A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals changes the current flowing 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. The transistor is the fundamental building block of modern electronic devices, and is ubiquitous in modern electronic systems. Following its development in the early 1950s the transistor revolutionized the field of electronics, and paved the way for smaller and cheaper radios, calculators, andcomputers, among other things.
The essential usefulness of a transistor comes from its ability to use a small signal applied between one pair of its terminals to control a much larger signal at another pair of terminals. This property is called gain. A transistor can control its output in proportion to the input signal; that is, it can act as an amplifier. Alternatively, the transistor can be used to turn current on or off in a circuit as an electrically controlled switch, where the amount of current is determined by other circuit elements.
There are two types of transistors, which have slight differences in how they are used in a circuit. A bipolar transistor has terminals labeled base, collector, and emitter. A small current at the base terminal (that is, flowing between the base and the emitter) can control or switch a much larger current between the collector and emitter terminals. For a field-effect transistor, the terminals are labeled gate, source, and drain, and a voltage at the gate can control a current between source and drain.
Types of transistor
|Transistor circuit symbols |
There are two types of standard transistors, NPN and PNP, with different circuit symbols. The letters refer to the layers of semiconductor material used to make the transistor. Most transistors used today are NPN because this is the easiest type to make from silicon. If you are new to electronics it is best to start by learning how to use NPN transistors. The leads are labelled base (B), collector (C) and emitter (E). These terms refer to the internal operation of a transistor but they are not much help in understanding how a transistor is used, so just treat them as labels! A Darlington pair is two transistors connected together to give a very high current gain. In addition to standard (bipolar junction) transistors, there are field-effect transistors which are usually referred to as FETs. They have different circuit symbols and properties and they are not (yet) covered by this page.
A photoresistor or light dependent resistor (LDR) is a resistor whose resistancedecreases with increasing incident light intensity; in other words, it exhibitsphotoconductivity.
A photoresistor is made of a high resistance semiconductor. If light falling on the device is of high enough frequency, photons absorbed by the semiconductor give bound electronsenough energy to jump into the conduction band. The resulting free electron (and its holepartner) conduct electricity, thereby lowering resistance.
A photoelectric device can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. An intrinsic semiconductor has its own charge carriers and is not an efficient semiconductor, for example, silicon. In intrinsic devices the only available electrons are in the valence band, and hence the photon must have enough energy to excite the electron across the entire bandgap. Extrinsic devices have impurities, also called dopants, added whose ground state energy is closer to the conduction band; since the electrons do not have as far to...
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