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10 Commonly Used Semiconductor Devices in Board Level Electronics

Semiconductor devices play a crucial role in the operation of electronic circuits, and as such, they are widely used in a variety of applications. In this article, we will discuss ten of the most commonly used semiconductor devices and how they function in electronic circuits. We will cover their key characteristics, as well as their advantages and limitations. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced engineer, this article will provide valuable insights into the use of semiconductor devices in board level electronics.

Introduction to Semiconductor Devices

Semiconductor devices are electronic components that use the flow of electrons in a semiconductor material to perform various functions, such as switching, amplification, and signal processing. These devices are essential in modern electronic circuits and are used in a wide range of applications, including computers, smartphones, appliances, and industrial control systems.

Types of Semiconductor Devices

There are two main types of semiconductor devices: diodes and transistors. Diodes are two-terminal devices that allow the flow of current in only one direction, making them useful for rectifying alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). Transistors are three-terminal devices that can amplify a small signal or switch a larger current on and off, making them useful for digital logic and amplifying circuits.

Integrated Circuit (IC)
  • Integrated Circuits (ICs): Integrated Circuits are complex sets of interconnected transistors and other components packaged together into one single chip for specific functions such as memory storage, logic gates operations, microcontrollers, etc. ICs vary greatly in complexity, from simple logic chips to powerful computing processors with millions of transistors packed together inside one tiny package!
Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)
  • Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs): Semiconductor devices that are based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks (CLBs) connected via programmable interconnects. FPGAs can be reprogrammed to desired application or functionality requirements after manufacturing.
Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT)
  • Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJTs): BJTs are transistors with three terminals. They can be used as a switch, amplifier, or oscillator, depending on how they are connected to other components. 
Field Effect Transistor (FET)
  • Field Effect Transistors (FETs): FETs also have three terminals and operate similarly to BJTs but with different electrical characteristics. They can be used as switches or amplifiers in board-level electronics applications due to their low power consumption and high gain capability. 
  • Thyristors: Thyristors are four-terminal semiconductor devices that can control large amounts of power flow by simply turning them on or off without any external control signals. They can be used in AC/DC conversion circuits, motor speed control circuits, and many other applications where large amounts of power needs to be controlled quickly and accurately. 
Light Emitting Diode (LED)
  • Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs): LEDs are two-terminal devices that emit visible light when current is applied through them. They can be used for indicator lights, backlighting displays, or even lighting up rooms, depending on the application requirements. 
  • Photodiodes: Photodiodes are two-terminal devices that generate an electrical current when exposed to light energy or radiation from other sources such as X-rays or lasers. These types of diodes can be used in optical sensing applications such as barcode readers and fingerprint scanners. 
  • Optocouplers: Optocouplers consist of an LED coupled with a photodiode which allows the transfer of information between circuits without a direct electrical connection between them, which makes it ideal for isolating sensitive circuitry from potentially dangerous input signals while maintaining reliable data transmission accuracy and integrity at the same time. 
  • Transistors: A transistor is a three-terminal electronic device that can be used to amplify or switch electronic signals. They are used in a wide variety of electronic circuits, including amplifiers, switches, and power supplies.
  • Diode: A diode is a two-terminal device that allows the flow of current in only one direction. It consists of a p-type semiconductor and an n-type semiconductor, which are joined together to form a junction. When a voltage is applied to the diode in the forward direction, the p-type semiconductor allows electrons to flow, while the n-type semiconductor allows holes to flow. This results in a current flow through the diode.supplying hundreds if not thousands of volts at hundreds if not thousands of amperes worth current!  

Integrated Circuits (ICs)

Integrated Circuits (ICs) are a type of semiconductor device that contains multiple transistors, diodes, and other components on a single chip of semiconductor material. They are used to perform complex functions, such as computation, signal processing, and control, and are widely used in electronic systems.

One type of IC is the microprocessor, which is a central processing unit (CPU) that performs arithmetic and logic operations on data. The brains of computers and other digital systems are called microprocessors, and they carry out the instructions from software programs. Microprocessors are classified by their bit-width, which determines the size of the data they can process. For example, a 32-bit microprocessor can process data up to 32 bits wide, while a 64-bit microprocessor can process data up to 64 bits wide.

The Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), a kind of programmable logic device that can be configured to perform different functions, is another kind of IC. When a device’s functionality needs to be updated or reconfigured, such as during prototyping, testing, and low-volume production, FPGAs are used. Logic functions and connections can be implemented using the programmable interconnects and programmable logic blocks found in FPGAs.

ICs offer several advantages over discrete components, including smaller size, higher reliability, and lower cost. However, they also have some limitations, such as longer design times and lower flexibility. Overall, ICs are a vital component in modern electronic systems and continue to play a crucial role in the advancement of technology.

In conclusion, semiconductor devices are essential components of electronic circuits and are suitable for a wide range of applications due to their complex range of features and functions. In this article, we have featured ten commonly used semiconductor devices and their important features. Designing and troubleshooting electronic circuits require an understanding of the traits and limitations of these devices.

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