Integrated circuits – everything you need to know

  • 2023-09-09

Otherwise shortened as ICs, integrated circuits are manufactured on a small piece of semiconductor material, such as silicon. They are also known as microchips or plainly as chips. ICs are an advancement from components such as diodes, capacitors, resistors, and transistors. Assembling such discrete components was a hustle that not only reduced the reliability of circuits, but also added to the workload. 

On the flip side, integrated circuits can have anywhere from hundreds to millions of electronic components on just one silicon. This is responsible for the production of low-cost, reliable, and compact electronics such as computers and phones. 

Depending on their functionalities, size, and complexity, integrated circuits are available in different types. They include microprocessors, memory ICs, mixed-signal ICs, digital ICs, and analog ICs.

What is an Integrated Circuit and Its Types?

Integrated circuits are miniature electronic devices that put together several electronic components, including capacitors, resistors, and transistors, onto one semiconductor substrate. These components are connected together and carry on specific functions, including memory storage, amplification, and digital signal processing. There are different types of integrated circuits, including the following:

  • Field-programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) – programmable ICs that can be reconfigured after they’ve gone through the manufacturing process. They are primarily applied in testing, prototyping, and the low-volume production of specialized digital circuits.
  • Application Specific ICs (ASICs) – used in particular applications such as cryptography, video processing, and audio processing.
  • Memory ICs – store data in electronic devices. Different types of memory ICs exist, including flash memory, RAM, ROM, and EEPROM.
  • Microprocessors – complete CPUs based on one chip. They are mainly applied in embedded systems, smartphones, and computers.
  • Mixed Signal ICs – they bring together analog and digital circuits on the same chip. They are ideal for power management, data conversion, and telecommunications.
  • Analog ICs – utilize continuous electrical signals. Appropriate for applications such as filtering, signal processing, and amplification.
  • Digital ICs – work with digital signals and are applied in smartphones, computers, and other forms of electronic devices.

What are Integrated Circuits Used for?

Integrated circuits have applications across different systems and electronic devices. Some of the most common examples of how ICs are used include medical equipment, televisions, cars, computers, and smartphones.

Their ability to perform complex electronic functions makes integrated circuits advantageous in limited spaces. This has led to the increased functionality of electronic devices and miniaturization.

Integrated circuits perform several roles, including the following:

  • Storing data.
  • Processing data.
  • Amplifying signals.
  • Controlling the flow of current and voltage.
  • Generating and distributing power.

What is the Difference between Integrated Circuits and PCBs?

In electronics, printed circuit boards and integrated circuits are different. While PCB connects and control electronic components, including integrated circuits, ICs carry on specified roles and functions. PCBs are plainly the physical boards that hold together and connect electronic components.

PCBs help to form a complete electronic circuit. They act as platforms to permit electronic components to be connected and arranged in a controlled and accurate manner.

Functions of Integrated Circuits

Integrated circuits carry out a wide range of functions. Here are the most widely-known applications of ICs:

  • Amplification – They amplify electronic signals and make them robust and easier to manipulate and detect.
  • Control – they control other electronic components such as sensors, lights, and motors.
  • Communication – transmit and receive data using different communication protocols, such as Bluetooth, USB, and Ethernet.
  • Timing – generate and control accurate timing signals, which are ideal for many electronic apps.
  • Power management – regulates power supply to electronic devices. This guarantees safe and efficient functioning.
  • Signal processing – process signals such as extracting useful information and filtering unwanted noise.
  • Memory – store digital information in bits, bytes, or words.
  • Digital logic – performs Boolean logic applications such as OR, AND, XOR, and NOT. These operations build digital circuits.

Three Components of an Integrated Circuit

Here are the three primary components of an integrated circuit:

  • Resistors – control and limit the flow of electrical current in integrated circuits. Materials that make up resistors offer resistance to the flow of electrons.
  • Capacitors – they store and release electrical energy in integrated circuits. They have two conductive plates separated by insulating material.
  • Transistors – building blocks of integrated circuits. Switch and amplify electronic signals. Semiconductor materials make up transistors. They come in different types.

Four Characteristics of Integrated Circuits

The four primary characteristics of integrated circuits include the following:

  • Low power consumption – Integrated circuits use very minimal power. Thus, they are perfect for applications using battery power. They extend a device’s lifespan and reduce the need to charge often.
  • Reliability – their small size makes ICs a reliable option. Also, they are made through automation with components packed closely together. This cuts down on any interference.
  • Complexity – integrated circuits have numerous capacitors, resistors, and transistors. They are all connected well, which permits the introduction of memory circuits, complex logic circuits, and several other components.
  • Miniaturization – they are small and have components in micrometers. That is how they are used in complex electronic devices.

Applications of Integrated Circuits

Integrated circuits are used in multiple applications including:

  • IoT – smart homes, wearable devices, and smart cities.
  • Aerospace and defense – radar, avionics, and missile guidance systems.
  • Medical electronics – medical equipment such as scanners, pacemakers, and scanners.
  • Industrial control systems – factory automation, robotics, and process control.
  • Automotive electronics – used in modern cars for power management and engine control functions.
  • Consumer electronics – used in many consumer electronics such as cameras, audio equipment, and televisions.
  • Mobile devices – mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones, and memory storage.
  • Computers – microprocessors and chips.

How is an Integrated Circuit Made?

Integrated circuits go through complex manufacturing processes. Here’s how the process works:

1. Design and layout – design the circuit and create a layout of the components. CAD software is applied.
2. Wafer preparation – this is a flat disk made using semiconductor material or silicon.
3. Photo lithography – the wafer gets coated with photoresist, which is a photosensitive material.
4. Etching – a chemical bath removes the exposed areas of photoresist.
5. Deposition – layers of material are deposited onto the wafer.
6. Doping – certain areas of the wafer are doped with impurities to come up with electrical regions through ion implantation.
7. Metallization – the circuit is completed by adding a metallic layer to link different components.
8. Testing and packaging – the IC is tested to ensure proper functioning.


So that’s about everything you need to know about integrated circuits and how they work. We at Qtech are always ready to give you solid advice about PCBs, PCBA, and ICs. Talk to us today and find out more on what we offer. With over a decade of experience in this field, you’re guaranteed quality always.


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