Jesus College, Cambridge University, United Kingdom, was the setting for 'The Active World of Passives' conference on 9 September 2009. The event was organised by International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) TC(Technical Committee) 40:Capacitors and resistors for electronic equipment, and the British-based EKTN (Electronics Knowledge Transfer Network), whose goal is to support the electronic design community and to maintain excellence for innovative electronic design.
What is a passive?
Electronic components are classed as either passive or active.
A passive device is one that contributes no power gain (amplification) to a circuit or system. It has no control action and does not require any input other than a signal to perform its function. Examples are resistors, capacitors, and inductors.
Active devices are components that are capable of controlling voltages or currents and can create a switching action in the circuit. Examples are diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits.
Passive devices can sometimes be overlooked in the design of electronics because of their low cost. However, as they are used in such large numbers, there are many ways they can be optimised. The conference was the opportunity for international experts from leading companies and organisations to take a look at these possibilities.
Passives get standardised – the case for international Standards
All areas of electronics require standardisation to enable their widespread use in industry. The pace of development of all components, including passives, presents a particular challenge to Standards development. Part of the conference covered the development of IEC international Standards in IEC TC40 and related TCs and the roles of the various standardisation bodies.
Matei Cocimarov, an IEC Technical Officer who supervises the activity of some 20 IEC TCs and SCs, outlined the benefits of IEC international Standards to manufacturers, in particular relating to developing markets, product safety and quality and, finally, rationalisation and cost reduction. He also pointed out, supported by testimonies from leading industrial figures that Standards offer significant benefits for multinationals and governments in that they respect current legislation, improve safety, and save time and money.
Introducing the main subject of the day was Ken Ball, Managing Director of Knowledge Based Technical Consultancy Ltd, actively involved in both IEC TC40 and TC47:Semiconductor devices. He regretted that passives have had a negative connotation in the past, being inert and the object of the action rather than the cause of it. Going on to examine their development, he noted the proliferation of new materials, the miniaturisation and general improved performance of passives. Finally, he described the work of IEC TC40, together with that of TC40 WG(Working Group) 36:Packaging of components for automatic handling, and TC40 WG39: Harmonisation (of Standards in TC40).
IEC TC40's scope is to prepare international Standards for:
- capacitors and resistors intended for use in equipment for telecommunication and electronic devices employing similar techniques
- capacitors, resistors and inductors for radio interference suppression and complete radio interference suppression filter units
- passive integrated circuits or networks containing resistors or capacitors or their combinations.
A number of experts in various fields, many who are closely involved with the IEC and other related entities and participate actively in the development of IEC International Standards in various IEC TCs, contributed to the success of the day.