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Basic Circuit

Components

Resistors
A resistor is a circuit component which has
electrical resistance; it slows the movement of
electrons through it.
Resistors dissipate electrical energy, converting it
to heat.

Resistors in Circuits
Resistors lower voltage across an active circuit;
the voltage on the positive end will be higher than
the voltage on the negative end.
The voltage across is a resistor is proportional to
the current flowing through it.
The symbol for resistors is a zigzagging line. It
resembles a type of resistor called the wirewrapped resistor, which is wire wrapped around a
ceramic core.

Capacitors
Capacitors are circuit components that store
electrical charge.
Capacitors have two conductors separated by an
insulator called the dielectric.
When there is an electric potential across the
capacitor (a difference in the voltage), electrons
cannot flow across the gap; instead, one end
becomes positively charged and the other
becomes negatively charged, and an electric field
forms between the conductors.

Capacitors in Circuits
When a circuit first comes on, the charge in the
capacitor begins to build. Electrons gathering on one
end and vacating the other create a temporary
current as they move. As they do so, the voltage
across the capacitor increases and the current
decreases.
After the circuit has been on for a long time (steadystate), there is a voltage across the capacitor and no
current through it. At steady-state conditions, a
capacitor acts like a break in the circuit.
The symbol for a capacitor is like two plates near one
another; this resembles the construction of basic
capacitors.
[Picture of plate
capacitor]

Inductors
An inductor is a circuit element that develops a
magnetic field as current flows through it. This
field resists and slows the movement of electrons
in the inductor.
Most inductors consist of coiled wire.

Inductors in Circuits
The amount that an inductor resists electrical
current is proportional to the rate of change of
current flowing through.
When a circuit first comes on, the voltage across an
inductor is high and no current flows through it.
Over time, the voltage drops and the current
through the inductor increases as the magnetic field
develops.
At steady-state conditions, there is no voltage across
an inductor and current flows through at a constant
rate. An inductor behaves like wire at steady-state.
The symbol for an inductor is like coiled wire.

Comparing Inductors and


Capacitors
The properties of inductors and capacitors are
complements in many ways. Consider:
Circuit has just
come on

Circuit has come Steady-state


on recently

Capacito Capacitor has


r
no voltage and
current flows
freely

Voltage
increases,
current
decreases,
electric field
forms

Capacitor has a
voltage and no
current flows
across

Inductor

Voltage
decreases,
current
increases,
magnetic field
forms

Inductor has no
voltage and
current flows
freely

Inductor has a
voltage and no
current flows
across

Comparing Resistors to
Inductors
and
Capacitors
Inductors and capacitors act differently when a circuit is
going from off to on or from on to off than when the
circuit has been on for a long time. This is called
transient behavior. Generally speaking, their behavior is
time-dependent.
By contrast, resistors act the same at steady-state as
they do in changing systems.
Inductors and capacitors behave differently in AC
circuits than in DC circuits. Their behaviors are much
more complicated in AC circuits, where the current and
voltage are constantly fluctuating. Naturally in DC
circuits, where the current and voltage stay the same,
they are much less complicated. Resistors, because
they are unaffected by current and voltage changes,
behave the same way in both AC and DC circuits

Ideal vs Real
Components
Resistance, capacitance, and inductance are properties

that all circuit elements have. Well-designed elements


tend to focus on just one of these. It is possible to have a
component designed to focus on more than one property.
When represented in circuit diagrams, elements only
have the property that they are designed for; resistors
dont have capacitance, inductors dont have resistance,
and so on.
If an actual component does have two or more of these
properties to a significant degree, it is often represented
in diagrams by multiple elements which together account
for all of the components properties. This keeps circuit
analysis clean and simple.
For example, if an inductor has a non-negligible
resistance, it may be represented in a diagram as an
inductor in series with a resistor.

Semiconductors
Semiconductors are materials that fall between
conductors and insulators.
They may act as insulators in some conditions and as
conductors in others.
Semiconductors can be doped; this is when another
substance is added to the semiconductor to change
its properties.
Donor dopants produce an excess of electrons in the
semiconductor. Semiconductors doped with donors
are called n-type.
Acceptor dopants produce an excess of positive
holes where there are no electrons.
Semiconductors doped with acceptors are called ptype.

Diodes
A diode is a circuit element which essentially is a resistor
with polarity; it has a different resistance in one direction
than in the other.
Most diodes have no resistance in one direction and very
high resistance in the other, so that they only allow current
to flow in one direction. These diodes are called rectifiers.
Recall that semiconductors may change from insulators to
conductors under certain conditions. For semiconductor
diodes, the diode behaves as an insulator until a certain
voltage is achieved across the diode. It then behaves as a
conductor, allowing current to pass. When this happens,
the diode is forward-biased.
The symbol for a diode looks like an arrow that points in
the direction of current flow. The diode shown below would
allow current to flow from left to right.

Transistors
Transistors are circuit components made of
semiconductors that amplify and switch currents.
A good example of how transistors work is the
Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT). In the NPN BJT, a
layer of p-type semiconductor separates two
sections of n-type semiconductor. When there is a
voltage across the two n-type layers, no current can
pass through. When positive voltage is applied to
the p-type layer, however, the transistor becomes
conductive, and current can pass through.
In PNP transistors, two p-type semiconductors are
separated by n-type semiconductor material. When
positive voltage is applied to the n-type layer, it is
closed; when negative voltage is applied, it is open.

Parts of a Transistor
The terminal that
receives current is
called the collector.
The terminal that
releases current is
called the emitter.
The terminal that
controls whether
the transistor is on
is called the base.

Collect
or

Bas
e

Emitter