Electronic Components – An easy to use guide

Circuit designing and assembling is an interesting hobby. A large number of electronic components are now available in the market. For a beginner, it is very difficult to identify the components through its value and more difficult task is identification of pin outs. To get an idea about the components we have to search for the data sheets and books. To overcome such a time consuming task, a ready to use guide is given here. It will guide you to select the appropriate components and you can easily design a circuit without much effort.

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resistorsAs you know the resistor is an inevitable part of a circuit. It is meant for reducing the current and voltage in the circuit parts. Resistors are identified using the standard colour code chart. A simple trick can be used to identify the resistor value range. The third colour band on the body of the resistor represents the multiplier value. So by identifying the third colour, it easy to know the value in range.

resistors colour code

4 and 5 band resistor colour code

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capacitorsA capacitor is a body which can store an electrical charge. It consists of 2 conducting plates facing each other and separated by an insulating material. This insulating material is also called dielectric material. When a charge is stored in one plate, an equal and opposite charge is inducted on the other plate and thus a potential difference is set up between the plates.

The unit of measurement for capacitance is Farad but this unit is much too large for practical work. It is usually measured in microfarads (uF) or picofarads (pF). The formula of calculating capacitance is

C = [(0.224 KA) (n-1)]/d

C = capacitance in pF
K = dielectric constant of material between plates
A = area of one side of the plates square inches
d = separation of plate in inches
n = number of plates
The potential difference V developed when a charge Q is stored depends directly on the value of Q and inversely with the capacitance C of the cap.
V = Q/C

Capacitors are used for:

  • in timing circuits as it takes time for a cap. to be charged up
  • to smooth varying DC power supplies by acting as a reservoir of charge
  • in filter circuits because they easily pass AC signals but they block DC signals

DC Voltage Rating

The DC working voltage of a cap. is the maximum voltage which may be applied continuously on the electrodes of the cap. at the upper limits of the working temperature range. The peak value of an alternating voltage should not exceed this rating and have to be derated according the the FMEA as recommended in FMEA.

Leakage Resistance

The dielectric of a practical cap. introduces power losses which can be represented by a small resistance connected in series with the cap. The insulating resistance is often greater than 3,000 Meg ohm.

Types of Capacitors

There are many different types of cap. that are used for different types of applications. They are electrolytic cap., ceramic cap., tantalum cap., polyester cap., polystyrene cap. and safety cap.(namely X and Y types of cap.).

Electrolytic cap. have leads that are marked with + or – signs. They have polarity and must be connected with the correct polarity. The values of the capacitance and voltage rating are printed with on its body. The voltage rating can range from 5V up to 440V DC. Generally this type of capacitor is used as smoothing cap. in power supply regulation. The bigger the value of the cap. is, the less ripple the DC supply that has been rectified will be.

Electrolytic capacitors have value printed on its body. Pins can be easily identified. Large pin is positive. Moreover a black band is printed near the negative terminal to identify the polarity. Do not change the polarity. Capacitor will explode. In Disc capacitors, only a number is printed on its body so it is very difficult to determine its value in Pf, KPF, UF, N etc. In some capacitor, its value is printed in UF eg.0.1 in some others EIA code is used e.g. 104. The following tricks can solve the problem.

  • One or two numbers on the capacitor represents value in pF e.g. 8 = 8pF
  • If the third number is zero, then the value is in pF e.g. 100 = 100pF
  • If the capacitor has three numbers and the third number is not a zero, it represents the number of zeros after the first and second digits e.g. 104 = 10 – 0000 pF
  • If the value is obtained in pF, it is easy to convert it into KpF or µF
    pF / 1000 = KpF or nF
    pF / 10, 00000 = µF
    For example, if the capacitor is 104, then it is 10-0000 pF or 100 KpF or nF or 0.1 µF
  • Conversion formula
    nF X 1000 = pF pF/1000 = nF pF/1,000,000 = µF µF X 1,000,000 = pF µF X 1,000,000/1000 = nF nF=1/1,000,000,000F µF = 1/ 1000,000 F
  • English letter below the value represents tolerance e.g. 473 = 473 K. If the capacitor has four digits and the fourth digit is a zero, then the value is in PF. E.g. 1500 = 1500pF
  • If a number is represented with a decimal, the value is in µF. E.g. 0.1 = 0.1 µF
  • If an alphabet is given below the digits, it represents a decimal and the value is in KpF or nF e.g. 2K2 = 2.2 KpF
  • If the values are given with slashes, the first digit represents value in µF, second its tolerance and third its maximum voltage rating e.g. 0.1/5/800 = 0.01 µF / 5 Percent / 800 Volt.

capacitors eia code


Polyester capacitors have five colour bands similar to the resistor colour code value.

