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Step recovery diode

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In electronics, a step recovery diode (SRD) is a semiconductor junction diode having the
ability to generate extremely short pulses. It is also called snap-off diode or charge-storage
diode or memory varactor, and has a variety of uses in microwave electronics as pulse
generator or parametric amplifier.
When diodes switch from forward conduction to reverse cut-off, a reverse current flows
briefly as stored charge is removed. It is the abruptness with which this reverse current ceases
which characterises the step recovery diode.
Contents
[hide]
1 Historical note
2 Operating the SRD
o 2.1 Physical principles
3 Operation of the Drift Step Recovery Diode (DSRD)
4 See also
5 References
6 External links
Historical note[edit]
The first published paper on the SRD is (Boff, Moll & Shen 1960): the authors start the brief
survey stating that "the recovery characteristics of certain types of pn-junction diodes exhibit
a discontinuity which may be used to advantage for the generation of harmonics or for the
production of millimicrosecond pulses". They also refer that they first observed this
phenomenon in February, 1959.
Operating the SRD[edit]
Physical principles[edit]
The main phenomenon used in SRDs is the storage of electric charge during forward
conduction, which is present in all semiconductor junction diodes and is due to finite lifetime
of minority carriers in semiconductors. Assume that the SRD is forward biased and in steady
state i.e. the anode bias current does not change with time: since charge transport in a
junction diode is mainly due to diffusion, i.e. to a non constant spatial charge carrier density
caused by bias voltage, a charge Q
s
is stored in the device. This stored charge depends on
1. Intensity of the forward anode current I
A
flowing in the device during its steady state.
2. Minority carrier lifetime , i.e. the mean time a free charge carrier moves inside a
semiconductor region before recombining.
Quantitatively, if the steady state of forward conduction lasts for a time much greater than ,
the stored charge has the following approximate expression

Now suppose that the voltage bias abruptly changes, switching from its stationary positive
value to a higher magnitude constant negative value: then, since a certain amount of charge
has been stored during forward conduction, diode resistance is still low (i.e. the anode-to-
cathode voltage V
AK
has nearly the same forward conduction value). Anode current does not
cease but reverses its polarity (i.e. the direction of its flow) and stored charge Q
s
starts to flow
out of the device at an almost constant rate I
R
. All the stored charge is thus removed in a
certain amount of time: this time is the storage time t
S
and its approximate expression is

When all stored charge has been removed, diode resistance suddenly changes, rising to its
cut-off value at reverse bias within a time t
Tr
, the transition time: this behavior can be used to
produce pulses with rise time equal to this time.
Operation of the Drift Step Recovery Diode (DSRD)[edit]
The Drift Step Recovery Diode (DSRD) was discovered by Russian scientists in 1981
(Grekhov et al., 1981). The principle of the DSRD operation is similar to the SRD, with one
essential difference - the forward pumping current should be pulsed, not continuous, because
drift diodes function with slow carriers.
The principle of DSRD operation can be explained as follows: A short pulse of current is
applied in the forward direction of the DSRD effectively "pumping" the P-N junction, or in
other words, charging the P-N junction capacitively. When the current direction reverses,
the accumulated charges are removed from the base region.
As soon as the accumulated charge decreases to zero, the diode opens rapidly. A high voltage
spike can appear due to the self-induction of the diode circuit. The larger the commutation
current and the shorter the transition from forward to reverse conduction, the higher the pulse
amplitude and efficiency of the pulse generator (Kardo-Sysoev et al., 1997).