A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals. It is made of a solid piece of semiconductor material, with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit.
A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor’s terminals changes the current flowing through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be much more than the controlling (input) power, the transistor provides amplification of a signal. Some transistors are packaged individually but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.
The transistor is the fundamental building block of modern electronic devices, and its presence is ubiquitous in modern electronic systems.
Types of transistor
Transistor circuit symbols
There are two types of standard transistors, NPN and PNP, with different circuit symbols. The letters refer to the layers of semiconductor material used to make the transistor. Most transistors used today are NPN because this is the easiest type to make from silicon. This page is mostly about NPN transistors and if you are new to electronics it is best to start by learning how to use these first. The leads are labeled base (B), collector (C) and emitter (E).
The leads are labeled base (B), collector (C) and emitter (E).
These terms refer to the internal operation of a transistor but they are not much help in understanding how a transistor is used, so just treat them as labels!