# Transistors

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How do Transistors Work?NOTE: This is an older web site and some information is out of date. If you see something you wish to order, please go to the new web site and see the catalogue there. You can not place an order on this satcure-focus site.Return to SatCure-Focus Home page. |
| Thousands of textbooks have been written to explain electronics and I haven't found a single one that canexplain the operation of a transistor. They all make it seem so complicated!Let's see if I can do better. Here is a picture of a transistor. My transistor runs on water current. You see there are three openings which I have labelled "B" (Base), "C" (Collector) and "E" (Emitter) for convenience. By an amazing coincidence, these also happen to be the names used by everyone else for the three connectionsof a transistor!We provide a reservoir of water for "C" (the "power supply voltage") but it can't move because there's a big black plunger thing in the way which is blocking the outlet to "E". The reservoir of water is called the "supply voltage". If we increase the amount of water sufficiently, it will burst our transistor just the same as if we increase the voltage to a real transistor. We don'twant to do this, so we keep that "supply voltage" at a safe level. |
If we pour water current into "B" this current flows along the "Base" pipe and pushes that black plunger thing upwards, allowing quite a lot of water to flow from "C" to "E". Some of the water from "B" also joins it and flows away. If we pour even more water into "B", the black plunger thing moves up further and a greattorrent of water current flows from "C" to "E".So what have we learned?:1. A tiny amount of current flowing into "B" allows a large amount to flow from "C" to "E" so we have an "amplification effect". We can control a BIG flow of current with a SMALL flow of current. If we continually change the small amount of water flowing into "B" then we cause corresponding changes in the LARGE amount of waterflowing from "C" to "E". For example, if we measure the current flow in gallons/minute: Suppose 1 gallon/minute flowing into "B" allows 100 gallons/minute to flow from "C" to "E" then we can say that the transistor has a "gain" or "amplification" factor of 100 times. In a real transistor we measure current in thousandths of an Ampere or "milliamps". So 1mA flowing into "B" would allow 100mA to flowfrom "C" to "E".2. The amount of current that can flow from "C" to "E" is limited by the "pipe diameter". So, no matter how much current we push into "B", there will be a point beyond which we can't get any more current flow from "C" to "E". The only way to solve this problem is to use a larger transistor. A "power transistor".3. The transistor can be used to switch the current flow on and off. If weput sufficient current into "B" the transistor will allow the maximum amount of current to flow from "C" to "E". The transistor is switched fully "on".If the current into "B" is reduced to the point where it can no longer lift the black plunger thing, the transistor will be "off". Only the small "leakage" current from "B" will be flowing. To turn it fully off, we must stop all current flowinginto "B".In a real transistor, any restriction to the current flow causes heat to be produced. This happens with air or water in other things: for example, your bicycle pump becomes hot near the valve when you pump air through it. A transistor must be kept cool or it will melt. It runs coolest when it is fully OFF and fully ON. When it is fully ON there is very little restriction so, even though alot of current is flowing, only a small amount of heat is produced. When it is fully OFF, provided we can stop the base leakage, then NO heat is produced. If a transistor is half on then quite a lot of current is flowing through a restricted gap and heat is produced. To help get rid of this heat, the transistor might be clamped to a metal plate which draws the heat away and radiates it to the air....