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Thyristors are two- to four-lead semiconductor devices that act exclusively as switches—they are not used to amplify signals, like transistors. A three-lead thyristor uses a small current/voltage applied to one of its leads to control a much larger cur- rent flow through its other two leads. A two-lead thyristor, on the other hand, does not use a control lead but instead is designed to switch on when the voltage across its leads reaches a specific level, known as the breakdown voltage. Below this breakdown voltage, the two-lead thyristor remains off. You may be wondering at this point, Why not simply use a transistor instead of a thyristor for switching applications? Well, you could—often transistors are indeed used as switches—but compared with thyristors, they are trickier to use because they require exacting control currents/voltages to operate properly. If the control current/voltage is not exact, the transistor may lay in between on and off states. And according to common sense, a switch that lies in between states is not a good switch. Thyristors, on the other hand, are not designed to operate in between states. For these devices, it is all or nothing—they are either on or off. In terms of applications, thyristors are used in speed-control circuits, power- switching circuits, relay-replacement circuits, low-cost timer circuits, oscillator cir- cuits, level-detector circuits, phase-control circuits, inverter circuits, chopper circuits, logic circuits, light-dimming circuits, motor speed-control circuits, etc.
TA B L E4.3
M ajor Kinds of Thyristors
SYMBO L MODE OF OPER ATION
Silicon-controlled Normally off, but when a small current enters its gate (G), it turns on. rectifier (SCR) Even when the gate current is removed, the SCR remains on.To turn it off, the anode-to-cathode current flow must be removed, or the anode must be set to a more negative voltage than the cathode. Current flows in only one direction, from anode (A) to cathode (C). Silicon-controlled applying a positive switch (SCS) device also can Similar to an SCR, but it can be made to turn off by voltage pulse to a four-lead, called the anode gate. This be made to trigger on when a negative voltage is applied to the anodegate lead. Current flows in one direction, from anode (A) to cathode (C). Similar to a SCR, but it can switch in both directions, meaning it can switch ac as well as dc currents. A triac remains on only when the gate is receiving current, and it turns off when the gate current is removed. Current flows in both directions, through MT1 and MT2. It has only two leads.When placed between two points in a as a voltage-sensitive switch.As long as the voltage difference across its leads is below a specific breakdown voltage, it remains off. However, when the voltage difference exceeds the breakdown point, it turns on. Conducts in one direction, from anode (A) to cathode (C). Similar to the four-layer diode but can conduct in both Designed to switch either ac or dc.
Four-layer diode circuit, it acts
Table 4.3 provides an overview of the major kinds of thyristors. When you see the phrase turns it on, this means a conductive path is made between the two conducting leads [e.g., anode (A) to cathode (C), MT1 to MT2). Normally off refers to the condition when no voltage is applied to the gate (the gate is open-circuited). I will present a closer look at these thyristors in the subsections that follow.
4.4.2 Silicon-Controlled Rectifiers
SCRs are three-lead semiconductor devices that act as electrically controlled switches. When a specific positive trigger voltage/cur rent is applied to the SCR’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 to cathode (like a diode).
G A C anode gate
Another unique feature of an SCR, besides its current-controlled
switching , has to do with its conductio n state after the gate current is removed. After an SCR is triggered into conductio n, removing the gate current has no effect. That is, the SCR will remain on even when the gate current/v oltage is removed. The only way to turn the device off is to remove the anode-tocathode current or to reverse the anode and cathodes polarities.
In terms of applications, SCRs are used in switching circuits, phasecontrol cir- cuits, inverting circuits, clipper circuits, and relay-control circuits, to name a few.
How SCR s Work
An SCR is essentially just an npn and a pnp bipolar transistor sandwiched together, as shown in Fig. 4.90. The bipolar transistor equivalent circuit works well in describing how the SCR works.
