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Transistor Fundamentals

The first solid-state device discussed was the two-element semiconductor diode. The next device on our list is even more unique. It not only has one more element than the diode but it can amplify as well. Semiconductor devices that have three or more elements are called TRANSISTORS. The term transistor was derived from the words TRANSfer and resISTOR. This term was adopted because it best describes the operation of the transistor - the transfer of an input signal current from a low-resistance circuit to a high-resistance circuit. Basically, the transistor is a solid-state device that amplifies by controlling the flow of current carriers through its semiconductor materials.

There are many different types of transistors, but their basic theory of operation is all the same. As a matter of fact, the theory we will be using to explain the operation of a transistor is the same theory used earlier with the PN-junction diode except that now two such junctions are required to form the three elements of a transistor. The three elements of the two-junction transistor are (1) the EMITTER, which gives off, or "emits," current carriers (electrons or holes); (2) the BASE, which controls the flow of current carriers; and (3) the COLLECTOR, which collects the current carriers.

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