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Electronics Blog

How do neon signs work?

A. The glass tube is filled with a gas at a low pressure. Electrodes at the ends of the tube are connected to a source of high voltage AC, typically 30 kV for a small sign. The high voltage ionizes the gas. Electrons are pulled out of the outer orbits of the gas atoms, resulting if free electrons and positively charged gas atoms.

Both of these serve as charge carriers, and support the flow of current through the tube. When electrons fall back into orbit around the ionized gas atoms, photons of light are emitted.

The wavelength of the photon, and hence the color of the light, is determined by the amount of energy the electrons give up when they fall into orbit around the gas atoms. This amount is different for different kinds of gas atoms. Thus, different gases produce different colors of light. Neon give a reddish-orange color, while Krypton gives off a green color, and Argon white. Different blends of gases are also used to produce different shades.

Small neon indicator lamps for panels were popular before the advent of LEDs. These were usually red, although yellow and green were available. About 70 to 80 volts was required to make them conduct, and the voltage across them stayed about the same for a wide range of currents. Usually, they were operated off the AC power line. A current limiting resistor was placed in series with them. They are still used on some types of industrial equipment and vending machines.

Weird Science

Q. What is a tunnel diode?

A. A tunnel diode has an extremely thin insulating layer between the P and N material. We normally can think of electrons as little points of mass with a negative electric field surrounding them. The real picture is more complicated. Electrons not only have charge and mass, they have a wavelength.

In a tunnel diode, the insulating layer is thin compared to the wavelength of an electron. Normally, an electron can't get through an insulator. But in the tunnel diode electrons can sort of pop through the insulating layer due to their wavelike property. This gives the tunnel diode a property called "negative resistance." In ordinary resistance, as we increase the voltage across the resistor, the current increases along with it. In a negative resistance, the opposite happens. As we increase the voltage, the current decreases. This makes the tunnel diode useful as an oscillator.

The tunnel diode can also be used as a very fast switch in digital circuits. The reason it is called a "tunnel" diode comes from a graph of the energy of the barrier voltage at the diode's junction. This graph rises to a peak at the junction. The graph for an electron that pops through the insulating layers looks like a little tunnel cut through the peak of the curve.

Inductive Reasoning

Q. In my lessons on AC and resonant circuits, it gives the memory aid, ELI the ICEman meaning that the voltage leads the current in an inductor and the current leads the voltage in a capacitor. I understand this. But I do not understand why this is so - could you please explain?

A. A capacitor draws current when the voltage across it changes. In other words, it "reacts" to a change in voltage by drawing a current. This is why it is said to have "reactance". If the voltage across it is a sine wave, the voltage changes fastest where it goes through zero and changes from one polarity to the other. The current is also a sine wave, so it peaks at the points where the voltage sine wave goes through zero. This describes a sine wave that is 90 degrees ahead of the voltage sine wave.

An inductor does just the opposite. It produces a voltage when the current through it changes. This is another way of saying that it reacts to a change in current by producing a voltage. As with the capacitor, the voltage across and current through the inductor are sine waves. As the current sine wave goes through zero, the voltage sine wave peaks. This describes a sine wave that is 90 degrees ahead of the current sine wave.

Both the capacitor and inductor are energy storage devices. The capacitor stores energy in its electric field, where the inductor stores energy in its magnetic field. Electrically, they both react to changes, but the capacitor reacts to voltage changes, where the inductor reacts to current changes. So the two are sort of mirror images of each other.

Remote Possibility

Q. How does a TV remote work? I know they use infrared light but that's about all.

A. TV and other remotes generally use infrared light-emitting diodes to send out their signal. The LEDs are pulsed so that the signal can carry information. Different patterns of pulses are used for different functions.

On the front of the TV, usually in the control area for the tuner, is a phototransistor or photodiode. The light pulses from the remote control and received and converted into electrical pulses. These pulses are amplified and shaped, then sent to a section of the tuner controller that decodes the pulse patterns and performs the selected functions in the TV.

The fact that the light is pulsed helps to greatly increase the range of the remote, reduces battery drain, and helps make the system immune to interference from environmental light sources.

Switching Subjects

Q. I have taken the lesson on SCRs and UJTs. But where I work we have equipment with things called triacs. I've been told that they are like SCRs. What are triacs and how do they work?

A. SCRs only conduct in one direction. When they are reverse-biased they don't conduct. Triacs can conduct in either direction, so they make good AC switches.

A triac has two terminals that carry the load current. They also have two other terminals called the "main terminals". There are used to turn the triac on. They function like the gate of an SCR, except that they can work with either polarity of the AC cycle. Triacs will not conduct until a signal is applied to their main terminals.

Their conduction can thus be timed to start early or late in each half-cycle of the AC. This way, they can be used to control the amount of power delivered to the load. The timing of a pulse applied to the main terminals is simply varied in order to vary the power.

PLC training options - what's right for you?