N An ode P N
P Cathode N
THE SCR IS OFF
Using the bipolar equivalent circuit, if the gate is not set to a specific positive voltage needed to turn the npn transistor on, the pnp transistor will not be able to “sink” current from its own base. This means that neither transistor will conduct, and hence current will not flow from anode to cathode.
THE SCR IS ON
If a positive voltage is applied to the gate, the npn transistor ’s base is properly biased, and it turns on. Once on, the pnp tran- sistor’s base can now “sink” current though the npn transistor ’s collector —which is what a pnp transistor needs in order to turn on. Since both transistors are on, current flows freely between anode and cathode. Notice that the SCR will remain on even after the gate current is removed. This— according to the bipolar equivalent circuit—results from the fact that both transistors are in a state of conduction when the gate current is removed. Because current is already in motion through the pnp transistors base, there is no reason for the transistors to turn off.
Basi c SCR Applic ations
BASIC LATCHING SWITCH
Here, an SCR is used to construct a latching circuit. S1 is a momentary contact, normally open pushbutton switch, while S2 is a momentary contact, normally closed pushbutton switch. When S1 is pushed in and released, a small pulse of current enters the gate of the SCR, thus turning it on. Current will then flow through the load. The load will continue to receive current until the moment S2 is pushed, at which time the SCR turns off. The gate resis- tor acts to set the SCR’s triggering voltage/current. We’ll take a closer look at the triggering specifications in a second.
S1 normally open
S2 normally closed load RG
R1 Vsource Rload Vload
Vtrig set by R1 Vload
FIGURE 4.92 Here, an SCR is used to rectify a sinusoidal signal that is to be used to power a load. When a sinusoidal waveform is applied to the gate, the SCR turns on when the anode and gate receive the pos- itive going portion of the waveform (provided the triggering voltage is exceeded). Once the SCR is on, the waveform passes through the anode and cathode, powering the load in the proces s. During the negative going portion of the waveform, the SCR acts like a reverse-biased diode; the SCR turns off. Increasing R1 has the effect of lowering the current/ voltage supplied to the SCR’s gate. This in turn causes a lag in anode-tocathode conduction time. As a result, the fraction of the cycle over which the device conducts can be controlled (see graph), which means that the average power dissipated by Rload can be adjusted. The advantage of using an SCR over a simple series variable resistor to control current flow is that essential ly no power is lost to resistive heating.
DC MOTOR SPEED CONTROLLER
+10V +3 to 6V
R1 Ω 100K
2N4819 4.7 µ F 100 Ω
An SCR along with a few resistor s, a capacito r, and a UJT can be connected together to make a variable-speed control circuit used to run a dc motor. The UJT, the capacito r, and the resistors make up an oscillator that supplies an ac voltage to the SCR’s gate. When the voltage at the gate exceeds the SCR’s triggering voltage, the SCR turns on, thus allowing current to flow through the motor. Changing the resistance of R1 changes the frequen cy of the oscillator and hence determines the number of times the SCR’s gate is triggered over time, which in turn controls the speed of the motor. (The motor appears to turn continuously, even though it is receiving a series of on/off pulses. The number of on cycles averaged over time determines the speed of the motor.) Using such a circuit over a simple series variable resistor to control the speed of the motor wastes less energy.
Kind s of SCRs
Some SCRs are designed specifically for phase-control applications, while others are designed for high-speed switching applications. Perhaps the most distinguishing fea- ture of SCRs is the amount of current they can handle. Low-current SCRs typically come with maximum current/voltage ratings approximately no bigger than 1 A/100 V. Medium-current SCRs, on the other hand, come with maximum current/voltage ratings typically no bigger than 10 A/100 V. The maximum ratings for high-current SCRs may be several thousand amps at several thousand volts. Low-current SCRs come in plastic or metal can-like packages, while medium and high-current SCRs come with heat sinks built in.
