Primary Function of an Integrated Circuit
For almost 75 years, manufacturers have been loading ever more electronics functionality onto increasingly diminutive building blocks known as integrated circuits (or IC, chip or microchip). Integrated circuits pack many transistors and other electronic components into a single piece of semiconductor material, often silicon. This enables them to operate more reliably and at faster speeds than their discrete counterparts.
They are the key to today’s computers, mobile phones, cars, airplanes and subway trains. Almost any electronic device, including children’s toys and toothbrushes, probably has one in it. They’re even used to control amusement park rides and power the lights in spaceships.
The earliest Integrated Circuits were simple, such as amplifiers that could be used in hearing aids. Those were followed by logic ICs that were used in early computers. But the technology really took off in the 1960s when Kilby and Noyce produced the first monolithic IC, a microprocessor.
What is the Primary Function of an Integrated Circuit?
These specialized ICs could be programmed to perform digital or analog functions, or to combine both types of functionality. Today’s ICs can contain billions of transistors and other components on a single wafer, or “die.” They are produced in spotless lab environments called clean rooms, and the dies are connected together by lasers and photolithography.
Because they have so many elements, ICs consume less energy than their discrete counterparts. And they are designed to operate more reliably because there are fewer parts and connections that can fail due to poor design or misplaced connections. ICs are also cheaper to produce than discrete devices, because they can be mass-produced using automated processes.
ICs are sensitive to heat, which can damage them. To reduce the risk of failure, they are typically packaged in materials that can dissipate heat effectively. They can also be fragile, so they are usually handled with care.
In digital ICs, transistors can be in either of two states: on or off. By design, those two states can be combined to perform complex arithmetic and other operations. Digital ICs work by passing signals from one circuit to another, or “adding up” values.
In an analog IC, transistors can be in a variety of different states. By design, those transistors can be used to perform a wide range of functions, including audio and instrumentation amplification. Analog ICs work by accepting voltages that represent a continuous signal.
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