Discrete Semiconductors

What are Semiconductors?

A semiconductor combines the properties of a conductor and an insulator. Semiconductors are materials that have a low connectivity at low temperatures. With the addition of heat, however, or other variables, including voltage and light, their conductivity can be improved.

The vast majority of solid-state electronics are built upon semiconductors. Some of the products produced with semiconductors include light emitting diodes, transistors, solar cells and more. These materials are found in the most advanced technologies, as well, including quantum dots.

Some semiconductors are put through a process called doping. This involves adding impurities to the semiconductor, which changes the conductivity of it. Another form of doping is adding light or an electric field to the semiconductor, again changing its conductivity properties.

Semiconductors are particularly useful in applications where the connectivity of material needs to be changed deliberately. This allows them to change the energy input into a circuit, amplify the energy input, operate as a switch and to perform many other tasks that may be required for an electronic product to function.

What are Discrete Semiconductors?

Semiconductors are sold in many different versions. A discrete semiconductor is a semiconductor device that consists of one component. For example, some types of digital transistors are sold as discrete components, which can be added to a larger circuit to perform a given function.

There are many different types of discrete semiconductors, and in many cases, they have replaced vacuum devices over time.

How are Discrete Semiconductors different from Other Semiconductors?

Discrete semiconductors are different from other semiconductors in the fact that they are sold as single components. Many other semiconductor products are sold differently.

Many semiconductor products are sold as premade integrated circuits. For example, a microcontroller may have many different semiconductor components that make it up, but the entire unit is sold as a single device. A discrete semiconductor is simply one device rather than an integrated circuit that is manufactured out of various discrete semiconductors.

What types of Discrete Semiconductors exist?

There is a huge variety of different discrete semiconductors available. They include many different variations on basic components, such as transistors and resistors. Utilized in an integrated circuit, they can perform their functions with a great deal of precision and reliability.

Bipolar Transistors

In a bipolar transistor, two different types of semiconductors are in contact with one another and this allows for specific types of functions. These are frequently found in integrated circuits. They are also sold as discrete semiconductors. These types of transistors can function as amplifiers, as switches and as oscillators.

Bridge Rectifiers

A bridge diode consists of at least four diodes arranged in a circuit. This allows the same polarity to be output as is input into the device. These are used in applications such as converting alternating current to direct current. These are also capable of providing full wave rectification from two wire AC inputs.

These can be constructed out of individual diodes but are also sold as discrete semiconductor components that are more easily attached to an integrated circuit or another device.

Constant Current Diodes

Constant current diodes are also referred to as diode connected transistors, current regulating diodes and current limiting diodes. The function of one of these devices is to allow a current to pass through it, rise up to a specific value and then to be leveled off. These devices are available as discrete semiconductor components.

Darlington Transistors

A Darlington transistor functions as a sort of amplifier. It consists of two bipolar transistors that provide an enhanced application function. The second transistor amplifies the current already amplified by the first transistor. This allows for a tremendous amount of current gain and, in addition, allows that to be achieved in a very small space. These can be constructed as an array of different devices or can be sold as discrete semiconductor components.


DIAC stands for diode for alternating current. This is a type of diode that will conduct current after its break overvoltage is reached. After this happens, the current flowing to the diode is sharply increased and the voltage across the diode drops. These devices are sold as discrete semiconductor components.

Digital Transistors

Digital transistors can function as logic gates. These are sold as discrete semiconductor devices and are widely used. These are very common in digital devices.

Double Triode Valves

Triode valves provide amplification functions. These were originally vacuum devices and, in some applications, vacuum devices are still used to provide their functionalities, though solid-state semiconductor devices are oftentimes used as replacements.

Emitter-Switched Bipolar Transistors

These types of switches can be used to replace mechanical switches in circuits. These are among the various types of transistors which are available as discrete semiconductor devices.

Firing Circuit Commander Modules

These allow the power fed to a load to be controlled in an AC circuit.

HEMT Transistors

HEMT is an acronym for high electron mobility transistor. These devices depend upon two different materials and different band gaps between them. These have excellent high-frequency performance and high power performance, depending upon the actual semiconductor used in them. These are utilized in a wide variety of different devices, including radar equipment, cellular phones and satellite television receivers.

IGBT Transistor Modules

These are modular versions of insulated gate bipolar transistor devices. They provide designers with the ability to incorporate fast switching at a very high rate of efficiency in circuits. These are utilized in many different devices, including air conditioners, amplifiers, electric cars and trains and beyond.

IGBT Transistors

Insulated gate bipolar transistor devices are semiconductor devices that are well-known for their fast switching abilities. These are utilized in variable frequency drives and are also used in low pass filters. These can have very fast pulse repetition rates and are oftentimes utilized in amplifiers.

