system on a chip

How Do Integrated Circuits Work

The invention of the integrated circuit (IC) was in 1958, compressing more power into lesser space. A very effective alternative to the buzzing vacuum tubes thousands of times less powerful than the modern laptop and 100 times smaller than the ENIAC in the 1940s.



What Is An Integrated Circuit?


Integrated circuits are a combination of diodes, microprocessors, and transistors in a minimized form on a wafer made of silicon. Each of these components has a specific function. These can perform calculations and multiple tasks when combined with each other.


  • Diodes – These are electronic devices working to control the flow of current in the circuit. Diodes also control the direction of the current in which they only allow the current to flow in certain paths.
  • Transistors – These components are used to store voltages or circuit stabilizer. They can be utilized to amplify the given signal and used as switches working in digital circuits. They can allow a certain amount of voltage into the circuit with the use of a gate to open at a particular voltage.
  • Microprocessors – These components are the most important part of the integrated circuit. This is intended to provide memory to the system. Likewise, it gives memory to perform calculations and follow a certain protocol or logic. This tells the microprocessor to process the data and electricity within the system. So it becomes the operating system of an integrated circuit, allowing the components to interact with one another.


Integrated circuits are found in almost every electrical appliance nowadays, from television to wristwatch and from PCs to juice makers. The applications are limitless for ICs in which anything can be designed and built with discrete electronic components and put into an integrated circuit.


Some examples of ICs are audio amplifiers, logic devices, memory devices, radiofrequency decoders and encoders, and video processors. But computing is among the major applications for ICs. So instead of thousands of transistors in computers in olden times, today’s PCs have only a handful of ICs.



Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC)


One of the uses of ICs is called the ASIC chip, which is made to serve a particular purpose, instead of a general-purpose chip. One of the applications of an ASIC is the one that runs in a digital voice recorder.



Structured ASIC Design


ASIC chips are fabricated using metal oxide semiconductor technology or as MOS integrated circuit chips. A new trend in the semiconductor industry is the structured ASIC chip design or the platform ASIC design.



Full-Custom ASIC


Another ASIC design used in the industry is the full-custom ASIC chip design that defines all the photolithographic layers of the device. These are used for both ASIC design and standard product design.


The benefits of a full-custom design include reduction of area, improvement of performance, and integration of analog components. However, this will cause increased manufacturing and design time, more complexity in the computer-aided design, and higher skill requirement for the design team.



Gate Array and Semi-Custom Design


Another manufacturing method where diffused layers are predefined and electronic wafers are held in stock before the metallization stage in the fabrication process. The diffused layers consist of transistors and other active devices.


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