Learning electronics nowadays is easy and fun. This tutorial will help you getting started with electronics. You should be able to familiarize the components, terms and symbols commonly used in electronics. We’re going to give you a brief overview of common electronic components and explain what their functions are. If you’re interested on more detailed science of electronics, you can try wikipedia. By the end of this tutorial, you should be able to recognize some of common electronic components.
What is Electronics?
The branch of physics and technology concerned with the design of circuits using transistors and microchips, and with the behavior and movement of electrons in a semiconductor, conductor, vacuum, or gas. Electronics deals with electrical circuits that involve active electrical components (such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes, integrated circuits, optoelectronics, and sensors), associated passive electrical components, and interconnection technologies. Commonly, electronic devices contain circuitry consisting primarily or exclusively of active semiconductors supplemented with passive elements; such a circuit is described as an electronic circuit.
What is Electricity?
There are two types of electrical signal, the Alternating Current (AC) and the Direct Current (DC).
Alternating Current (AC) is an electric current which periodically reverses direction, in contrast to direct current (DC) which flows only in one direction. Alternating current is the form in which electric power is delivered to businesses and residences, and it is the form of electrical energy that consumers typically use when they plug kitchen appliances, televisions and electric lamps into a wall socket. A common source of DC power is a battery cell in a flashlight. The abbreviations AC and DC are often used to mean simply alternating and direct, as when they modify current or voltage.
A circuit is a complete and closed path through which electric current can flow. In other words, a closed circuit would allow the flow of electricity between power and ground. An open circuit would break the flow of electricity between power and ground.
Anything that is part of this closed system and that allows electricity to flow between power and ground is considered to be part of the circuit.
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 (such as a volume control or a lamp dimmer), or as sensing devices for heat, light, humidity, force, or chemical activity.
A capacitor is a passive two-terminal electrical component that stores electrical energy in an electric field. The effect of a capacitor is known as capacitance. While capacitance exists between any two electrical conductors of a circuit in sufficiently close proximity, a capacitor is specifically designed to provide and enhance this effect for a variety of practical applications by consideration of size, shape, and positioning of closely spaced conductors, and the intervening dielectric material. A capacitor was therefore historically first known as an electric condenser.
The physical form and construction of practical capacitors vary widely and many capacitor types are in common use. Most capacitors contain at least two electrical conductors often in the form of metallic plates or surfaces separated by a dielectric medium. A conductor may be a foil, thin film, sintered bead of metal, or an electrolyte. The nonconducting dielectric acts to increase the capacitor’s charge capacity. Materials commonly used as dielectrics include glass, ceramic, plastic film, paper, mica, and oxide layers. Capacitors are widely used as parts of electrical circuits in many common electrical devices. Unlike a resistor, an ideal capacitor does not dissipate energy.
A semiconductor device with two terminals, typically allowing the flow of current in one direction only. A diode is a specialized electronic component with two electrodes called the anode and the cathode. Most diodes are made with semiconductor materials such as silicon, germanium, or selenium. Some diodes are comprised of metal electrodes in a chamber evacuated or filled with a pure elemental gas at low pressure. Diodes can be used as rectifiers, signal limiters, voltage regulators, switches, signal modulators, signal mixers, signal demodulators, and oscillators.
A transistor is a device that regulates current or voltage flow and acts as a switch or gate for electronic signals. Transistors consist of three layers of a semiconductor material, each capable of carrying a current.
The transistor was invented by three scientists at the Bell Laboratories in 1947, and it rapidly replaced the vacuum tube as an electronic signal regulator. A transistor regulates current or voltage flow and acts as a switch or gate for electronic signals. A transistor consists of three layers of a semiconductor material, each capable of carrying a current. A semiconductor is a material such as germanium and silicon that conducts electricity in a “semi-enthusiastic” way. It’s somewhere between a real conductor such as copper and an insulator (like the plastic wrapped around wires).
The semiconductor material is given special properties by a chemical process called doping. The doping results in a material that either adds extra electrons to the material (which is then called N-type for the extra negative charge carriers) or creates “holes” in the material’s crystal structure (which is then called P-type because it results in more positive charge carriers). The transistor’s three-layer structure contains an N-type semiconductor layer sandwiched between P-type layers (a PNP configuration) or a P-type layer between N-type layers (an NPN configuration).
IINTEGRATED CIRCUITS (ICs)
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or “chip”) of semiconductor material, 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.
A potentiometer is a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact that forms an adjustable voltage divider. If only two terminals are used, one end and the wiper, it acts as a variable resistor or rheostat.
The measuring instrument called a potentiometer is essentially a voltage divider used for measuring electric potential (voltage); the component is an implementation of the same principle, hence its name.
Potentiometers are commonly used to control electrical devices such as volume controls on audio equipment. Potentiometers operated by a mechanism can be used as position transducers, for example, in a joystick. Potentiometers are rarely used to directly control significant power (more than a watt), since the power dissipated in the potentiometer would be comparable to the power in the controlled load.
LIGHT EMITTING DIODE (LED)
A light-emitting diode (LED) is a two-lead semiconductor light source. It is a p–n junction diode that emits light when activated. When a suitable voltage is applied to the leads, electrons are able to recombine with electron holes within the device, releasing energy in the form of photons. This effect is called electroluminescence, and the color of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photon) is determined by the energy band gap of the semiconductor. LEDs are typically small (less than 1 mm) and integrated optical components may be used to shape the radiation pattern.
a switch is an electrical component that can “make” or “break” an electrical circuit, interrupting the current or diverting it from one conductor to another. The mechanism of a switch removes or restores the conducting path in a circuit when it is operated. It may be operated manually, for example, a light switch or a keyboard button, may be operated by a moving object such as a door, or may be operated by some sensing element for pressure, temperature or flow. A switch will have one or more sets of contacts, which may operate simultaneously, sequentially, or alternately.
An inductor, also called a coil or reactor, is a passive two-terminal electrical component that stores electrical energy in a magnetic field when electric current flows through it. An inductor typically consists of an electric conductor, such as a wire, that is wound into a coil around a core.
When the current flowing through an inductor changes, the time-varying magnetic field induces a voltage in the conductor, described by Faraday’s law of induction. According to Lenz’s law, the direction of induced electromotive force (e.m.f.) opposes the change in current that created it. As a result, inductors oppose any changes in current through them.
An electric battery is a device consisting of one or more electrochemical cells with external connections provided to power electrical devices such as flashlights, smartphones, and electric cars. When a battery is supplying electric power, its positive terminal is the cathode and its negative terminal is the anode. The terminal marked negative is the source of electrons that when connected to an external circuit will flow and deliver energy to an external device. When a battery is connected to an external circuit, electrolytes are able to move as ions within, allowing the chemical reactions to be completed at the separate terminals and so deliver energy to the external circuit. It is the movement of those ions within the battery which allows current to flow out of the battery to perform work. Historically the term “battery” specifically referred to a device composed of multiple cells, however the usage has evolved additionally to include devices composed of a single cell.
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 (AKA plugboard, a terminal array board) became available and nowadays the term “breadboard” is commonly used to refer to these.
A wire is a single, usually cylindrical, flexible strand or rod of metal. Wires are used to bear mechanical loads or electricity and telecommunications signals. Wire is commonly formed by drawing the metal through a hole in a die or draw plate. Wire gauges come in various standard sizes, as expressed in terms of a gauge number. The term wire is also used more loosely to refer to a bundle of such strands, as in “multistranded wire”, which is more correctly termed a wire rope in mechanics, or a cable in electricity. Wires are used for connecting components to other components.