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Design & Technology

Integrated circuits

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Integrated circuits are the basic component of modern microelectronics. They are important process blocks in electronic systems. There is a wide range of integrated circuits available, including timer circuits, operational amplifiers and counter circuits.

Advantages of integrated circuits

A dual-in-line surface mount package integrated circuit resting on a finger-tip

Integrated circuits (ICs) are self-contained circuits with many separate components such as transistors [transistor: Components which do not conduct electricity unless they are turned on by a (different) electrical current. This means they can be used as switches, amplifiers and in other ways. ], diodes, resistorsresistor: An electrical component that restricts the flow of electrical current. Fixed-value resistors do not change their resistance, but with variable resistors it is possible to vary the resistance. and capacitors [capacitor: Circuit component which stores and discharges electrical current. They are made from two parallel metal plates separated by an insulator (called a dielectric). ] etched into a tiny silicon chip.

Advantages ICs have over conventional circuits with discrete components

  • ICs take up very little space, allowing products to be made much smaller.
  • ICs normally cost much less to make than the individual components needed to do the same function.

Dual-in-line configuration (DIL)

14-pin dual-in-line integrated circuit

The chip inside an IC is usually packaged inside a piece of black plastic with tiny pins protruding to allow connections to the circuit. In ICs the pins are arranged in a dual-in-line (DIL) configuration.

The DIL-configuration IC can be used with an IC socket. This prevents damage to the IC caused by heat when manual soldering [soldering: Joining two metal objects by melting a softer metal with a lower melting point between them - thus fusing the two surfaces or edges together. Soldering is a form of brazing. ]. It also allows the IC to be changed if necessary, for example during a repair.

ICs can also be configured as a surface-mount chip with either 8, 14 or 16 pins. The surface mount chip is much smaller and is designed for machines to build the circuits.

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