L o wcurrent
Technica l Stuff
Here are some common terms used by the manufacturers to describe their SCRs: VT IGT VGT trigger IH PGM VDRM On state-voltage. The anode-to-cathode voltage present when the SCR is on. Gate trigger current. The minimum gate current needed to switch the SCR on. Gate trigger voltage. The minimum gate voltage required to trigger the gate current. Holding current. The minimum current through the anode-to-cathode terminal required to maintain the SCR’s on state. Peak gate power dissipation. The maximum power that may be dissipated between the gate and the cathode region. Repetitive peak off-state voltage. The maximum instantaneous value of the off-state volt- age that occurs across an SCR, including all repetitive transient voltages but excluding all nonrepetit ive transient voltages. Repetitive peak off-state current. The maximum instantaneous value of the off-state cur- rent that results from the application of repetit ive peak off-state voltage. Repetitive peak reverse voltage. The maximum instantaneous value of the reverse voltage that occurs across an SCR, including all repetit ive transient voltages but excluding all nonrepetit ive transient voltages. Repetitive peak reverse current. Maximum instantaneous value of the reverse current that results from the application of repetitive peak reverse voltage.
Here’s a sample section of an SCR specifications table to give you an idea of what to expect (Table 4.4).
TA B L E4.4
Sa m pleSectionof an S C RSp ecific tions Table a
V DRM (MIN) (V ) IDR (MAX) (mA) IRR (MAX) (mA) V T (V) IG (TYP/MAX) (mA) VG (TYP/MAX) (V ) I (TYP/MAX) (mA) PG (W) M
MNF R #
4.4.3 Silicon-Controlled Switches
A silicon-controlled switch (SCS) is a device similar to an SCR, but it is designed to turn off when a positive voltage/input current pulse is applied to an additional anode gate lead. The device also can be triggered into conduction by applying a negative voltage/output current pulse to the same lead. Other than this, the SCS behaves just like an SCR (see last section for the details). Figure 4.95 shows the symbol for an SCS. Note that the lead names may not appear as cathode, gate, and anode gate. Instead, they may be referred to as emitter (cathode), base (gate), and collector (anode gate).
anode gate (collector)
SCSs are used in counters, lamp drivers, power-switching circuits, and logic cir- cuits, as well as in essentially any circuit that requires a switch that can be turned on and off by two separate control pulses.
How an SCS Works
Figure 4.96 shows a basic n-type/ p-type silicon model of an SCS, along with its bipo- lar equivalent circuit. As you can see, the equivalent circuit looks a lot that the SCR equivalent circuit, with the exception of the anode gate connection. When a positive pulse of current is applied to the gate, the npn transistor turns on. This allows current to exit the pnp transistor ’s base, hence turning the pnp transistor on. Now that both transistors are on, current can flow from anode to cathode —the SCS is turned on. The SCS will remain on until you remove the anode-to-cathode current, reverse the anode and cathode polarities, or apply a negative voltage to the anode gate. The negative anode gate voltage removes the transistor ’s self-sustaining biasing current.
"anode" anode anode gate
"anode gate" "gate"
When buying an SCS, make sure to select a device that has the proper breakdown voltage, current, and power-dissipation ratings. A typical specification table will pro- vide the following ratings: BV CB, BV EB, BV CE, IE, IC, IH (holding current), and PD (power dissipation). Here I have assumed the alternate lead name designations.
Triacs are devices similar to SCRs—they act as electrically controlled switches—but unlike SCRs, they are designed to pass current in both directions, therefore making them suitable for ac applications. Triacs come with three leads, a gate lead and two conducting leads called MT1 and MT2. When no current/voltage is applied to the gate, the triac remains off. However, if a specific trigger voltage is applied to the gate, the device turns on. To turn the triac off, the gate current/voltage is removed.
gate MT1 MT2
Triacs are used in ac motor control circuits, light-dimming circuits, phase-control circuits, and other ac power-switching circuits. They are often used as substitutes for mechanical relays.
