Types of Integrated Circuits

Integrated circuits are one of the most important technological innovations of the 20th century. Consisting of interconnected transistors, resistors, capacitors, diodes, and more all contained on a thin slice of material (typically silicon), integrated circuits are the basis for modern electronics.

Integrated circuits come in several different kinds of classifications. One of these is by chip size:

  • SSI: Small Scale Integration, with 3-30 gates per chip.
  • MSI: Medium Scale Integration, 30-300 gates per chip.
  • LSI: Large Scale Integration, 300-3,000 gates per chip.
  • VLSI: Very Large Scale Integration, has more than 3,000 gates per chip.

Integrated circuits can also come as:

  • Thin and thick film ICs
  • Monolithic ICs
  • Hybrid or multichip ICs

In thin and thick film ICs, passive components like resistors and capacitors are integrated but the diodes and transistors are connected as separate components to form a single and complete circuit. Thin and thick ICs produced commercially are the combination of integrated and discrete components. Thin film ICs are made by depositing films of a conducting material on a glass surface or ceramic base. Varying the thickness of the films deposited on the materials creates different resistivity, allowing resistors and capacitors to be manufactured. In thick film ICs, silk printing techniques are used to create the desired pattern of the circuit on a ceramic substrate. Thick film ICs are also called printed thin-film ICs.

Monolithic ICs, with both their active and passive discrete components and the connections between them, are formed on silicon chips. They are referred to as “monolithic” because the entire circuit is built onto a single crystal. They are the most common type of IC used today because of how cheap and reliable they are, and are used as amplifiers and voltage regulators in AM receivers and computer circuits. However, they have poor insulation between components and a low power rating.

Hybrid or multichip ICs are made up of multiple interconnected chips. The active components contained in this type of integrated circuit are diffused transistors or diodes.

Lastly are analog and digital ICs. Analog ICs process continuous signals, i.e. analog signals. They are used primarily in sound amplification, filtering, modulation, demodulation, and other similar purposes. Digital integrated circuits use a basic digital system with two defined levels of 0 and 1 (or ON and OFF). Microprocessors and microcontrollers use digital ICs as the basis for binary computer programming, and are utilized in all modern computers.


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