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Operation and Uses of Integrated Circuits

written by: Umair Mirza • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 7/20/2011

An integrated circuit is basically made up of small electronic components on a semi-conductor material. Today, integrated circuits have become an important part of our daily life and they can be found in the majority of electrical devices.

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    Operation of Integrated Circuits

    We know that an integrated circuit (see Construction of an Integrated Circuit) is basically a combination of diodes, transistors, and microprocessors in a minimized form on a semi-conductor material called a wafer, which is usually silicon. Each electronic component has a specific function, and when they are combined with each other, they can perform multiple tasks and calculations. We will discuss the functions of these components briefly.

    1. Diodes

      Diodes are basically electronic devices that function to control the flow of current within a circuit. Diodes control the amount of current flowing in the circuit and the direction of the current. They allow the current to only flow in certain paths.

      2. Transistors

      In the early 20th century, transistor radios were introduced. The purpose of transistors is to store voltages or act as a stabilizer for the circuit. Transistors can be used to amplify a given signal. Transistors can also be used as switches, just like a light switch, except they work with digital circuits. For example, a transistor can allow a certain amount of voltage to enter a part of a circuit by using a gate which will open at a specific voltage. In binary, "1" is for opening the gate and "0" is for closing it. In this way, a transistor sends the data throughout the system.

      integrated circuit  

      3. Microprocessor

      The microprocessor is the most important part of the IC. The main purpose of the microprocessor is to provide memory to the system. It also provides memory to perform calculations and follow a certain logic or protocol. The protocol or the logic tells the microprocessor how to process the data and electricity throughout the system. The microprocessor can be referred to as the "operating system" of an integrated circuit, as it allows other components to interact with each other.

      These components work together within an integrated circuit to carry out different operations. There are many ICs in which the numbers of these electronic components exceed the number of humans on earth.

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      Uses and Applications

      Integrated circuits were first practically used by the military in the Second World War, in RADAR.

      Integrated circuits are in almost every electrical appliance today, from wristwatches to televisions and from juice makers to PCs. The applications of ICs are limitless. Anything can be designed and built with discrete electronic components and put into an integrated circuit. A few examples are video processors, audio amplifiers, memory devices, logic devices, and radio frequency encoders and decoders. The range of IC applications is still increasing at an amazing rate. Computing is one of the major applications of ICs. In olden times, computers consisted of thousands of transistors, which not only created a problem because of their enormous sizes and performance, but also because of the costs involved. Today's PCs, however, have just a handful of ICs.

      Television IC  

      With developments in integrated circuit technology, production and design costs are being reduced greatly and the performance is improving every day. Newly introduced packaging techniques have increased the reliability with minimized assembly errors and fewer connection problems. It is almost impossible now to find an item of electronic equipment with no IC in it.