed as multiple electrical elements interconnected by wires. Where the elements roughly correspond to real components the representation can be in the form of a schematic diagram or circuit diagram. This is called a lumped element circuit model. In other cases infinitesimal elements are used to model the network in a distributed element model.
Electronic components have a number of electrical terminals or leads. These leads connect to create an electronic circuit with a particular function (for example an amplifier, radio receiver, or oscillator). Basic electronic components may be packaged discretely, as arrays or networks of like components, or integrated inside of packages such as semiconductor integrated circuits, hybrid integrated circuits, or thick film devices. The following list of electronic components focuses on the discrete version of these components, treating such packages as components in their own right.
In electronics, a lead is an electrical connection consisting of a length of wire or a metal pad (SMD) that is designed to connect two locations electrically. Leads are used for many purposes, including: transfer of power; testing of an electrical circuit to see if it is working, using a test light or a multimeter; transmiting information, as when the leads from an electrocardiograph, or ECG are attached to a person's body to transmit information about their heart rhythm; and sometimes to act as a heatsink. The tiny leads coming off through-hole components are also often called pins.
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.
An amplifier, electronic amplifier or (informally) amp is an electronic device that can increase the power of a signal. It is a two-port electronic circuit that uses electric power from a power supply to increase the amplitude of a signal applied to its input terminals, producing a proportionally greater amplitude signal at its output. The amount of amplification provided by an amplifier is measured by its gain: the ratio of output voltage, current, or power to input. An amplifier is a circuit that has a power gain greater than one.
Components can be classified as passive, active, or electromechanic. The strict physics definition treats passive components as ones that cannot supply energy themselves, whereas a battery would be seen as an active component since it truly acts as a source of energy.
Passivity is a property of engineering systems, used in a variety of engineering disciplines, but most commonly found in analog electronics and control systems. A passive component, depending on field, may be either a component that consumes but does not produce energy or a component that is incapable of power gain.
However, electronic engineers who perform circuit analysis use a more restrictive definition of passivity. When only concerned with the energy of signals, it is convenient to ignore the so-called DC circuit and pretend that the power supplying components such as transistors or integrated circuits is absent (as if each such component had its own battery built in), though it may in reality be supplied by the DC circuit. Then, the analysis only concerns the AC circuit, an abstraction that ignores DC voltages and currents (and the power associated with them) present in the real-life circuit. This fiction, for instance, lets us view an oscillator as "producing energy" even though in reality the oscillator consumes even more energy from a DC power supply, which we have chosen to ignore. Under that restriction, we define the terms as used in circuit analysis as:
Direct current (DC) is the unidirectional flow of electric charge. A battery is a good example of a DC power supply. Direct current may flow in a conductor such as a wire, but can also flow through semiconductors, insulators, or even through a vacuum as in electron or ion beams. The electric current flows in a constant direction, distinguishing it from alternating current (AC). A term formerly used for this type of current was galvanic current.
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.
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.
In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve or, colloquially, a tube, is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.
A tunnel diode or Esaki diode is a type of semiconductor diode that has negative resistance due to the quantum mechanical effect called tunneling. It was invented in August 1957 by Leo Esaki, Yuriko Kurose, and Takashi Suzuki when they were working at Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, now known as Sony. In 1973, Esaki received the Nobel Prize in Physics, jointly with Brian Josephson, for discovering the electron tunneling effect used in these diodes. Robert Noyce independently devised the idea of a tunnel diode while working for William Shockley, but was discouraged from pursuing it. Tunnel diodes were first manufactured by Sony in 1957, followed by General Electric and other companies from about 1960, and are still made in low volume today.
In engineering, electromechanics combines processes and procedures drawn from electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Electromechanics focuses on the interaction of electrical and mechanical systems as a whole and how the two systems interact with each other. This process is especially prominent in systems such as those of DC Machines which can be designed and operated to generate power from a mechanical process (generator) or used to power a mechanical effect (motor). Electrical engineering in this context also encompasses electronics engineering.
Most passive components with more than two terminals can be described in terms of two-port parameters that satisfy the principle of reciprocity—though there are rare exceptions.In contrast, active components (with more than two terminals) generally lack that property.
In classical electromagnetism, reciprocity refers to a variety of related theorems involving the interchange of time-harmonic electric current densities (sources) and the resulting electromagnetic fields in Maxwell's equations for time-invariant linear media under certain constraints. Reciprocity is closely related to the concept of Hermitian operators from linear algebra, applied to electromagnetism.
Conduct electricity easily in one direction, among more specific behaviors.
Transistors were considered the invention of the twentieth century that changed electronic circuits forever. A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power.
A vacuum tube is based on current conduction through a vacuum (see Vacuum tube).
Optical detectors or emitters
Sources of electrical power:
Components incapable of controlling current by means of another electrical signal are called passive devices. Resistors, capacitors, inductors, and transformers are all considered passive devices.
Pass current in proportion to voltage (Ohm's law) and oppose current.
