Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Kevin Chen
Image source Freepik
Microcontrollers are usually referred to as small computers. This is mainly because they have all the core components of the computer which include processors, input/output systems, and memory systems. All these components are embedded in a single integrated chip. Microcontrollers function as central processing units in most electronic devices and appliances.
For microcontrollers to function effectively, other electronic components must be involved. Transistors are among the essential components that are involved in the running of microcontrollers. They are known for their switching and amplification functions. But there is more that they do in microcontrollers. Keep reading as we discuss in detail the key roles of transistors in microcontrollers.
How a microcontroller works
To understand the role of transistors in microcontrollers, it will be relevant to know the working mechanism of a microcontroller.
Silicon is the building base of any microcontroller. On top of the silicon are thousands of electronic components including transistors. These components are perfectly designed to fit into a small working area. They are also arranged in a special way to facilitate the smooth implementation of various actions by the microcontroller. Tiny wires are used to connect the components to each other.
Several transistors connected together in a microprocessor will end up forming logic gates which are used in the operation of mathematical computations and as well as logical operations. The combination of the electronic components may also perform memory functions.
Generally, the working mechanism of the microcontroller entails a combination of different components including; semiconductors, transistors, logic circuits, and the overall architecture of the microcontroller.
Silicon is the main semiconductor that is used as a base for the microcontroller. It comprises of impurities and will turn into a conductor when properly biased.
From the semiconductor physics, the next working mechanism of the microcontroller is the transistor. Both the bipolar junction transistors (BJT) and as well as the field effect transistors (FET) are used.
BJT is the most popular transistor type for microcontrollers. It delivers better results both in the amplification and switching functionalities. FET transistors are perfect for switching applications in microcontrollers. They don’t have linear regions so can run on and off only. On the other hand, BJTs are perfect for amplification thanks to the linear region that exists between the states of the amplifier.
Transistors as logic gates in microcontrollers
Logic gates is one of the main functions of transistors in the microcontrollers. When logic gates is involved, all we think of is about binary numbers which comprise of 0s and 1s. It is a language that computers use to process data and execute various actions. Microcontrollers run on the binary data. Transistors are at core of the processing binary data thanks to their capability to work as switches. They can quickly change the state of actions from off to on which in binary data is represented by 0s and 1s.
The logic gates in transistors include AND, OR, NOT, NAND, AND XOR. These logic gates are made of transistors and when combined in a circuit, they can play critical roles in processing data and determining the next course of action by a microcontroller. The processing can range from simple data actions to complex one depending on the requirements of the users.
Transistors control the switching action of the microcontroller
This is a major task of the transistor. All the switching actions and activities are controlled by the microcontroller. Transistors determine when the current should flow through the circuit and when it should not. The fast-switching speed of the transistor is a top reason why they are used in microcontrollers. The fact that both BJT and MOSFET transistors can function as switches makes the transistors suitable for achieving low-side switching on the microcontrollers.
When used as a switch, transistors will operate in two main regions, the cutoff and saturation regions. In the cutoff region, there is no current flowing through the transistor. This implies that no power will be transmitted through the circuit. At the saturation region, there is a maximum flow of current through the circuit. There is also maximum power dissipation through the transistor, which will trigger a series of events in the microcontroller.
Using transistors for the memory systems
The memory unit is an important component of a microcontroller. It is responsible for storing data that is used for the running of the system as well as data that is needed on a temporary basis. In other words, the Flash and static random-access memory (SRAM).
As we have explained, data in the microcontroller exists in the form of electric charges which are represented in the form of 0s and 1s and this brings to our attention the role of logic gates.
Other than data processing, transistors are also responsible for the storage and management of the computer memory. Microcontrollers have special memory cells which are basically millions of transistors that are carefully arranged on the controller component. The memory cells are programmed to store, retrieve or even delete data when needed.
Transistors are used to run large loads (amplification)
Microcontrollers are small electronic devices yet they are still able to run loads that have higher power ratings. How is this possible? Transistors have the answer to this question. They amplify the current and voltage in the microcontrollers hence making it possible to run high loads.
When it comes to the amplification, the input current is low, and once it gets to the transistor, its current is amplified such that the output power will be sufficient to run the loads.
Microcontrollers are in every other electronic device and we can’t afford to underestimate their relevance and effectiveness in modern electronics. From this article, it is clear that transistors are of great importance in the running and operation of microcontrollers.
So, if you are building microcontrollers, it is important to get the right transistors for the job. You can get such only from reputable transistor suppliers in China. They have the resources and the reputation to deliver the right electronic components for the microcontrollers.
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