How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 904

How does a transistor amplify an input signal in an audio amplifier? — AR, Pierrefonds, Quebec
The answer depends a little on which type of transistor is used, so I'll consider only an audio amplifier based on MOSFETs (Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field Effect Transistors). One of these three-electrode devices allows a tiny electric charge on its gate electrode to control a substantial current flowing between its source and drain electrodes. In a typical amplifier, the current flowing in the input circuit is allowed to deposit or remove electric charge from the gate electrode(s) of one or more MOSFETs. This action dramatically changes how much current flows in a second circuit. This second circuit is ultimately responsible for the current that passes out of the amplifier and through the speakers that reproduce sound. As the current in the input circuit fluctuates to represent a particular musical passage, the charges on the gates of the MOSFETs also fluctuate and the MOSFETs vary the current through the output circuit and the speakers. Because MOSFETs are so sensitive to even a tiny amount of charge, it doesn't take much current in the input circuit to cause large changes in the current of the output circuit.

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