Semiconductors make most of the technology that people depend upon possible. They combine the characteristics of both a conductor and an insulator, allowing them to be used in myriad different electronics applications. Semiconductors have a history that
dates back to the early 1800s, but it was not until the 1900s that they started to really be developed into the types of components that we rely upon so heavily today.
What Are Semiconductors?
Most semiconductors are created by taking naturally occurring elements, such as silicon, germanium and others and mixing them with a doping agent. This allows them to exhibit specific qualities in regards to the conductivity of electricity, which enables
them to be used in various applications.
Most semiconductors are crystalline in structure. The structure of the atoms that make up the semiconducting material enables engineers to enhance the conductive and insulating properties of the semiconductor to get exactly the properties that they need. Over time, developing new semiconductors has become one of the most active sectors in science. Continuing improvements in the ability to apply semiconductors in various roles have made possible the technological revolutions that the world has seen over past decades and, just as importantly, the fact that most of those technological revolutions have resulted in affordable consumer products that just about everybody can afford to purchase and utilize. All of this technological wizardry started with relatively simple devices, however, which were constantly expanded upon to create the complex machines we use today.
Semiconductors first made a splash in the world when they were used in transistors, largely eliminating the need for vacuum tubes. Over time, the number of transistors that could be fit on a single integrated circuit increased considerably, eventually leading to the powerful 64-bit processors that we have today.
The amount of transistors that can be fit on a chip increases according to a theorem developed by Thomas Moore. Moore’s law, as it is called, has proven to be accurate since the 1960s, with the number of transistors that can be fit on a chip doubling every
two years. These transistors and the chips on which they are installed would not be possible without semiconductors, which allow precise control over the flow of electricity.
Utilizing semiconductors, electrical engineers can use very little electrical energy to control amplification and other aspects of electricity. This allows them to be used as a sort of switch, providing the basis for transistors and many other types of electrical components that are vital to the computer revolution and all of the technology used in it.
Semiconductors are more understandable when separated by the components in which they are utilized. There are many different types on the market and their applications
are very diverse.
What Types of Semiconductors Exist?
Below are listed some of the most common types of semiconductors and their applications.
Semiconductors are used in a wide range of amplifiers. Optical amplifiers are one example of this. These are utilized in physics and in optical communication applications. Optical amplifiers utilizing semiconductors are able to amplify light without first
converting the light to an electrical current.
Comparators are frequently used in analog to digital conversion and in some other applications. These devices are able to take two separate electrical currents or two separate electrical voltages and to switch their output voltage based upon which of
those currents is larger.
Audio Processor Circuits:
Semiconductors are used in many different types of audio processor circuits. They are used in analog-to-digital conversion, for recording and for live sound reproduction.
Chip programmers are devices that are used with non-volatile digital circuits. These devices connect to the circuits via the pins, allowing the circuits to be programmed as desired. In most cases, these are used in conjunction with a desktop computer.
These are used with EPROM memory. The UV eraser can be utilized to change the capacitor charges in the device, allowing the EPROM memory to be reprogrammed as needed. These devices have been around for a long time and are not cutting edge
There are two principal applications in which semiconductors are used in clocks. The first is their use in the clocks that you’re familiar with hanging on walls. The second has to do with computers. The clocks in computers function to coordinate all of the different
tasks that a computer has to do. Semiconductors are utilized to construct the ultrafast clocks that coordinate all of these complex actions within modern computers. They are available in different frequencies for different applications.
Timing Control Circuits
Timing control circuits are integral parts of computers. These devices coordinate the different tasks involved in making the computer run. These are also utilized for other purposes, such as coordinating machinery and for other tasks.
Frequency Control Circuits
Frequency control circuits are oftentimes found in radio applications. These allow a receiver to remain tuned into a transmitter in a way that reduces any errors that may be occurring between the two. These are also utilized in televisions for the same purpose.
One of their essential functions is to control a phenomenon called frequency drift.
Most semiconductors are actually crystals. The vast majority of them have a diamond lattice structure, which gives them their unique properties. The properties of a semiconductor can be altered through a process called doping, which is used in most
Oscillators are circuits that produce waveforms. They produce a waveform over and over again. Oscillators can produce a variety of different waveforms, including sine waves, sawtooth waves, square waves and others. Oscillators are used in everything from computers to radios to musical instruments. In radios, they provide the circuitry
that allows the radio to be tuned.
