What is a discrete semiconductor?
A discrete semiconductor is basically the opposite of an integrated circuit. It is an individual circuit that serves only one function as a single semiconductor, as opposed to multiple semiconductor components that you might find on a printed circuit board (PCB).
They are generally created for high power or frequency functions and as a result require specialist packaging.
What are some examples of discrete semiconductor devices?
Here are some individual device examples:
- Thyristors: this type of semiconductor is often used as a switch running specific amounts of current through them
- Zener diodes: these discrete devices are the most common type of component for voltage regulation
- Bipolar transistors: carry both positive and negative charges in analog circuits
- Bridge rectifiers: named so as they are built in specific configuration from diodes
- MOSFET transistors: metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistors are widely used for switching and amplifying signals
- TRIACs: are bidirectional switches allowing current in both directions
- JFET transistors: junction field effect transistors are voltage controlled and as a result provide resistance
- Rectifier & Schottky diodes: capable of very fast switching with low voltage drops
- DIACs: often used for triggering thyristors
- Varactor diodes: found in everyday common appliances and are controlled by the voltage applied through them
What can discrete semiconductors be used for?
As they are the most basic parts of engineering, there are a wide range of uses, in both industrial and consumer applications:
- Space saving: a Darlington transistor takes up less space than two transistors
- Triggers: a DIAC can be used to trigger a TRIAC
- Application switching: JFET transistors are often used in this way
- Analogue & digital: MOSFET transistors can be used in both ways
- Power controllers: Thyristors are often used for just this purpose
- Voltage regulator: Zener diodes are most commonly used for these types of tasks