Transistors are the building blocks of modern electronics. If you do not know about transistors, you are in the right place. In this beginners guide to transistors, we will share everything about transistors.

Since the invention of transistors in 1947 by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley of Bell Laboratories, they’ve paved the way for the small, cheap, and reliable devices we use today.

In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about transistors, including:

  • What are transistors?
  • What are transistors made of?
  • How do transistors work?
  • What are transistors used for?
  • What are the pros and cons of transistors?

What Are Transistors?

What Are Transistors

To start with the basics, transistors are components that control the voltage and current amounts flowing through an electrical circuit. They’re found in nearly all electronic devices and play a critical role in integrated circuits and chips.

They contain three terminals – the base, collector, and emitter – each with different roles.

  1. Base: Controls the flow of current between the other two terminals
  2. Collector: Gathers the current coming from the base.
  3. Emitter: Discharges the current gathered by the collector.

Beginners Guide To Transistors: What Are Transistors Made Of?

Transistors are made of semiconductor materials, typically silicon. Two semiconductor materials with opposing properties are used. These are referred to as p-type and n-type materials.

Beginners Guide To Transistors: How Do Transistors Work?

When two semiconductor materials are placed together, they form a ‘depletion layer barrier’, which allows current to flow through or not depending on whether the voltage is applied to the base terminal.

When no current flows through the base terminal, the transistor is “off”. No current can flow through the collector and emitter terminals.

How Do Transistors Work

However, when current flows through the base terminal, the transistor turns “on”. Current can now flow through to the collector and emitter terminals in amounts proportional to the amount flowing through the base terminal

Beginners Guide To Transistors: What Are the Uses of Transistors?

Whilst you may not be aware of it, it’s likely you’re using something controlled by transistors each and every day! Transistors are used in electronics for a variety of different purposes, including:

  • Switches – The fact that transistors turn on and off quickly makes them ideal switched from digital circuits.
  • Amplifiers – Transistors are able to take a small electrical signal and make it stronger, allowing them to be used as effective amplifiers.
  • Digital logic circuits – These circuits are the building blocks of electronic devices such as computers and smartphones. They use transistors to perform Boolean logic operations, facilitating a variety of computations.
  • Computer memory chips – This component stores information as electrical charges. Transistors are instrumental in the process, acting like tiny switches that turn the charges on or off, and holding large quantities of data in a compact space.

Beginners Guide To Transistors: What Are the Pros and Cons of Transistors?

With so many uses, you might easily think that transistors are perfect. Yet this isn’t the case. Like other components, they have their pros and cons. We’ve listed some of the main ones below.


  • They turn on and off quickly
  • They’re cheap and small
  • They have long lifespans

Pros and Cons of Transistor


  • They can be damaged by thermal runaway
  • They’re difficult to manufacture
  • It’s difficult to trace faulty transistors

Hopefully, our beginners guide to transistors helps you understand what transistors are, how it work to everything in between.

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