Capacitors store and release electrical charge. They are used for filtering power supply lines, tuning resonant circuits, and for blocking DC voltages while passing AC signals, among numerous other uses.
Electrical components that use magnetism in the storage and release of electrical charge through current:
Electrical components that pass charge in proportion to magnetism or magnetic flux, and have the ability to retain a previous resistive state, hence the name of Memory plus Resistor.
Components that use more than one type of passive component:
Antennas transmit or receive radio waves
Multiple electronic components assembled in a device that is in itself used as a component
Passive components that use piezoelectric effect:
Devices to make electrical connection
Electrical cables with connectors or terminals at their ends
Components that can pass current ("closed") or break the current ("open"):
Passive components that protect circuits from excessive currents or voltages:
On a circuit diagram, electronic devices are represented by conventional symbols. Reference designators are applied to the symbols to identify the components.
An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a periodic, oscillating electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave. Oscillators convert direct current (DC) from a power supply to an alternating current (AC) signal. They are widely used in many electronic devices. Common examples of signals generated by oscillators include signals broadcast by radio and television transmitters, clock signals that regulate computers and quartz clocks, and the sounds produced by electronic beepers and video games.
A photodiode is a semiconductor device that converts light into an electrical current. The current is generated when photons are absorbed in the photodiode. Photodiodes may contain optical filters, built-in lenses, and may have large or small surface areas. Photodiodes usually have a slower response time as their surface area increases. The common, traditional solar cell used to generate electric solar power is a large area photodiode.
A rectifier is an electrical device that converts alternating current (AC), which periodically reverses direction, to direct current (DC), which flows in only one direction.
In electronics, a linear regulator is a system used to maintain a steady voltage. The resistance of the regulator varies in accordance with the load resulting in a constant output voltage. The regulating device is made to act like a variable resistor, continuously adjusting a voltage divider network to maintain a constant output voltage and continually dissipating the difference between the input and regulated voltages as waste heat. By contrast, a switching regulator uses an active device that switches on and off to maintain an average value of output. Because the regulated voltage of a linear regulator must always be lower than input voltage, efficiency is limited and the input voltage must be high enough to always allow the active device to drop some voltage.
In electronics, a varicap diode, varactor diode, variable capacitance diode, variable reactance diode or tuning diode is a type of diode designed to exploit the voltage-dependent capacitance of a reverse-biased p–n junction.
Small-signal modeling is a common analysis technique in electronics engineering which is used to approximate the behavior of electronic circuits containing nonlinear devices with linear equations. It is applicable to electronic circuits in which the AC signals, the time-varying currents and voltages in the circuit, have a small magnitude compared to the DC bias currents and voltages. A small-signal model is an AC equivalent circuit in which the nonlinear circuit elements are replaced by linear elements whose values are given by the first-order (linear) approximation of their characteristic curve near the bias point.
A hybrid integrated circuit (HIC), hybrid microcircuit, hybrid circuit or simply hybrid is a miniaturized electronic circuit constructed of individual devices, such as semiconductor devices and passive components, bonded to a substrate or printed circuit board (PCB). A PCB having components on a Printed Wiring Board (PWB) is not considered a hybrid circuit according to the definition of MIL-PRF-38534.
A variable capacitor is a capacitor whose capacitance may be intentionally and repeatedly changed mechanically or electronically. Variable capacitors are often used in L/C circuits to set the resonance frequency, e.g. to tune a radio, or as a variable reactance, e.g. for impedance matching in antenna tuners.
A current–voltage characteristic or I–V curve is a relationship, typically represented as a chart or graph, between the electric current through a circuit, device, or material, and the corresponding voltage, or potential difference across it.
An electronic symbol is a pictogram used to represent various electrical and electronic devices or functions, such as wires, batteries, resistors, and transistors, in a schematic diagram of an electrical or electronic circuit. These symbols are largely standardized internationally today, but may vary from country to country, or engineering discipline, based on traditional conventions.
A blocking oscillator is a simple configuration of discrete electronic components which can produce a free-running signal, requiring only a resistor, a transformer, and one amplifying element. The name is derived from the fact that the transistor is cut-off or "blocked" for most of the duty-cycle, producing periodic pulses. The non-sinusoidal output is not suitable for use as a radio-frequency local oscillator, but it can serve as a timing generator, to power lights, LEDs, Elwire, or small neon indicators. The simple tones are also sufficient for applications such as alarms or a Morse code practice device. Some cameras use a blocking oscillator to strobe the flash prior to a shot to reduce the red-eye effect.
Biasing in electronics means establishing predetermined voltages or currents at various points of an electronic circuit for the purpose of establishing proper operating conditions in electronic components. Many electronic devices such as diodes, transistors and vacuum tubes, whose function is processing time-varying (AC) signals also require a steady (DC) current or voltage to operate correctly — a bias. The AC signal applied to them is superposed on this DC bias current or voltage. The operating point of a device, also known as bias point, quiescent point, or Q-point, is the DC voltage or current at a specified terminal of an active device with no input signal applied. A bias circuit is a portion of the device's circuit which supplies this steady current or voltage.
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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