  • Band 1 – Temperature tolerance
  • Band 2, 3, 4 – Value in PF as per colour code used in resistors
  • Band 5 – Tolerance

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transistorsTransistors may be in plastic or metal can packages. Value of the transistor is printed on its body. Pin numbers are generally assigned as 1, 2 and 3 from the facing side. General purpose NPN transistors have pins 1 – Collector, 2 – Base, 3 – Emitter. That is CBE. In PNP types the pins are reversed. 1 – Emitter, 2 – Base and 3 – Collector. That is EBC. Metal can transistors have a small projection in the rim of the body. The pin close to it is the emitter. Pin opposite to the emitter is Collector and the middle pin is base. Pin assignment of some common transistors is given below.

npn pnp transistor pins

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Infrared Sensors

TSOP1738 Infrared SensorRemote operation of TV is based on Infrared transmission and reception. Infrared is a form invisible light with a wavelength of 950 nano meters. Human eye cannot sense this wavelength so that infrared rays cannot be detected visually. The remote handset is used to emit modulated infrared light using an infrared diode. This diode emits pulsed infrared waves in a coded form at a frequency of 38 kHz By pressing each button in the remote handset, it is possible to emit infrared rays at a particular coded form. This helps to control the functions of the TV precisely.

Inside the TV there is an Infrared receiver circuit. It consists of an infrared sensor – TSOP 1738. This sensor is sensitive only to pulsed infrared rays at the 38 kHz frequency and not other forms of light. The infrared sensor has a black covering which filter visible light and allow only the infrared to enter. It has an FET bas signal amplifier. The modulated infrared rays from the handset are received by the sensor and it amplifies the signal. These signals are used for controlling different functions of the TV.

infrared sensors
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Optocouplers and Melody generators

Optocouplers and Melody generators
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a123 batteryBatteries can be divided into two categories. The primary type is intended for one time use only and is disposed after the charge has dropped to a level that cannot be used. Primary type should not be discharged as heat will be generated within sealed cells. It will also damage the equipment as a consequent of fluid leakage. The storage or secondary type can be recharged many times and is reusable. The rating of its capacity is ampere hours (Ah) which is a product of current drain and time.

Primary Batteries

Carbon zinc is the most common primary cell in which the chemical oxidation converts the zinc into salts and electricity. When there is no current flowing, the oxidtion stops. If keep for a long period of time, the stored batteries will degrade and dry out where it will no longer able to supply the desired current. The time taken for the degradation without being used is called shelf life. It has a nominal voltage of 1.5V.

Alkaline types have longer capacity at low temperatures. Lithium type have nominal voltage of 3V/cell and has the best capacity, discharge, shelf life and temperature characteristics. Its setback is the high cost.

Silver Oxide and Mercury has voltages of 1.5 V and 1.4 V respectively and are used where constant voltage is desired at low currents over a long period of time. Their main used and applications are in hearing aids.

Storage Batteries

The most common type is nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) type with a nominal voltage of 1.2V/cell. If used carefully, it can be rechargeable up to 500 times compared to alkaline type which is 50 times or so. The most widely used storage type is the lead-acid type in automobile. The Lead Acid battery is made up of plates, lead, and lead oxide with a 35% sulfuric acid and 65% water solution.

Gas escaping from it may be explosive and always keep flame away. It should not be subjected to unnecessary heat, vibration or physical shock. Frequent inspections for leak are recommended. The electrolyte is chemically active and conductive and may ruin electrical equipment if leaks occurred. Its acidity may be neutralized with sodium bicarbonate or baking soda.

In order to ensure that all the cells in NiCd reach a fully charged condition, it should be charged by a constant current of 0.1 C current levels. It is around 50 mA for a AA size cells. Charging should be terminated after 15 hours at the slow rate. A built in circuit that will stop charging when 1.43V/cell is reached will enhance the life of the battery.
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diodesIn small signal application of which the current requirement is less than 100mA, 1N4148 is a typical choice. It has a forward voltage drop of 0.7V and is made from Silicon type.
In rectifier circuit applications, the typical ones used are 1N4001 to 1N4007 for current rating of 1A and 1N5401-1N5408 for current rating up to 3A. The table below shows the devices and their maximum reverse voltage ratings.

Diodes as Switches

They can be used in series switching or shunt switching in place of relays or mechanical switches. They can be used in applications from DC up to audio frequencies. Its recovery time must be taken into account when chosen for the frequency of operation. The higher the operating frequency is, the faster the switching speed is required. In audio and DC applications, normal power supply rectifier types can be used.

