What are Electronic Components: Your Guide to Buying Them

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Electronic components are the building blocks of everything digital. They’re crucial for any device that uses electricity, such as a computer, phone, camera, and even your car.

An electronic component like a resistor or capacitor may not look like much on its own. Still, when combined with other electronics, it can do useful things like produce an audible beep or make sure you get a clear photograph.

Further, some components like integrated circuits (ICs) and microprocessors contain the circuitry necessary to make computers function. It’s one of these CPUs that make up the brain inside every modern electronic gadget.

Where It All Starts: The Power Supply

Just about everything you’ll find in a supplier’s catalogue starts as electricity flowing through a circuit board within something called a power supply. The job of this component is to convert the AC power coming through your wall outlets into low-voltage, safe DC power that electronics can use.

Power supplies vary significantly by design, depending on their purpose inside a system. But, most have three main jobs: converting AC to DC, providing stable voltages, and regulating circuitry. Without these components, there is no technology as you know it today.

Voltage Regulators

Once the power supply finishes converting your wall outlet’s line voltage into low-voltage DC power, it needs to split that energy up into different parts of a device for it to be helpful to everything working together inside. One way this happens is through what are called voltage regulators.

These components use resistors and capacitors to manage how much power is coming in from the primary input, distributing it evenly across output rails at different voltages. The most common voltages you’ll find are 3.3vdc, 5vdc, 7vdc, 9vdc, and 12vdc — but sometimes 5v and 3.3v are combined into what’s called a 1.2vdc rail.

Once this power is split up and stabilised by the voltage regulator, it gets sent out to other components in your computer where it can be put to use doing useful things like powering the CPU or charging your phone’s battery.

More importantly, for those knowledgeable about circuits, each rail’s voltage has its specific job. Better understanding how semiconductors work will help you appreciate regulating current flow through transistors, controlling various levels of magnetic storage, powering sensors, and providing specific voltages needed by different types of buses.

Microprocessors

Every electronic device needs to have some central processing unit (CPU) that acts as its brain. A computer’s CPU handles tasks like opening files, moving items in memory, executing instructions inside programs, and communicating with other devices by sending signals through buses on the motherboard.

CPUs are created using billions upon billions of transistors whose main function is amplifying or inhibiting the flow of electrons through a circuit.

Buying ICs from a Trusted Supplier

  1. Wide Operating Temperature: -40°C to 125°C

How it helps:

This can be a problem in the electronic component market. While semiconductors are pretty good at handling extreme temperatures (they stay very close to room temperature), they must also remain within their safe operating range. If it’s too hot, they won’t work; their subpar performance may make them worse than useless if it’s too cold.

  1. Ultra Low Leakage Current

How it helps:

Many electronic devices like mobile phones and laptop computers need to use power for many different systems at once. Since most integrated circuits (ICs) already consume small amounts of energy on standby mode when not in use, higher leakage can cause significant drain over time. These problems become especially obvious in high-end computing environments where companies need to use a multitude of different devices which have to be kept in hard-to-reach places.

  1. High Breakdown Voltage  

How it helps:

A breakdown voltage is when a semiconductor device starts failing due to too much electric current, which can cause problems when designers need ICs to switch from off to on with very little difference in voltage levels.

Additionally, high breakdown voltages are critical for use in environments with a lot of heat or dust. If the insulation between circuits breaks down, short circuits can quickly become a severe problem.

  1. Very Sharp Reverse Bias

How it helps:

When you apply power backward through an integrated circuit, this is called a reverse bias. While most circuits can handle these for brief periods (typically about 30 seconds), very sharp reverse bias refers to how quickly the circuit fails when you start changing the polarity.

  1. High-Temperature Stability

How it helps:

If designers want an IC resistant to high temperatures, they need semiconductor materials that are stable up to 100°C or higher depending on their intended application.

While this isn’t typically required for consumer applications, it’s critical in industrial and military settings where static discharge is likely to present, yet heat-related failures must be completely avoided at all costs.

  1. Multiple Metastable States

 How it helps:

Metastability is a phenomenon by which certain semiconductors will remain in one state even if the voltage is applied to change it, which engineers can use to their advantage. Take, for instance, a circuit that uses low voltage but has very specific output requirements. Small fluctuations in the supply lines could create errors if this device switches states too quickly, so metastable circuits are sometimes used instead.

  1. High-Speed Switching

How it helps:

When ICs need to handle signals at extremely high frequencies (a few billion per second), they typically employ switched capacitance rather than resistance-capacitance (RC) delays introduced by resistors. This way, designers don’t have to deal with signal reflection and take full advantage of fast switching speeds that arise when using these kinds of components.

  1. Stable Output Through Varying Loads

How it helps:

When you have a circuit used to convert DC voltage from one level to another, designers must be careful about how precise the output remains as the load on the line changes. This isn’t a problem with simple circuits because they’re either completely off or always powered up. But when power switches are present, stability becomes of paramount importance for electronics that function in harsh environments.

If you’re working with electronic circuits and need to ensure that your equipment doesn’t fail because of malfunctioning transistors, then the above list should give you a good idea about picking out quality parts from ones that will cost you twice as much.

About the author

Alice Jane

Alice is the senior writer and responsible for managing software and tablets section of PC-Tablet. She is very passionate about Gadgets & Technology and always looking around to use them in an innovative way in daily life. She reviews Gadgets & Applications to tell users about their optimum use to get the most out of in which they've put their time and hard earned money. You can contact her at alice@pc-tablet.com.