How Does an Integrated Circuit Differ
An integrated circuit (or IC) is a single-piece electronic circuit that incorporates several components into a small piece of silicon. These components are often different types of semiconductors, but they can also include passive components like resistors and capacitors or active devices like transistors and vacuum tubes. ICs are smaller and more compact than discrete circuits, and they use less power. They’re also easier to mass-produce and more reliable than their discrete counterparts.
Discrete circuits are constructed from discrete components that are fixed together to perform a specific function. These components are manufactured individually and linked together with conducted wires or soldered to a printed circuit board. A circuit that uses discrete components can be changed to perform other functions by adding or removing elements, but it’s not as easy to customize as a circuit that uses integrated circuits.
One of the first Integrated Circuits was patented by German engineer Werner Jacobi in 1949 for an amplifying device that used five transistors on a common semiconductor substrate. A similar design was patented in 1959 by Robert Noyce for a monolithic integrated circuit on a chip made from pure silicon. Both designs incorporated the principle of “doping” the silicon substrate with p-type and n-type semiconductors to create the different circuit components, which are then deposited on top of each other in very thin layers. Typically, there are 30 or more layers in an IC, and they’re outlined by photolithography with a pattern that corresponds to the desired circuit diagram.
How Does an Integrated Circuit Differ From Discrete Circuits?
The resulting circuits can be either analog or digital. Analog ICs operate over a continuous range of signal amplitudes, while digital ICs, which are the most common, work with binary data, which consists of only two different states called low and high. The basic building blocks of an IC are logic gates, which can be arranged in a variety of ways to produce other gates.
Since ICs can incorporate several different circuits into a single piece of silicon, they’re much more efficient than their discrete counterparts. Discrete circuits require a lot of space for the various components that they contain, and their large size makes them difficult to fit into portable electronics such as smartphones and tablets. By contrast, a pea-sized piece of silicon can house hundreds of thousands of transistors, which means the devices will be both small and powerful.
A disadvantage of ICs is that it’s impossible to replace a specific component if something goes wrong with it. Instead, the entire IC must be replaced. This can be a hassle, but it’s a trade-off for the cost-effectiveness and reliability of ICs. Moreover, because of their tiny size, these circuits can be made to have better heat dissipation and can run faster than their discrete counterparts, which are often larger and slower. The technology of ICs has led to a huge increase in the number and variety of electronic gadgets that people can buy. They’re more compact, less expensive to make and repair, use less power, have greater intelligence and are more reliable than the previous generation of discrete components.
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