Introduction: Basic Electronic Components

Picture of Basic Electronic Components

Hey Everyone

In this Instructable I will be going over the basics components of Electrical Engineering as well as there biggest uses in the industry.

I will also give brief instructions on where to find and salvage them.

Step 1: Switches

Picture of Switches

Switches are one of the most basic electrical components but are also one of the most used in electrical engineering.

A switch responds to an external force to mechanically change an electric signal. Switches are used to turn electric circuits ON and OFF and to switch electric circuits. Basically what this means is that when you push down or flick a switch you are allowing current to flow through to the rest of the circuit.

We have many different kinds of switches the most common are

- Toggle Switch: Toggle switches work by connecting and disengaging two pieces of metal within the switch. The common light switch used in household wiring is an example of a toggle switch.

- Push button Switch: A push button switch is a two-position device that when pressed will go to a 0 state but when release will revert back to its natural 1 state, you will most commonly find these in keyboards (buttons)

- Selector Switch: Selector switches are actuated with a rotary knob or lever of some sort to select one of two or more positions. Like the toggle switch, selector switches can either rest in any of their positions or contain spring-return mechanisms for momentary operation

Step 2: Diodes

Picture of Diodes

A Diode is the simplest two-terminal unilateral semiconductor device. It allows current to flow only in one direction and blocks the current that flows in the opposite direction. The two terminals of the diode are called as anode and cathode. The characteristics of a diode closely match to that of a switch. An ideal switch when open does not conduct current in either directions and in closed state conducts in both directions

There are many different types of diodes the most common are:

Zener Diode: The Zener Diode allows current in reverse direction when the applied voltage reaches the breakdown voltage. (Based of principle of zener breakdown.)

Light Emitting Diode: The LED converts current into light. This type of diode is especially popular and is most commonly found in small electronics stop street lights and we may even see it finding its way into house lighting being cheaper and more Eco friendly.

Constant current diode: It is also known as current-regulating diode or constant current diode or current-limiting diode or diode-connected transistor "mouth full". The function of the diode is regulating the voltage at a particular current. It functions as a two terminal current limiter. In this JFET acts as current limiter to achieve high output impedance.

Step 3: The Resistor

Picture of The Resistor

The resistor is a passive two pole component used to limit the amount of current that is allowed to flow at any given time as well as the voltage. different resistors can resist more than others the way you work out a resistors resistance is by looking at the 4 stripes on the main body of the resistor the different colors show the resistance, to work out the color code you can use a resistor calculator like this one:

Step 4: Batteries

Picture of Batteries

An electric battery is a device consisting of two or more electro-chemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Each cell has a positive terminal, or cathode, and a negative terminal, or anode. The terminal marked positive is at a higher electrical potential energy than is the terminal marked negative. These are especially handy when it comes to designing portable devices. Now there are many different kinds of batteries such as lead acid or AGM batteries but i wont get into it to much as it doesn't really change the concept of the battery. All you need to know is that a battery(cell) can store a charge a release it at a later point without deteriorating too much.

You can find these in pretty much any portable device. (laptop, remote, phone, rc toys)

Step 5: Capacitor

Picture of Capacitor

A capacitor is a two-terminal, electrical
component used to temporarily store a charge in an electric feild. This is use full in Electrical Engineering because it can be used to smooth out varying DC supplies aswell as filtering circuits (high pass, low pass or band pass) they are even used as temporary batteries.

The most common types of capacitors you will find are:

- Supercap: Also known as a ultracapacitor, as the name implies these capacitors have very large amounts of capacitance.

- Elecrtrolytic Capacitor: These are a type of capacitor that are polarised (they can only work in one direction) these are able to offer high capacitance values mostly above 1 μF. these are mostly used for low friquency applications

- Ceramic Capacitor: Is a type of capacitor are that can store a charge anywhere from a picofarad to around 0.1 microfarad. you will find these in pretty much all electronics as they are so cheap to make and have such a wide range of use.

Step 6: Transistors

Picture of Transistors

Transistors are is a small mostly 3 pole component made of elements in the group 4 in the periodic table, Silicon being the most common. To understand it think of it like this, Your brain has billions upon billions of neurons. The neurons let you think and remember things, Computers act the same way except the computers neuron is called a Transistor. The transistor acts either like an amplifier (Taking a small electric current at an input current and then produces a much bigger output current, you can see this at work in hearing aids or microphones) or like a Switch (taking a small current flowing through one part of a transistor can make a much bigger current flow through another part of it. Basically the small current switches on the larger one, this is how a computers chips work.)