JFET Transistors

These are junction gate field effect transistors. These devices are utilized as switches and as resistors, which can be controlled by the voltage passing through them. These allow for very precise control of electric charge flow and the amount of current flowing through them.

MOSFET Transistors

These are versatile types of transistors used in switching and amplification applications. The name originally stood for metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor, though different materials other than metal are oftentimes used in these devices. They retain the name and the function, but today’s MOSFET transistors are much more advanced in terms of the materials they are made out of them they were in the past.

Pentode Valves

These devices are provided with five electrodes. They are utilized in industrial applications and in radio applications today, but have largely been replaced by solid-state transistors and other devices over time.

PIN Diodes

PIN diodes contain a P type semiconductor and an N type semiconductor separated by an intrinsic semiconductor region. The name comes from the way this arrangement looks on a diagram, with the letters P, I, N spelled out. These devices are utilized as fast switches, for higher voltage electronics, as attenuators and as photodetectors. The devices are very common discrete semiconductor components.

Rectifier & Schottky Diodes

These components are also known as hot carrier diodes. They are always semiconductor devices. These devices are characterized by providing a low forward voltage drop. They are also capable of very fast switching. The most famous use of these devices was in cat’s whisker detectors. These are very efficient devices and very common discrete semiconductor components.


SIDACs are similar to DIACs, but have a higher breakover voltage. They are also able to handle higher currents. The acronym stands for silicone diode for alternating current and they are a type of thyristor. These are five later devices that function in a very similar way to a TRIAC that lacks a gate. These are not as common among discrete semiconductor components as are DIAC devices.

Switching Diodes

A switching diode has two terminals and the properties of the device will change depending upon the flow of power through it. These are utilized to allow electrical current to flow in one direction only. This gives them a natural functionality as a way of converting AC to DC.

Thermionic Valve Bases

Thermionic valves are also known as vacuum tubes. These consist of a device that conducts electric current within a chamber that is evacuated of air. There are many different devices that meet this definition, including light bulbs. These are also utilized as electronic amplifiers and as television and radio tubes. The basis for these devices provide a means of attaching them to a circuit.

Thyristor Modules

Thyristor modules come in various connection arrangements and with various properties. These are primarily utilized in scenarios where high-voltage and high current are issues and, in many cases, they allow for a great deal of control over alternating current. These are sold as discrete, four layer semi conducting devices.

Thyristor Power Controller Assemblies

These are utilized to provide control over many different types of switching applications. Their applications include use in electrical heating and beyond. They are available in many different variations, including multi phase, single phase, three-phase and more.

Thyristor Trigger Modules

Thyristor Trigger Modules are utilized in switching applications and allow very fast switching. They are designed to handle various types of load, such as large inrush and loads with high inductance.


A thyristor functions as a bi-stable switch. These are solid-state devices that are made out of four layers of N and P type semiconductors, arranged in alternating layers. These have been in use since the mid-1950s and are able to be employed in applications where high-voltage and a high level of power both need to be controlled. They can provide this functionality in a very compact device, making them very useful. These devices are digital, functioning only when they are on or off and, because of that, they are not used in analog applications as amplifiers.


TRIACs can conduct current in either direction. The specific name for these devices is bidirectional triode thyristor, with TRIAC being a trade name. These components share much in common with rectifiers. The devices will conduct current after they are triggered and, when the current reaches a level below a specific threshold, they will stop conducting current. These are heavily utilized in AC circuitry.

TVS Diodes

The full name for these devices is transient voltage suppression diode. These are used primarily as protection devices. They can remove excess current from a circuit by shunting it off and, therefore, can provide a valuable function in keeping sensitive electronic devices safe from an overcurrent condition. These are available in unidirectional and bidirectional designs. Among the useful properties of these silicon components is the fact that they can respond to overvoltage is exceptionally quickly, providing a great deal of protection for the circuits to which they are attached.

UJT Transistors

These devices are formally known as unijunction transistors. They have only one junction, as the name implies, and two bases. These are discrete semiconductor components that function well as oscillators. They are utilized in consumer devices and in industrial devices. They are also used as a means to measure magnetic flux.

Varactor Diodes

These are also known as varicaps, variable capacitance diodes, tuning diodes and variable reactants diodes. These diodes have a unique property that allows them to function as a capacitor that is controlled by voltage. They are commonly used in oscillators that are controlled by changing voltages. They are used in radio applications and as synthesizers, as well as in devices such as cell phones and televisions.

Zener Diodes

Zener diodes provide a very useful capability. They can function as a regular diode, only allowing current flow in one direction. When a certain voltage is reached across the diode, however, the diode will allow current to flow in the opposite direction. These are commonly used in voltage regulators. They provide an important protective role for sensitive electronic components and these are very common discrete semiconductors used in a tremendous different variety of applications in the electronics world.

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