What Are Transistors Used For?

By Luc Braybury

The transistor is perhaps the most ubiquitous component in electronic devices. Owing to their small size, high resistances to electricity and low cost, transistors are present in huge numbers in virtually every piece of advanced technology from computers to pacemakers. Transistors act as tiny on and off switches that control the flow of electrical current within a device. Their invention and versatility quickly led to microprocessing technology that allows for all of today's advanced technological development.

Common Transistor Usage

Transistors are used for a huge array of applications. Frequently, they are used to turn other components on and off. They can be used to turn on transmitter circuits, like those found in radio frequency transmitters in radio stations and ham radio systems. They can be used to turn on light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which are popularly used as indicator lights in many electronics. Transistors may also be used to switch on cooling fans which prevent a device from overheating.

Transistor Use in Sound Production

As audio amplifiers, transistors are utilized in a wide range of devices including cell phones, radios, guitar amplifiers, TVs and virtually any other device that can amplify sound waves. Inexpensive transistor audio amplifiers can produce up to 300 to 400 watts of power providing for high-fidelity sound. Through small changes of applied voltage, transistors can affect large changes in amplification output.

Transistor Use in Computers

Transistors revolutionized computing by paving the way for the invention of the integrated circuit (IC). The IC packs millions of transistors, components and wiring onto a single chip. Transistors have many duties within computers, including voltage regulation, controlling motors and any other job requiring an analog or digital signal. Due to the miniaturization of computer components born out of the use of these tiny transistors, microprocessors are now present in virtually every electronic device produced.