The Life Electrical: 5 Essential Electronic Circuits Facts For Beginners

Building electronic circuits is a really cool hobby – not only does it teach problem solving and allow you to make something with your hands, but you get to understand more about the world around you. As a bonus, you can learn to make cool gadgets like transistor radios, walkie talkies, torches, and maybe even your own burglar alarm. We thought we’d make this quick run down for beginners, so you can learn about some fundamentals before you get started.

1. Component of an Electronic Circuit

An electronic circuit is an electrical pathway that contains 5 electronic components in various arrangements to manage the flow of electricity. 

  • Capacitors can store electricity along the way as voltage. When you activate it, it releases that energy at 90% of the speed of light.
  • Resistors can slow it down to reduce the voltage. Energy flows through them in one direction. As energy flows through the resistor, it creates “resistance,” which dissipates some of the energy from the circuit. The smaller the resistor, the greater the resistance it creates.
  • Diode is a one-way ticket for electricity. Pass through the diode, and you can never go back. 
  • Transistor is conductive but can stop the current. It acts as a gateway that you open or close on command.
  • Inductors can also store electricity but as a magnetic field.

Among these, you have circuit nodes. A circuit node is something that connects two components, like an insulated wire. 

Your electronic circuit will also need an energy source and an energy-needing object on the other end receiving electricity to do something.

2. Voltage

Your voltage measures the amount of energy gained or lost between two components (resistors, capacitors, etc.) on your circuit when you move a unit of positive charge from one component to another. So voltage is always relative to the two points.  

When you connect multiple components, your voltage is the sum across all your components.

3. Current

The current is the rate your energy flows through your electronic circuit. Your spacing and choice of components impact this rate.

If multiple components are on your electronic circuit, you must make sure each one of them can carry the same current.

4. Resistance

The ratio between your voltage and current is called resistance. If the voltage is moving across a conductor like a wire, it moves in a linear fashion. 

However, a component like a diode or a transistor will make the energy move in a non-linear way. The component dissipates some of the energy.

This is known as a Joule per second (J/s), or a Watt in more everyday terms. 

5. Grounding

A ground is a circuit node that acts as a reference point for all other circuit voltages that can be referenced. 

A voltage source has both a positive and negative terminal (end). In positive electronic circuits, the negative end is connected to the grounding circuit. This creates energy flow from positive to negative. That flow travels through your components to reach the ground.

An electronic circuit can also have a virtual ground, which is a circuit node that acts like a ground but isn’t connected to the power supply. So the energy moves toward it without returning to the power source. 

Building Your Electronic Circuit

With these fundamentals, you can now begin building simple electronic circuits. Add components to your circuit and measure your results to learn to manage the flow of energy through your circuit.