If you are new to electronics or starting to build electronic circuits, then the important thing to do is to get familiar with few Basic Electronic Components and Equipment. Without understanding these basic electronic components i.e. their values, ratings, purpose etc. your circuit design might not function as expected.
There are many electronic components like Resistors, Capacitors, LEDs, Transistors, etc. and there are also many equipment like a Power Supply, Oscilloscope, Function Generator (or Signal Generator), Multimeter, etc.
In this tutorial, you can get a brief overview of few of the most common basic electronic components. For more information about a particular component, you can check out the link associated with individual component.
You can easily understand the concept if I divide this tutorial in to Basic Electronic Components and Measurement and Analysis Equipment. So, first, I’ll start with the basic electronic components.
Basic Electronic Components
There are many ways to classify different types of electronic components but the most common way is to classify them in to three types: Active Electronic Components, Passive Electronic Components and Electromechanical Components.
Active Electronic Components
Strictly speaking in terms of Physics, an Active Component is a device that acts as a source of energy, like a battery. But the definition of Active Components according to few electronic engineers is that they are the devices that depend on a source of energy and can introduce power in to a circuit.
Active Electronic Components can control the flow of electrons through them. Some of the commonly used Active Components are Transistors, Diodes, ICs (Integrated Circuits), Power Sources (Batteries, AC and DC Power Supplies), etc.
Diode is a non-linear semiconductor device that allows flow of current in one direction. A Diode is a two – terminal device and the two terminals are Anode and Cathode respectively. The following is the symbol of a Diode.
There are again a variety of components that come under the category of Diodes. They are PN Junction Diode, Light Emitting Diode (LED), Zener Diode, Schottky Diode, Photodiode and DIAC.
Normal PN Diodes are often used in AC to DC Converter circuits. You might be familiar with LED or a Light Emitting Diode. It is a semiconductor device (or a PN Junction diode, to be more specific) that emits light when activated.
A Zener Diode allows flow of current in both directions and is often used as a voltage stabilizer. Schottky Diode is similar to a regular PN Diode but with less forward current and hence is often used in fast switching circuits.
More information about DIODES.
Transistor, the invention that changed the future of electronic circuits, is a semiconductor device that can be used to either switch electrical power or amplify electronic signals.
A Transistor is a 3 terminal device that can either a current controlled device or a voltage controlled device. Transistors are further classified in to Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJT) and Field Effect Transistors (FET).
A Bipolar Junction Transistor or BJT uses both the charge carriers i.e. electrons and holes and is often used as a current amplifier. Based on the construction, BJTs are further divided in to NPN and PNP Transistors.
Field Effect Transistor or FET uses only a single charge carrier. Junction FET (JFET) and Metal Oxide Semiconductor FET (MOSFET) are the two types of FETs.
More information on TRANSISTORS.
Based on the construction of the FETs, they are divided in to two types: N – Channel and P – Channel. MOSFETs are commonly used in power supplies, Audio circuits and other power electronic applications.
The combination of N – Channel MOSFET and P – Channel MOSFET, which is called Complimentary Metal – oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) is a very common digital logic in the manufacturing of microprocessors, microcontrollers, Memory modules and other VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) Integrated Circuits (IC).
Integrated Circuits (ICs)
An Integrated Circuit or an IC is an integration or incorporation of several electronic components (mainly transistors) on a single device (or chip) made up of a semiconductor material (usually Silicon).
Almost all electronic devices like TVs, Mobile Phones, Laptops, Audio Players, Routers, etc. have Integrated Circuit in them.
ICs are again divided in to Analog ICs and Digital ICs. Analog ICs work on Analog Signals like Temperature, Audio, etc. which are continuously varying in nature. Digital ICs on the other hand, work on Discrete Signals i.e. zero volts and a non-zero volts (like 5V or 3.3V) that are represented as Binary 0 and 1.
The commonly used IC in basic electronic circuits are Op – Amps (Operational Amplifiers) like LM741, Timers like NE555, Microcontrollers like AT89S52, Counters like CD4017 and Motor Drivers like L293D.
Passive Components cannot control the flow of current through them i.e. they cannot introduce energy in to the circuit but can increase or decrease voltage and current.
Two terminal components like Resistors, Capacitors, Inductors and transformers are examples of Passive Components.
The basic of all electronic components are the Resistors. It is a passive electronic components that introduces electrical resistance in to the circuit. Using resistors, we can reduce the current, divide voltages, setup biasing of transistors (or other active elements), etc.
Resistors are again divided in to Fixed Resistors and Variable Resistors. Fixed Resistors, as the name suggests, have a fixed resistance and its resistance doesn’t change due to external parameters.
Read about Resistors here: INTRODUCTION TO RESISTORS.