Resonators amplify specific frequencies. In radios, they are used in conjunction with the oscillator. The resonator in radios operates off of the capacitor, which is what you are varying when you tune the dial. The resonator amplifies the appropriate sine wave from
Data converters are utilized to transform one form of data into another form of data. Some of the common applications you’ll see for this are analog to digital data converters and digital to analog data converters. They make many different things possible, from remastering old albums so that they achieve digital standards in regards to sound clarity to converting the voice signals you send through a microphone to commands on voice
Discrete semiconductors encompass a range of different devices. They include transistors, thyristors and diodes, among others. These form the base components of many different complex circuits, such as the many transistors that make up a computer
Computers wouldn’t be much good without display drivers. Display drivers translate the information from your computer into the items that are displayed on your screen. There are several different display drivers used for different types of screens and different
types of devices.
Controllers provide a way for you to interface your computer with external devices and to allow the internal components of your computer to communicate. Expansion cards, for instance, which are oftentimes added to computers to improve their functionalities
are operated by controllers. Controllers also perform functions such as regulating the way that your computer accesses the memory available to it.
Interface IC devices provide connectivity between different devices. You’ll oftentimes see them employed in USB technology and in other technologies, such as LCDs, Ethernet controllers and so forth.
Memory chips would not be possible without semiconductors. These provide various types of memory, from the RAM that allows computers to operate at blazing speeds to the ROM that can hold information, even when it is powered down. Memory chips are
among the most consistently improved semiconductor technologies on the market.
Power Management ICs
Power management ICs can be found in a range of different devices. They are very common in battery-powered devices, where they help to manage the power used by the system. You’ll find these in your smartphone, for instance. These are also utilized in
battery charging applications and in conversion applications.
If there’s one area where semiconductors are particularly visible and impressive, it is in processors. Processors enable computers to perform complex calculations that, to put it in the simplest terms, make them work. As more transistors have been able to be placed on a single chip, the power of processors has increased tremendously over past decades. Better manufacturing technology and better materials technology allow computer designers and manufacturers to produce ever more powerful processors every single year.
Microcontrollers are oftentimes seen utilized in functions where embedded applications are needed to operate a machine. Essentially, many of them are tiny computers that fit in the space of a single chip. These are also used on medical devices, in your car and in
many other vital products in the world today.
Programmable Logic Circuits
Programmable logic circuits are utilized in applications where a digital circuit needs to be able to be reconfigured to handle various tasks. These differ from simple logic gates in that simple logic gates have a fixed function that cannot be altered. A programmable
logic circuit can be changed using specialized equipment so that it can fulfill a multitude of different functions.
Semiconductors are used in a variety of different applications having to do with radio frequencies. They are used to construct accurate tuners, to provide amplification, to convert digital to analog and for other purposes. Semiconductors also made possible the famous transistor radios that finally made carrying a radio with you a realistic
Semiconductors are used in microwave circuits. The circuits are used for a variety of different applications, including noise amplification, amplifying power and much more. They are also utilized in devices such as cellular phones, which people see every day, and devices such as lasers, which are obviously more rarefied.
Semiconductor Development Kits
Semiconductor development kits are used by electrical engineers to produce new products and to analyze existing products. They typically contain a range of different devices, including testers, boards that are used to evaluate circuits, simulators and emulators and more. Programmers are oftentimes included with these kits, so that electrical engineers can utilize programmable logic circuits to create new devices. These are oftentimes used in place of customized printed circuit boards, as components
can be added and removed much more easily.
A sensor IC is an integrated circuit that functions as a sensor of some type. Sensors are devices that take a measurable quantity and convert that to an electronic signal. That signal can then be measured with an electronic device, providing a way for engineers and, in some cases, just about anyone else to quantify a physical property. For instance, a voltmeter is a device that allows individuals to measure a wide range of different electrical properties, including impedance, voltage and current.
Standard logic refers to transistor-transistor logic, abbreviated TTL. Where semiconductors are concerned, semiconductors are what make it possible to include a wide variety of different components on a single chip, making it possible to create very
complex standard logic driven devices. This includes everything from the simplest NAND and NOR gates to the most sophisticated computers in the world. A great deal of the advances made possible by standard logic were facilitated by the flexibility of
semiconductors and the ways that they can be utilized in different applications.
Video Processor Circuits
Video processor circuits are what make it possible to take information from your computer and see it on a screen. These devices have been greatly improved over the years, resulting in the tremendously powerful 3-D graphics devices that are in common use today. Semiconductors not only make these devices possible, the low cost of manufacturing semiconductor driven devices also makes it affordable for everyday people to have incredibly sophisticated video display devices on their computers. This all starts with a video processor circuits that handle the information from the computer
and translated to a form that human beings can read.