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Practical Electronics for Inventors

Practical Electronics for Inventors

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Published by: phillamx on Feb 09, 2010
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05/06/2013

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4.4Thyristors
 4.4.1Introduction
 Thyristors are two- to four-lead semiconductor devices that actexclusively as switches—they are not used to amplify signals, liketransistors. A three-lead thyristor uses a small curr
ent/voltage
applied toone of its leads to control a much larger cur- rent flow through its othertwo leads. A two-lead thyristor, on the other hand, does not use a controllead but instead is designed to switch on when the voltage across itsleads reaches a specific level, known as the
breakdown voltage.
Belowthis breakdown voltage, the two-lead thyristor remains off. You may be wondering at this point, Why not simply use a transistorinstead of a thyristor for switching applications? Well, you could—oftentransistors are indeed used as switches—but compared with thyristors,they are trickier to use because they require exacting controlcurr
ents/voltages
to operate properly. If the control cur-r
ent/voltage
is not exact, the transistor may lay in between on and off states. And according to common sense, a switch that lies in betweenstates is not a good switch. Thyristors, on the other hand, are notdesigned to operate in between states. For these devices, it is all ornothing—they are either on or off.In terms of applications, thyristors are used in speed-controlcircuits, power- switching circuits, relay-replacement circuits, low-costtimer circuits, oscillator cir- cuits, level-detector circuits, phase-controlcircuits, inverter circuits, chopper circuits, logic circuits, light-dimmingcircuits, motor speed-control circuits, etc.
 
T
A B LE
4.3
 
Major
Kinds
of 
 
Th
yristors
TYPE SYMBOLMODE
 
OF
 
OPERA
TION
Silicon-controlledNormally off, but when a small current enters its gate(
G
), it turns on. rectifier (SCR)Even when the gate current is removed, the SCRremains on.To turn it off, the anode-to-cathode current flow must be removed, or the anodemust be set to a more negative voltage than the cathode.Current flowsin only one direction, from anode (
 A
) to cathode (
C
).Silicon-controlledSimilar to an SCR, but it can be made to turn off byapplying a positive switch (SCS)voltage pulse to a four-lead, called the
anode gate.
 Thisdevice also canbe made to trigger on when a negative voltage is applied tothe anode-gate lead. Current flows in one direction, from anode (
 A
) tocathode (
C
). TriacSimilar to a SCR, but it can switch in both directions,meaning it can switch ac as well as dc currents. A triacremains on only when the gateis receiving current, and it turns off when the gate current isremoved.Current flows in both directions, through
MT 
1 and
MT 
2.Four-layer diodeIt has only two leads.When placed between two points in acircuit, it actsas a voltage-sensitive switch.As long as the voltagedifference across itsleads is below a specific breakdown voltage, it remains off.However,when the voltage difference exceeds the breakdown point, itturns on.Conducts in one direction, from anode (
 A
) to cathode (
C
).DiacSimilar to the four-layer diode but can conduct in bothdirections.Designed to switch either ac or dc.
 Table 4.3 provides an overview of the major kinds of thyristors. Whenyou see thephrase
turns it on,
this means a conductive path is made between thetwo conducting leads [e.g., anode (
 A
) to cathode (
C
),
MT 
1 to
MT 
2).
Normally off 
refers to the condition when no voltage is applied to thegate (the gate is open-circuited). I will present a closer look at thesethyristors in the subsections that follow.
 4.4.2Silicon-Controlled Rectifiers
SCRs are three-lead semiconductor devices that act as electrically controlledswitches. When a specific positive trigger
voltage/cur r
ent is applied to theSCR’s gate lead (
G
),a conductive channel forms between the anode (
 A
) and the cathode (
C
)leads. Current flows in only one direction through the SCR, from anode tocathode (like a diode).
GAC
FIGURE
4.89
anode gate
Another unique feature of an SCR, besides its current-controlled
 
switching, has todo withitsconduction stateafter thegatecurrent isremoved.After anSCR istrig-geredintoconduction,removingthe gatecurrenthas noeffect. That is,the SCRwillremainon evenwhen thegatecurr
ent/voltage
isremoved. The onlyway toturn thedevice off is toremovetheanode-to-cathodecurrentor toreversetheanodeand cath-odespolarities.

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