Variable Resistors, on the other hand, have a variable resistance that can either be changed manually like in case or Trimmers and Potentiometers or which controlled by external factors like Light Dependent Resistor (LDR) or Thermistor.
Ohm’s Law defines the behavior of a resistor which states that the current through a conductor is directly proportional to the voltage across the conductor. The proportionality constant is called as Resistance.
The mathematical representation of Ohm’s Law is I = V/R.
The second important passive components is a capacitor, a device that stores energy in the form of electric field. Most capacitors consists of two conducting plates that are separated by a dielectric material.
If Q is the charge on any one of the conductor plates and V is the voltage between them, then the Capacitance C of the Capacitor is C = Q/V.
In electronics circuits, a capacitor is mainly used to block DC Current and allow AC Current. The other applications of capacitors are filters, timing circuits, power supplies and energy storing elements.
There are many types of Capacitors like Polarized, Non – Polarized, Ceramic, Film, Electrolytic, Super Capacitors etc.
Also Read INTRODUCTION TO CAPACITORS.
If capacitors store energy in the form of electric field, then inductors are devices that store energy in the form of Magnetic Field. Inductor is nothing but a wire that is wound in the form of a coil.
Inductor is also a passive component and is widely used in AC equipment like filters, chokes, tuned circuits etc.
The core around which the coil is wound i.e. air, iron, ferrite etc. will determine the strength of the magnetic field. Inductors opposes the change in electric current through them and the changes in current will result in induction of voltage.
More information on INDUCTORS.
DC Power Supply
Bench Power Supply is an important piece of equipment when it comes to working around electronic circuits. Electronic components majorly work on DC Power Supply and hence having a reliable source of DC Power Supply is very important.
There are many types of Power Supplies like AC – to – DC Power Supplies, Linear Regulators, Switching Mode Power Supply, etc.
An alternative to bench power supply is to use a wall adapter as per the project requirement like 5V or 12V.
Battery is a device that converts chemical energy in to electrical energy and provides power to devices like mobile phones, laptops, flashlights, etc. In electronics, we often use batteries to power our circuits, either to make the circuit portable or just to test the functionality of the circuit.
Batteries come in different sizes and voltage. Batteries are also classified as Primary and Secondary. You can use Primary Batteries until they are drained out and discard them later. In case of Secondary Batteries, you can use them even after they are drained out by recharging them.
In electronic circuits, we often use 1.5V AA Batteries or 9V PP3 Batteries.
16 x 2 LCD
The most commonly used display module in electronic circuits is an LCD Display and in particular, a 16 x 2 LCD Display. It is an alpha – numeric display with two rows and 16 columns and can display a maximum of 32 characters.
7 – Segment Display
Another common display module is the Seven Segment Display. It can be used to display decimal numerals in different electronic devices like clocks, meters, calculators, public information systems, etc.
Read more about 7-SEGMENT DISPLAY.
Basic Test and Measurement Equipment
When it comes to designing electronic circuits, testing and measuring various parameters like current, voltage, frequency, resistance, capacitance, etc. is very important. Hence, the Test and Measurement Equipment like Oscilloscopes, Multimeters, Logic Analyzers, Function Generators (or Signal Generators) are often used regularly.
The most reliable Test Equipment for observing continuously varying signals is an Oscilloscope. With the help of an Oscilloscope, we can observe the changes in an electrical signal like voltage, over time.
Oscilloscopes are used in a wide range of field like Medical, Electronic, Automobile, Industrial and Telecommunication Applications.
Originally, Oscilloscopes are made up of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) displays but nowadays, almost all Oscilloscopes are Digital Oscilloscopes with advanced features like storage and memory.
A multimeter is a combination of Voltmeter, Ammeter and Ohmmeter. They provide an easy way to measure different parameters of an electronic circuit like current, voltage etc.
Multimeters can measure values in both AC and DC. Earlies Multimeters are Analog and consists of a pointing needle. Modern Multimeters are Digital and are often called as Digital Multimeters or DMMs.
DMMs are available as handheld devices as well as bench devices. A Multimeter can be very handy in finding basic faults in a circuit.
Function Generator or Signal Generator
A Signal Generator, as the name suggests, generates a variety of signals for testing and troubleshooting electronic circuits. The most common types of signals are Triangular Wave, Sine Wave, Square Wave and Sawtooth Wave.
Along with a bench power supply and oscilloscope, a function generator is also an important piece of equipment when designing electronic circuits.
In this article, we have seen few Basic Electronic Components and Test Equipment that we come across very frequently when designing or testing electronic circuits.
There are a lot more components like Transformers, Buttons, Switches, Connectors, etc. which we can explore as we move forward with a project.