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Diffusion Current

# Diffusion Current

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03/18/2014

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Diffusion Current
Diffusion is the process of particles distributing themselves from regions of highconcentration to regions of low concentration. If this process is left unperturbed, therewill eventually be a uniform distribution of particles. Diffusion does not need externalforces to act upon a group of particles. The particles move about using only thermalmotion. If we let the particles be carriers, so as they move around they take charge withthem. The moving of charge will result in a current. We call this
current due to diffusion
.The difference between drift current and diffusion current is that drift current depends onthe electric field applied: if there's no electric field, there's no drift current. Diffusioncurrent occurs even though there isn't an electric field applied to the semiconductor. Itdoes not have
E
as one of its parameters. The constants it does depend on are
D
p
and
D
n
,and
+q
and
-q
, for holes and electrons respectively. The first constants are called thediffusion coefficients, a proportionality factor. We don't worry too much about these because they are constants. We do worry about the gradient of the concentration of
p
and/or
n
, though. But, since we are talking about a one dimensional situation when we aresolving for current densities, we only worry about the gradient (or derivative) withrespect to the
x-
plane.The other difference between drift current and diffusion current, is that the direction of the diffusion current depends on the change in the carrier concentrations, not theconcentrations themselves. In the equation, the signs are reversed as we are used toseeing them. We usually assign a
+q
to holes and
-q
to electrons. In the case of diffusioncurrent, they are reversed to be opposite of the derivative of the concentrations. Thisoccurs because the carriers are diffusing from areas of high concentrations to areas of lowconcentrations.For example, if the derivative of
p
with respect to
x
is positive, then the concentration of holes is growing as you move towards the
+x
direction. Diffusion current will be theopposite of that, the holes will be diffusing in the
-x
direction to where there's a lower concentration of holes. If the derivative is negative, the opposite will occur. Theconcentration of holes is decreasing as you go from the
-x
to
+x
direction. Therefore,holes will diffuse to the
+x
direction where there's a lower concentration of holes. This iswhy the negative sign is needed in the equation for the hole diffusion current.The same goes for electrons, but in this case, the signs cancel for a positive derivative because the electrons, carrying
-q
, diffuse to the
-x
direction where there's less electrons.The sign remains if the derivative is negative, because electrons will be diffusing to the
+x
direction carrying a
-q
charge. For these reasons it's not included in the equation for the electron diffusion current.Both drift current and diffusion current make up the total current in a semiconductor.They may not be occurring at the same time, but the equation is still valid. Under equilibrium conditions, the current density should be zero because there shouldn't be anydrastic changes occurring, like applying an electric field or changing the carrier