PLC Training options

Programmable Logic Controllers are being used and a variety of factories and industries to products many different products across the world. It is only a matter of time before an electronics technician is expected to expand on his electronics training and learn about PLC technology and enhance his electronics training to include subjects on PLC troubleshooting and PLC programming.

While experience best guides an electronics technician’s career path it is very important to look into new ways to perform better and become more valuable employee. One way is to introduce Programmable Logic Controllers into the skill set you already have.

PLCs are best adapted to a control a wide range of automation tasks. Right now most PLCs use Ladder Logic Diagram Programming, which tell it to run a particular set of instructions. You can start learning Ladder Logic Programming at home or you can enroll in a school in your local neighborhood.

The advantages of learning at home is that it is much more affordable than enrolling a brick and mortar school. CIE Bookstore carries a variety of self-paced PLC training courses designed to give you an introduction to PLC theory, operation, installation, programming, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

PLC Training Certificate Course

CIE Bookstore’s PLC certificate course is a distance learning program that will show you how to program and troubleshoot programmable logic controllers. It was designed for the entry level designer and no experience is needed.

It comes with instructor support, online exams and certificate of a completion. This PLC course is a distance learning certificate program that includes lessons on Programmable Logic Controllers, Servo Motors, Servomechanisms, PLC programming and PLC troubleshooting.

The goal of this PLC training course is to provide the student with the necessary tools to analyze a typical application and learn how to develop a written program for it. Learn interfacing and troubleshooting techniques too. By the course's end, you will have the necessary knowledge to both understand and work with programmable controllers!

PLC Training on DVD

Get instructional PLC training with these detailed DVD courses. You can view them as often as you want and review them whenever you need.

PLC Training on DVD includes 4 hours of video lessons and a 146 page study guide.

Servo Control Troubleshooting on DVD will show you the knowledge and skills needed to competently troubleshoot and repair most servo drive problems.

PLC Training - Build your own PLC System

Learn how to build your own PLC with this complete kit with all the parts to build a PLC system. This course includes everything you need to rapidly develop a fully working Programmable Logic Controller system.

PLC Training on CD

These interactive training programs are on CD and contain complete courses to help with your PLC training.

PLC Trainer This CD course on Programmable Logic Controllers begins with basic concepts of programmable logic controls and then builds on these basics to increasingly complex concepts - and includes analog instruction and LogixPro simulator!

As technology continues to grow more complex, employers will look for electronics technicians who are skilled in new technology. An increase in the number of jobs related to PLC technology and manufacturing should create job opportunities for PLC technicians and electronics technicians with the appropriate certification.

This is the age of Electronics Training

This is the age of electronics training. It is changing the world and the call for a whole new generation of electronics engineers and technicians is loud and clear in almost every field of endeavor.

Automation alone will revolutionize the world's work force. And skilled electronics technicians will be needed to design, build and service robots who will operate in the assembly lines. You can learn how to program microcontrollers and build a robot with these robotics training courses from CIE Bookstore.

Security is another tremendous field for electronics training. Millions of homes and commercial establishments are using electronic watchdogs to protect premises.

Other sophisticated computer systems are keeping track of inventories, handling data processing and designing products.

Personal computers now control home environments and automatically operate hundreds of electric appliances and devices. CIE Bookstore has home automation training courses that will show how to integrate televisions, lighting, home entertainment, sound, heating controls, home security systems and all things electronic.

And 23,000 miles about the earth's equator, there are 100's of satellites parked in space relaying simultaneous programs and data transfers. The electronics training possibilities are limitless for both earth satellites and for electronics experts who will design, build and maintain them.

Smart, progressive companies will continue to include cutting edge electronics and high technology into the design of new products and will need electronics technicians with the proper electronics training.

If you are interested in learning electronics technology CIE bookstore has a variety of electronics training course that will give you the proper fundamentals for a career in electronics. There are many more electronics training options available to learn advance electronics troubleshooting like electronics engineering, electronics circuits and design courses.

There is also an electronics revolution in hospitals, medical equipment repair and health care. This area of electronics has one of the fastest growth in electronics training programs. Learn how to troubleshoot biomedical equipment and enter a fast growing field with these biomedical equipment repair tutorials. 

Of course, excellent, state of the art electronics training is a basic foundation for success in today's fast-moving electronics market. So CIE Bookstore offers comprehensive certificate courses in electronics at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. You can even further your electronics training with a Associate degree in Electronic Engineering Technology from Cleveland Institute of Electronics.

You can find a CIE course that can help you gain the knowledge and hands-on experience you need for whatever career you select in electronics. And a distance learning teaching system that can help you gain the mental discipline and confidence you need to make your career a success.

The need for trained electronics technicians is growing and if you are seriously interested in electronics training now is the time to enroll in one of CIE Bookstore's electronics training courses.

Why choose a career in Electronics?