Diodes as Voltage References

Zener diodes can be used as voltage regulators.
When used as voltage regulators in power supplies, they provide a near constant DC output voltage even though there are changes in load impedance or the input voltage. They use the reverse breakdown voltage characteristics of the devices to maintain a fixed voltage across them. One example of the circuit as voltage reference is as shown below. The various zener ratings ranges from 2.4 V to 200 V. Its power ratings range from 0.25W to 50W.

Diodes as back EMF Protection

When relay coil is switched off by a transistor, the inductance of the coil will create a back EMF that may be high enough to damage the transistor. In most circuits, one can see a diode connected across the relay coil to conduct when this happens. In this way, the relay coil is protected from the high voltage that is induced by the switching off of the coil. In normal operation, it will not conduct. Without it, no current could flow and the coil will create a high voltage pulse to keep the coil current flowing.
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LED – Light emitting diode

ledsThe primary component in optoelectronics is the LEDs. Light emitting diode is a diode with PN junction of crystal material that produces luminescence around the junction when forward bias current is applied. The junctions of this light emitting diode are made from Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), Gallium Phosphide(GaP) or a combination of both(GaAsP).
The available colors are red, white, yellow, green and blue. Some are housed in plastic affixed to the base header of a transistor package. Others are contained in plastic packages that have a dome shaped head at the light emitting end. Two wires protrude from the opposite end for applying forward bias to the device. These days, surface mount types are commonly used.

The forward bias current of a typical LED ranges between 10 and 20 mA for maximum brilliance. A 1 Kohm resistor in series with a 12 V DC source will caused it to operate at 12 mA. In order to ensure the lifetime of it is preserved, do not exceed the maximum rating of the current. The voltage drop across it is typically 1.8 to 2.0 V DC.

Incident Flux Density

This is defined as the amount of radiation per unit area expressed as lumens/cm2 or watts/cm2. This is the measurement of the amount of flux received by a detector measuring its output.

Emitted Flux Density

This is defined as radiation per unit area and is used to describe light reflected from a surface. This measure of reflectance determines the total radiant luminous emittance.

Source Intensity

This is the flux density that will appear at a distant surface and is expressed as lumens/steradian or watts/steradian.


This is a measure of photometric brightness and is obtained by dividing the luminous intensity at a given point by projected area of the source at the same point.

LED is glowing

As the name implies light emitting diodes exploit the property of the pn junction to emit photons when it is biased. LEDs are specially made to emit light and there was a revolution in the LED industry during the past few years. LEDs form an inevitable part in the modern electronics as simple indicators to optical communication devices. The history of LED date backs to 1907 when Captain Henry Joseph observed the property of electro-luminescence in Silicon Carbide.

The first LED was born in 1962. It was developed by Holonyak worked at General Electric (GE). It was a GaAsP device. The first commercial version of LED came on 1960s. LED industry made a boom during 1970s with the introduction of Gallium Aluminium Arsenide (GaAlAs). These LEDs are high bright types and are ten times brighter than the diffused varieties. Blue and White LEDs born in 1990 and used Indium Gallium Nitride (InGaN) as the semiconductor. White LED contains a blue chip with white inorganic Phosphor. When blue light strikes the phosphor, it emits white light.

Secrets behind LEDs

Brightness is an important aspect of LED. Human eye has maximum sensitivity to light near 550 nm region of yellow – green part of the spectrum. That is why a Green LED looks brighter than a Red LED even though both use same current. Three parameters of LED are responsible for its performance.

  • Luminous flux – It is the light energy radiating from the LED. It is measured in terms of Lumen ( lm ) or Milli lumen ( mlm )
  • Luminous intensity – is the luminous flux covering a large area. It is measured as Candela ( cd ) or milli candela ( mcd ) Brightness of LED is directly related to its luminous intensity.
  • Luminous efficacy – is the emitted light energy relative to the input power. It is measured in terms of lumen per watt (lm w).

Forward current, forward voltage, Viewing angle and Speed of response are the factors affecting the brightness and performance of LEDs. Forward current ( IF) is the current flowing through the LED when it is forward biases and it should be restricted to 10 to 30 milli amperes other wise LED will die. Viewing angle is the off – axis angle at which the luminous intensity fall to half its axial value.

This is why the LED becomes brighter in full on condition. High bright LEDs have narrow viewing angle so that light is focused into a beam. Forward voltage ( VF ) is the voltage drop across the LED when it conducts. The forward voltage drop range from 1.8 V to 2.6 Volts in ordinary LEDs and in Blue and White it will go up to 5 volts. Speed of response denotes how fast an LED switch on and off. This is an important factor if LEDs are used in communication systems.

Why a ballast resistor accompany each LED?

