Each of those tiny components has a unique and highly specific job to perform. Without even one of those components the circuit would not function properly. The circuit boards you see in computers and other electronics devices take a team of dedicated electrical engineers to design and build. They select and solder the appropriate electronic component to the printed circuit board that controls how the device operates.
If you are interested in learning more about electronic components and how you can use them in your own projects, it’s best to start educating yourself as to the purpose each component serves. Here are the three most common types of electronic components.
1. Resistors and Variable Resistors
A circuit board works by routing voltage through its various electronic components in a specific way to produce a desired outcome. Some components require a greater or lesser voltage in order to operate. Resistors are the component that regulate voltage or limit the current flowing in part of a circuit. Essentially a resistor is a component that is designed to be a poor conductor of electricity. There are varying types of electronic resistance, but each component’s ability to resist a current is measured in Ohms.
Compare this to a Variable Resistor, also known as a Potentiometer. You are probably most familiar with variable resistors in their function as a volume control knob on your stereo. It simply moves the point of contact on the resistive material, varying the level of resistance.
A capacitor is simply an energy storage component. It is constructed of two metal plates separated by an insulator such as ceramic, mylar or electrolytic. A capacitor’s capacitance, which is measured in Farads, and the voltage across it determines the amount of energy that can be stored.
A capacitor charges when a current of electrons flows from one plate to another. As the capacitor becomes more and more charged, naturally the current diminishes as the plate can hold no more electrons. When it reaches that limit it is considered charged because the voltage across the capacitor is now the same as that of the source.
DC currents move in one direction, like a stream or a river. AC currents however, alternate the direction they flow indefinitely. An inductor resists changes in current flow, allowing DC or low-frequency currents to pass through it more easily. In its most simple form an inductor is a coil of wire similar to a solenoid. As current flows through the coil, a magnetic field is created around it where potential energy is stored. Should the power supply be cut, the magnetic field will collapse on itself and release the potential energy.