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What Is a IC Socket?

By Jean Marie Asta
Updated May 16, 2024
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An integrated circuit socket, or IC socket, is used in devices that include an integrated circuit (IC). Otherwise known as a chip, the IC is an electronic circuit that consists of transistors, resistors, capacitors, and inductors interconnected by metallizations on top of a single crystal silicone piece. The IC socket, also known as a dual-in-line (DIL) socket, it is used because a chip easily becomes damaged from heat as a result of soldering and its short pins are not protected with heat sinks.

To prevent this, an IC socket is used. It can be soldered safely onto a circuit board, and a chip can be inserted in the socket when the soldering is complete. The purpose of this socket is to be a placeholder for the IC chip and it serves as a component that allows safe removal and insertion of the chip. Removal of an IC chip involves simply prying it from the socket with a small screwdriver.

As indicated above, the IC socket is used for the application of IC devices having short lead pins, and helps provide reliable contact insurance of these pins. A single socket is comprised of contacts that each have one contact element which is fixed and another contact element which is deformable by elasticity, with an actuator that moves the contacts of the elastically deformable contact element. The centers of the elastically deformable contact elements are formed to engage with the actuator, with the portions near the socket body’s surface being formed as a means of contact for the IC device’s lead pins. This same contact element is located adjacent to the fixed contact element. Upon insertion of a particular IC device, separation of the elastically deformable contact element and the fixed contact element occurs via the actuator.

Electronic circuits were once made of a semiconductor material and miniaturized by many different techniques and methods. Methods used include reduction in component size with simultaneous close packing of components, and electronic circuit size reduction with a simultaneous elimination of component protective coverings. These miniturization methods involved many steps, but the invention of integrated circuits (ICs) enabled miniaturization to be achieved much more easily.

Using an IC socket is beneficial for compacting electronic equipment and multifunctional use. The IC socket helps attain these qualities because lead pins of a certain IC devices can be made shorter. Lead pins can be easily deformed, and compact sockets provide lesser contact area, thereby granting a smaller change of lead pin deformation.

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Discussion Comments
By anon295428 — On Oct 06, 2012

Does IC Socket needs to be placed in correct/specific position?

By MrMoody — On Jan 08, 2012

@nony - IC sockets sound like a great design idea. I think that they should have these placeholder type units for all kinds of components, not just integrated circuits. I like the idea of plug and play functionality and think that it should be applied across the board to different kinds of components.

By nony — On Jan 08, 2012

@NathanG - That’s a good point. I would add that you can test sockets in breadboard kits. With the breadboards, you are not actually soldering the components so you don’t have to worry about destroying the IC chip or the socket.

However, you do have complete flexibility to move the sockets around so that you can try different approaches to your circuit design. I should point out that you can use an extractor to remove the IC chips from the sockets, so that you don’t damage them upon removal.

By NathanG — On Jan 07, 2012

I used to build electronic circuits. One of the biggest challenges you face, especially when you are soldering your components, is not to damage them.

If you let the soldering iron get too hot or you don’t solder at the right point you can easily damage the components. Some of these components, like the IC chips, can be quite expensive to replace.

This is where the IC sockets were lifesavers. They were fairly inexpensive by contrast and if I burned a socket I could replace it easily without spending too much money. Only after the socket was securely in place did I insert the IC chip.

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