You are on page 1of 3

It's pretty simple once you understand it!

The thing is, an iPhone is made up

of many, many different properties of conductors made through the use of
silicon! To put it simply, the electrons don't "power" everything in an iPhone.
You have something very simple in electronics call a transistor, which is a
PNP or NPN junction. To put it simply a P is a way that we can 'dope' the
silicon semiconductor to give it certain properties; this is the same for the N
type as well. Now, when we bring the N and the P together, they react in
special way.
In order to understand electrons you need to understand that they are
present in say, a piece of copper. When you pass electricity through copper
the electrons don't start at the beginning and flow to the end, but the
electrons entering push the already present electrons out the end. Like
turning the tap on at an already full hose.
Now, the tap end will be the positive (+) end and the exit of the hose will be
the negative (-) end. Ever see those markings on AA batteries? Now, the
'pressure' is highest at the positive side of the battery, so it pushes all the
electrons from the positive side to the negative side. This is important. Why?
Well, if you want to create a switch out of a NPN transistor, you need to be
able to control the direction of the current (electrons) which just so happens
to be the way they work. Now, an NPN transistor has 3 legs. One side lets
electrons in, the other side lets the electrons out, and one side allows them
to flow between them (N at either side are in and outlet, P is the switching
Now, through the use of switches we can create complex logical components
such as AND, OR, XOR, NAND. These allow you to make the electrons make
"decisions" for you. So, if you have an AND component, you can work out if
two numbers at the same. Ever hear how computers use 1s and 0s? This is
because an AND or say, OR gate works upon 1s and 0s. Since a computer is
built off of these very basic things it also works off of 1s and 0s.
I could go into a very large detail of how the computer inside the phone
works, but let's just assume that it can now process information that you
feed into it. We now need to understand how your touch screen works (how
else are you going to use the phone?). It's a very simple concept, really!

Now, older touch devices used what is called resistive touch. This is where
you can get a position of a single touch on a screen. It was a flexible
membrane upon a continuously resistive surface. Essentially the same as if
you hear a sound, you can guess where it is based on the direction. It's
simple but it doesn't work for multiple touches AND it requires a very
flexible, and soft membrane on top. It was plastic, not glass. Your
iPhone(and everyone else these days) uses what is called capacitive touch.
This is a little harder to understand and it goes a lot deeper into a side of
electronics called "Capacitance". You are better off reading it on the wiki
page here:
Now, in order to use your phone you need to be able to see the screen. This
is a simple technology called an LED. Now, this stands for Light Emitting
Diode. Remember how we talked about PNP and NPN junctions earlier? Well,
this is what we call a PN junction! However, there is normal diodes, which
force electrons to flow in one direction, and then there is an LED which does
the same, but emits light at the same time. I won't go into the physics of it
but essentially we put another semiconductor near the PN junction and some
electrons jump to that one, which they then get transformed into photons!
So these electrons get literally turned into light. To get different colors we
just modify which semiconductor we use and we can get different
wavelengths of light!
Now, what your screen has 3 LEDs per pixel; red, green and blue. These
three combine to give what we call additive light. You are probably used to
what we call subtractive light. Where if you mix yellow and blue you get
green. Well, to get yellow in this style you need to mix red and green. And
since these pixels are so small, and there are optics to diffuse their light
together, the rods and cones in your eyes see yellow. Did I mention that you
only have red, green and blue sensors in your eyes to see with? Yup.
So, you can see and interact with that processor in your phone. I'll spare you
the speaker, which uses electromagnetism to create waves of air
compression to produce sound. Or the little motor that also uses
electromagnetism to make your phone vibrate. I of course won't go into the
fact that your battery has its own little circuit to manage its charging so it
doesn't blow up if it drops below a certain voltage.

Really, all the technology in your phone isn't that hard to understand when
you break it down. I've learnt all of this in 2 years at university. Well, I knew
most of it before hand, but anyway! It's all on Wikipedia because electrionic
engineering is an amazing thing and it's well documented!
Also, you're a little wrong about incandescent light bulbs ;). You see, they
pass those electrons through a tungsten filament. The interesting thing
about tungsten is that it can withstand a large amount of temperature (this
is why they make tungsten drill bits!). Not to mention the amount of
resistance that tungsten gives gets higher as it gets hotter, so it's a self
regulating thing. Now, those electrons we talked about, they do the same
thing that happens in an LED, they come across the tungsten and get thrown
off into the space around them in the form of photons! It's not the fact that
it's hot that it makes light, no no. That's a side effect of the reaction.
Tl;Dr: Magic, but I didn't write this for you to skim over. Read it! Technology
and science is amazing! Especially all the nitty gritty stuff!
EDIT: I'll have to note here that all of the devices I've discussed here are not
perfect by any means and because they are not perfect, they also create
heat while they are working. This is where electrons escape and where a
large chunk of the in-efficiency of semiconductors comes from. This is
another reason (from what I understand) why Graphene is such a lucrative
thing, because its baser resistance compared to Silicon is mu