Have you ever wondered why technology was able to take such a massive leap forward in the last century? It seems like with each passing decade, electronics become faster and more effective. This is mostly the result of major scientific breakthroughs tied to the small components that make technology work. At the center of these advancements is the humble transistor.In this article, we will explore transistors' complexities, what they are, how they work, and how they are used. We will also look at the relationship between transistors and semiconductors, specifically, the function of GaAs wafers in the development of specialized transistors.
Transistors are technical components that serve as both a switch and amplifier of electrical currents. In simple terms, they are used to perform on and off operations formulated as a pattern to achieve a particular purpose. Transistors play an essential role in both simple and complex electronics and can be found in anything, from televisions to your smartphone.
One of the primary roles of transistors is to act as amplifiers for electrical currents. Those of you familiar with the law of conservation of energy might be wondering how this is possible. After all, shouldn’t the amount of energy entering the transistor be constant and equal to the maximum energy output?Although this assumption is correct, it’s helpful to think about transistors like a valve and water house. Regardless of the amount of water entering a hose, the water's pressure changes depending on how open the valve happens to be. Transistors work much like that valve, amplifying or restricting the amount of pressure allowed through the circuit. That means that thanks to a transistor, a small change in voltage can control a large current.
Transistors are crucial in computer functions because they act as switches for electrical energy. Parts of a computer, like a memory chip, are made up of millions of transistors. These little components switch electrical currents from one location to another or close them off entirely, creating a series of ‘on’ and ‘off’ patterns that translate to the 1s and 0s we associate with binary. Essentially transistors make it possible to create ‘if-then’ conditions that make it possible to communicate specific commands.At a micro level, a single transistor does not do much. However, when millions or billions of transistors begin to formulate patterns, it becomes possible for a computer to perform a task. Transistors are at work when you are performing simple and complex tasks; from typing up an email to playing a videogame, transistors make all possible.
Transistors are made up of three basic components; a base, a collector, and an emitter.
The base functions as the gate that allows or restricts the passage of electricity from a larger electrical supply.
As the name implies, the collector gathers the charge carriers within the transistor when the voltage reaches the base.
The emitter functions as the exit point and outlet for the outgoing power supply.
Different types of transistors serve different functions. For all intents and purposes, there are two main types of transistors; bipolar function and field effect.
These are the most effective of the two types at amplifying electric currents. These are current-controlled devices in which small currents enter through the base and leads to a much larger current flow to exit through the emitter.
Field-effect transistors have much less current running through them, which means they are drawing less from a circuit’s power source. This is good because they do not disturb the original circuit and carry less risk of loading down the power source. Even though they are not as effective at amplifying currents as bipolar transistors, they are nonetheless cheaper and easier to manufacture.
The job of a transistor would be impossible without semiconductors. In fact, a transistor in itself is a semiconductor device used to transfer and amplify currents, and it does so by using semiconductor materials such as silicon or GaAs wafers.
Certain substances can be classified based on how well they can conduct electricity. For example, conductors, like silver or aluminum, are highly effective at transferring currents from one point to another. Insulators, on the other hand (like rubber or wood), do not transfer electricity at all. Therefore, semiconductors are substances or materials capable of transmitting currents at a rate somewhere between a conductor and an insulator.
GaAs stands for gallium arsenide, a compound commonly used as a direct bandgap semiconductor. This material undergoes a similar manufacturing process to other semiconducting materials like silicon to create a wafer used as one of the primary and crucial components of integrated circuits.
Integrated circuits are singular components made up of transistors, depending on the type, capacitors, resistors, and diodes. When you put together several integrated circuits, you create a complete electrical circuit. Therefore, without semiconductors, you would not have transistors, and without transistors, the integrated circuits that make our technological world run would not be possible.
Silicon has been the leading semiconductor for many years because it makes an effective semiconductor, and it is also cheap to manufacture. That, however, doesn’t mean they are the optimal option in every application.GaAs wafers can transmit and sustain higher-level currents more effectively and with lower failure rates than other options. For that reason, GaAs wafers are commonly used in high-frequency technologies like radars or sensors.GaAs wafers are also the preferred choice in the defense and aerospace industry because they can withstand high temperatures and levels of radiation that would be prohibited for other materials.
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