Step 7: Potentiometer

Picture of Potentiometer

A Potentiometer is a knob that has variable resistance which can result in the dimming of your lights or even sending information back to your micro controller this component normally has 3 poles also called a 3 pole resistor it works in the same way as a voltage divider except for the fact that this has variable outputs. You will often find these in house holds or sound controllers. (speakers)

Step 8: Motors

Picture of Motors

Motors is a device that converts direct current into mechanical power. They rely on the forces produced by magnetic fields. It does this by having a coil of wire with a current running through it generates an electromagnetic field. The direction and magnitude of the magnetic field produced by the coil can be changed with the direction and magnitude of the current flowing through it.

The most common types of motors are

DC motors : This Motors simply starts spinning if you give it DC connection the speed and direction all depends on the arrangement of the positive and negative poles as well as the amount of current you put through it.

Servo Motors: These motors are awesome because they can turn to any specific location within 660 or 180 depending on the servo you have (to find out more about servos please check my other instructable about servos:

Stepper Motors: The main difference between them and all the other motors, is the way they revolve. Unlike other motors, stepper motors does not continuously rotate Instead, they rotate in steps (from which they got the name). Each step is a fraction of a full circle. This fraction depends mostly from the mechanical parts of the motor, and from the driving method.


bigdaddydok (author)2015-08-18



Hey this will help with some electrical designing I am doing

Timith (author)Lux The Weavile2017-05-27

Maybe you can get some Basic Electronic Components on utsource

theantman84 (author)2015-08-18

Thank you! As a dopey dentist, this is exactly the thing I need to be able to get started on something I have always wanted to do, but didn't know a switch from a capacitor.
Forever grateful

KalpitShah (author)2015-08-17

Thank you very much!!! It was a useful Instructable. I learned a lot from it.

Steve-ThePirate (author)2015-08-15

As someone who considers themselves "electrical illiterate", this was a great post, very easy to understand. I'll definitely be reffering back to this in the future! Thanks for taking the time to do this.

BriannaC2 (author)2015-08-14

This is great! It's easy to understand too. Keep up the good work! :)

NathanielAK (author)2017-08-22

Add relays please

Carlos FelipeM (author)2017-03-21

Thanks for the info!

Vishal_Mehra (author)2016-06-27

very good and informative instructable thanq

Snitzel (author)2016-02-28

this is heaven. *-*

londobali (author)2015-11-03

Thanks... I've been fixing some electronic modules since a while, but all i do is visual inspection on the components that looks broken and change those.. not really understanding exactly how they work indepth...
This has been in my mind for a while maybe you can help me understand:
Resistors, how do they limit I & V ? are they analogous to valves on fluid piping? or do they actually consume some of the energy that the other component(s) in the circuit gets less I&V? (if so, they convert the energy into what? heat??)

Robert 7320 (author)2015-10-07

But its still good

Robert 7320 (author)2015-10-07

But its still good

Robert 7320 (author)2015-10-07

Step 1 is a push button not a swich

alexunderwood (author)2015-10-01

A great instructable and very informative. One query though? Doesn't a capacitor store a charge in the form of static electricity ? I may be wrong (I'm only a beginner!)

PublishthesisG (author)2015-09-22

I have tried to gather all my collection of websites and youtube channels and videos in one place. There are many things also to introduce to you in an elegant way so I established this site : and I hope you like it.


PublishthesisG (author)2015-09-22

MCF_Creche (author)2015-08-26

Hi, superb intro, very specific and well thought out. One glaring omission though; Inductors. These are the basis of everything from filters to oscillators. This doesn't take away from your excellent post but perhaps the inclusion of inductors will bring completeness. Thanks for sharing your passion! Phil

Thanks so much for the extra knowledge and for your amazing feed back

mugo.mudzi (author)2015-08-27

I taught myself electronics as a kid and then I stopped practicing, getting back into it and this has really motivated me

AhmedS68 (author)2015-08-26

Thank you
Nice one :)

Kent (author)2015-08-26

Most transistors today are a different type, MOSFET or FET. The difference is that a voltage controls the large current. Think of it as a voltage controlled switch. In some cases it is set up as an on/off switch, in other cases, a dimmer switch. (Actual dimmer switches work very differently, but it is easy to think of it that way.)