LED always has a series resistor along with it. This is” Ballast resistor”, the life saving device of LED. It controls the forward current to the LED to a safer limit and protects it from burning. Value of the resistor if the factor that determines the forward current and hence the brightness. The simple equation Vs – Vf / If solves the problem of resistor value. Vs represents input voltage, Vf the forward voltage and If the allowable current through the LED. The resulting value will be in Ohms. It is better to restrict the current to a safer limit of 20 mA.

LED along with the limiting resistor R4 is the power on status indicator. A significant voltage drop (about 2 volts) occurs across the LED when it passes forward current. The forward voltage drops of various LEDs are shown in the table:

led forward voltage drops

A typical LED can pass 30 –40 mA current without destroying the device. Normal current that gives sufficient brightness to a standard Red LED is 20 mA. But this may be 40 mA for Blue and White LEDs. Current limiting resistor R4 protects LED from excess current that is flowing through it. The value of R4 should be carefully selected to prevent damage to LED and also to get sufficient brightness at 20 mA current. The current limiting resistor can be selected using the formula

R = V / I

Where R is the value of resistor in ohms, V is the supply voltage and I is the allowable current in Amps. For a typical Red LED, the voltage drop is 1.8 volts. So if the supply voltage is 12 V ( Vs ) , voltage drop across the LED is 1.8 V ( Vf ) and the allowable current is 20 mA ( If ) then the value of R4 will be

Vs – Vf / If = 12 – 1.8 / 20 mA = 10.2 / 0.02 A = 510 Ohms.

A suitable available value of resistor is 470 Ohms. But is advisable to use 1 K resistor to increase the life of the LED even though there will be a slight reduction in the brightness. Since the LED takes 1.8 volts , the output voltage will be around 10 volts. So if the circuit requires 12 volts, it is necessary to increase the value of Zener slightly. The table is a ready reckoner for selecting limiting resistor for various versions of LEDs at different voltages.

selecting LED limiting resistor
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Infrared Diode – The Silent LED

infrared ledUsually an LED makes its presence through its beautiful colour light. But there are LEDs performing their functions without emitting visible light. Infrared diode is such a kind of LED. Infra red actually is normal light with a particular colour. Human eye is not sensitive to its light because its wave length is 950 nm which is below the visible spectrum. Many sources like sun, bulbs, even the human body emit infra red rays. So it is necessary to modulate the emission from IR diode to use it in electronic application to prevent spurious triggering. Modulation makes the signal from IR LED stand out above the noise. Infra red diodes have a package that is opaque to visible light but transparent to infra red. The massive use of IR LEDs at TV / VCR remote controls and safety alarm systems brought IR diodes at very low cost at the market.
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laser diodesA laser diode is similar to LED but it produces a narrow beam of high intensity. A laser is a device in which a number of atoms vibrate in such a fashion that all the emitted radiation of a single wave length is in phase with each other. Laser light is monochromatic and can be focused into a narrow pencil beam. The beam of typical laser diode is 4 mm x 0.6 mm widening only to 120 mm at a distance of 15 m.

Laser diode can be switched on and off at higher frequencies even as high as 1 GHz. So it is highly useful in telecommunication systems. Since the laser generates heat on hitting the body tissues, it is used in surgery to heal lesions in highly sensitive parts like retina, brain etc. Laser diodes form important components in CD players to read the recorded memory.
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Join the conversation!

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  • Jim Youn

    An excellent website.
    I enclose photos of two Honeywell Gas ignition boxes. the existing and original top PCB shows a component and heat marks, this unit works with a boiler up to the final sequence of the gas valve releasing gas for ignition, all other systems working OK, so failure to ignite.

    The bottom PCB is brand new and when connected does not work at all, connect severa time to comfirm operation; the fuse is OK, so I assume something is wrong with the board.

    What is the failed component on the top board, top left hand side and have you any idea if this would be the problem, i.e. allowing gas to be ignited by the ignite.

    Or, could this be a combination of faults ending with this component failure.

    I would greatly appreciate your comments, now awaiting another brand new board to see if that works.

    The specification, part no, product identification appears to be correct, faulty board ?

    Many thanks,



  • Amar

    I want total Electronic components items and their uses with diagrams.

  • Bob

    good but i have a resistor brown red red red red
    what is its value please

  • Dr.Shabir A.Mir

    Well-written and useful article


    This article and this website should be mandatory study for all in electronics. This represent a library of books that take ages to search for the info. Funny as an apprentice we had to struggle through piles of books but nobody ever thought of putting it together in ONE book thanks a googal!! (That is 10^99)

  • Jim Keith

    Recommended reading for all serious experimenters!
    Much good info here…
    Represents lots of hard work!
    Consider making your own hard copy.