You may be considering a new career or upgrading the one you have now. Electronics technology is found in just about every facet of our lives. From consumer electronics, automotive, aviation, medical equipment and more – you will encounter devices that are run via electronics components.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, jobs for Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers will continue to rise during the 2013 - 2020 time period.

The average income for electrical and electronics installers and repairers is over $49,000 in 2013. The need for electronic technicians to repair, troubleshoot and design electronics devices will continue to grow with the ever growing flow of new high-tech devices hitting the market every day.

Why not take a closer look into a career in an electronics field where the pay is pretty good and the opportunities will continue to grow for some time!

Industry Certifications
What’s neat about the electronics industry is there are professional trade groups and organizations that provide their own certification in different areas of electronics technology. Many government agencies and private companies require certification as a qualification for their positions, so getting certified in one or more different trade groups definitely will make you more attractive to an employer.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular trade groups found in the electronics industry.

International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians
One of their most popular certifications is the Associate Level Electronics CET

This Electronics certification is open to anyone interested in electronics, including a technician or student. This multiple choice test covers basic electronics, math, DC and AC circuits, transistors and troubleshooting. Upon passing the test an associate CET will receive a wall certificate valid for four years and become eligible to join ISCET as a non-voting member.

The ISCET have other certifications too:

Electronics Technicians Association
The ETA has issued over 100,000 technical certifications covering more than 80 certification programs in a variety of electronics fields.

The association is comprised of over 4,000 members, 700 Subject Matter Experts (SME) serving on various Industry Advisory Committees and over 1,000 Certification Administrators (CA).

Mobile Electronics Certified Professional
MECP is owned and managed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and has certified over 20,000 industry professionals.

Electronics Training Courses
CIE Bookstore has training courses that will help individuals reach their goals for a career in electronics and take their career to the next level.

The following two certificate courses include instructor support, online exams, textbooks, study guides, hands-on labs and a professional certificate of completion in electronics.

1. Basic Electronics Course
If you are a beginner and want to learn basic electronics theory and troubleshooting techniques CIE Bookstore’s Basic Electronics Course might be the right fit for you. The goal of this course is to help start preparing students for careers in Electronics that have no previous electronics experience.

With the 2 hands-on electronics training labs with over 50 experiments you’ll acquire the confidence and knowledge needed to repair, maintain and program electronic equipment used in most industrial applications or settings.

You’ll gather hands-on experience with printed circuit boards, soldering irons and soldering techniques, DC and AC circuits, transistors, troubleshooting techniques, test components, project boards, along with solving electronic math problems and more! 

This Basic Electronics Course will provide step-by-step electronics training through 39 graded lessons you can do at home. Learning electronics has never been more convenient.

How it works?
CIE Bookstore’s Basic Electronics course is delivered in a distance learning format. All the textbooks, part kits, hands-on labs and study guides are sent to your home and you take your exams online.

Instructor Assistance
These electronics certificate courses come with instructor support so you can have your questions answered if you ever need help. Simply contact a live instructor via email, the daily chat room or talk to an instructor one on one over the phone.

Earn Professional Certificate of Completion from CIE Bookstore
After finishing the Basic Electronics course you'll receive a certificate of completion in Basic Electronics suitable for framing.

2. Electric Circuits Course with Lab
This is an advanced Electronics training course covering electric circuits. Students should have some previous electronics experience before taking this course. Learn how to master Electric Circuits with 25 distance learning lessons, hands-on labs, instructor support and a certificate of completion.

Course Objectives:

  • Understand AC to DC conversion.
  • Construct and analyze half-wave and full wave power supplies.
  • Troubleshoot power supplies.
  • Construct and analyze transistor amplifiers.
  • Understand Ohm's and Kirchhoff's laws.
  • Master multimeter measurements.
  • Perform resistance, current and voltage readings in circuits.
  • Learn the operation of capacitors and inductors.
  • Understand AC circuit analysis.
  • Perform AC readings in a circuit.
  • Understand the operation of diodes and their limitations.
  • Learn reliable soldering techniques.

Learning Activities
This course consists of twenty-five lesson assignments.  Each lesson requires you to read topics, or portions thereof, and to answer questions based on the assigned readings.  You should solve all the problems in the exercise sections before continuing to the next topic and perform all the laboratory experiments.

Hands-on Training Lab
Our unique lab will give you hands on training with circuits, capacitors, inductors, transformers, experiments on resonance, filters, amplifiers and much more.

The lab contains the following units:
- Personal Training Laboratory
- Multimeter
- Parts Package for your Experiments
- Soldering Iron

In conclusion, choosing a career in electronics will provide you with a sense of fulfillment every day. There will always be a need for electronics technicians with the ability to troubleshoot and use test equipment.  If you enjoy working with your hands and providing solutions to electronics breakdowns - a career in the electronics industry may be the right decision for you.

The Instruction Team
Cleveland Institute of Electronics