Kent (author)2015-08-26

Some important additional info: All diodes have a voltage drop that is fairly constant across a range of current going through them. A silicon diode, for example, will have about .7 volts across it. As switch will have (almost) no voltage across it when it is on.

coirby (author)2015-08-21

I liked the basic electronic references and pictures of parts. Thank you. :)

Tumbleweed. (author)2015-08-21

the description for transistors is very basic, at least a breakdown between PNP and NPN would of been helpfull.

himanshumanghani (author)2015-08-21

perfect and highly basic. Basics are the only key to make something grand which most of the people miss out.

thanks a lot!!!!!!!!

Grady 101 (author)2015-08-20

I did Electronic Assbly for years, & I think you have a great post. Since I only assembled, I am by NO means t Tech, but always would've liked to have been able to figure out some of the problems. I'm retired now, so have forgotten a lot, but I think it would be neat if you could let us all know how to identify the Plus & the Negative leads on the LED's, Transistors that we are trying to salvage from what we are trying to re-cycle from old PC boards. I know how to tell about the ones that hasn't been used, but once they're put on a board, then the leg-length's are cut off.

Phemmie (author)2015-08-19

Nice! This is more like subliminal messaging.... Fast and short, and it sticks to you. Thanks a lot

SolidRaven (author)2015-08-19

A good basic overview for the absolute beginner! But you did leave a few small gaps! Mostly about the 3 pin components, my main advice is to look up the datasheet. If you have a square package like displayed above with a cooling fin its usually a device that can dissipate quite some power. This means it can also be a voltage regulator, IGBT, and so on. Many sensors these days also come in three pin packages, so that's another thing you can run into. Just something to keep in mind!

RonKnock (author)2015-08-19

So awesome

Treknology (author)2015-08-19

It's good see someone sharing information that many of us take for granted.

greatidea (author)2015-08-18

Nice tutorial. Thanks for making it

jeanniel1 (author)2015-08-18

Great start of component identification! More, please!

anthony.armban.7 (author)2015-08-18

Very well done, very informative. Keep up the good work.

lorenojr (author)2015-08-18

It was nice,but can you include some about smd components? how to identify them

NickS21 (author)2015-08-18

I would rather learn electronics on the web, you have plans on more tutorials.

Thanks for the instructable

djsfantasi (author)2015-08-18

An electrolytic capacitor can beused to created a non-polarized capacitor, by placing two of twice the desired capacitance in series, with the minux sides together,

abouland (author)2015-08-18

Great instructuble! You should consider making another one dedicated for transistors only as I think they the hardest to understand. I still cannot fully understand what we use them for.

I was thinking the same, I plan to do one soon

Thanks for the feed back :D

Raphango (author)2015-08-18

Great! ;D

kouker (author)2015-08-18

"Servo Motors: These motors are awesome because they can turn to any specific location within 660 or 180 depending". Typo: 360 or 180

Oh thanks for pointing that out

kouker (author)2015-08-18

I would add mechanical relay, speaker, voltage regulator, transformer, and some analog sensors.

dirty_valentine (author)2015-08-18

You should discuss MOS transistors in addition to BJT transistors. The difference is that MOS transistors are Voltage IN (Gate) Current OUT (Drain). MOS devices can be used to create gain like BJT, but they are most often used as a switch. MOS devices tend to make better switches, while BJT tend to be better for creating gain. There are other kinds of transistors (such as JFET), but they are mostly specialized and not real important for a Hobbyist to know.

Thanks for the feedback and extra knowlage

No problem, nice instructable. Should be useful for many hobbyist.

MikaelH1 (author)2015-08-18

beatiful guy, thank you so much!

caddyb (author)2015-08-18

Thanks for the memories...... At age 70 I am just beginning to explore electronics. Your efforts are appreciated............Any chance of an instructable on electrical values and how to decipher them and get a bit of perspective on their role in different applications?

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a 18-year-old high school student, I love engineering, film production, design and everything in between.
More by electronics for everyone:Raspberry Pi and Arduino LaptopArduino Controlled USB TrackpadEmergency Keyring Phone Charger
Add instructable to: