Jan 302011
 

Transistors are very handy little components that have allowed many advancements in electronics. In the circuit below we use a capacitor to “tell” the transistor to switch on an LED (as opposed to using the capacitor to power the LED directly).

To build the circuit you’ll need:

  • 470 Ohm resistor
  • 20k ohm resistor (we used two 10K in series)
  • red LED
  • NPN transistor (we used 2n3904)
  • push-button switch
  • jumper wires
  • 100 uF capacitor
  • 9v battery or power source

Questions:

  1. Notice that the capacitor can dump its charge through the resistors to the base of the transistor. Explain why this would allow the LED to stay on longer than if the LED drew current from the capacitor directly. (think: the transistor base only needs a tiny current!)
  2. What happens if we switch the 100 uF capactor with a 10 uF or 1000 uF?