How a Tria c Works
Figure 4.98 shows a simple n-type/ p-type silicon model of a triac. This device resem- bles two SCRs placed in reverse parallel with each other. The equivalent circuit describes how the triac works.
MT1 "gate" "MT1"
TRIAC IS OFF
Using the SCR equivalent circuit, when no current/ voltage is applied to the gate lead, neither of the SCRs ’ gates receives a triggering voltage; hence current cannot flow in either direction through MT1 and MT2.
TRIAC IS ON
When a specific positive triggering current/ voltage is applied to the gate, both SCRs receive suf- ficient voltage to trigger on. Once both SCRs are on, current can flow in either direction through MT1 to MT2 or from MT2 to MT1. If the gate voltage is removed, both SCRs will turn off when the ac waveform applied across MT1 and MT2 crosses zero volts.
Basi c Applic ations
ac input (e.g., 120 V)
Here is a simple circuit showing how a triac acts to permit or prevent current from reaching a load. When the mechanical switch is open, no current enters the triac’s gate; the triac remains off, and no current passes through the load. When the switch is closed, a small current slips through RG, triggering the triac into conduction (provided the gate current and voltage exceed the triggering requirements of the triac). The alternating current can now flow through the triac and power the load. If the switch is open again, the triac turns off, and current is prevented from flowing through the load.
R Vsource C R load Vload
A triac along with a variable resistor and a capacito r can be used to construc t an adjustabl e full-wave rectifie r. The resistanc e R of the variable resistor sets the time at which the triac will trigger on. Increasin g R causes the triac to trigger at a later time and therefor e results in a larger amount of clip- ping (see graph).The size of C also determine s the amount of clipping that will take place. (The capac- itor acts to store charge until the voltage across its terminal s reaches the triac’s triggering voltage. At that time, the capacito r will dump its charge.) The reason why the capacito r can introduc e additional clippin g results from the fact that the capacito r may cause the voltage at the gate to lag the MT2-to- MT1 voltage (e.g., even if the gate receives sufficien t triggering voltage, the MT2-to-MT1 voltage may be crossing zero volts). Overall, more clipping results in less power supplied to the load. Using this circuit over a simple series variable resistor connecte d to a load saves power. A simple series variable resistor gobble s up energy. This circuit, however, supplies energy-efficien t pulses of current.
AC LIGHT DIMMER
120 V 100 W R1 1K 120 V ac R2 500K diac
0.1 µ F 50V
This circuit is used in many househol d dimmer switches. The diac—describe d in the next sec- tion—acts to ensure accurat e triac triggering. (The diac acts as a switch that passes current when the voltage across its leads reaches a set breakdown value. Once the breakdown voltage is reached, the diac releas e a pulse of current.) In this circuit, at one momen t the diac is off. However, when enough current passes through the resistor s and charges up the capacito r to a voltage that exceed s the diac’s triggering voltage, the diac suddenly passes all the capacitor ’s charge into the triac’s gate. This in turn causes the triac to turn on and thus turns the lamp on. After the capacito r is discharged to a voltage below the breakdown voltage of the diac, the diac turns off, the triac turns off, and the lamp turns off. Then the cycle repeats itself, over and over again. Now, it appears that the lamp is on (or dimmed to some degree) becaus e the on/off cycles are occurring very quickly. The lamp’s brightnes s is controlle d by R2.
AC MOTOR CONTROLLER
120 V ac C1 0.1 µ F 100V
R1 100K 2W
R2 100 Ω 1/2W C2 0.22 µ F 200V
This circuit has the same basic structure as the light dimmer circuit, with the excep- tion of the transient suppresso r section (R2C2). The speed of the motor is
adjusted by varying R1.
Kind s of Triacs
Triacs come in low-current and medium-current forms. Low-current triacs typically come with maximum current/voltage ratings no bigger than 1 A/(several hundred volts). Medium-current triacs typically come with maximum current/voltage rating of up to 40 A/(few thousand volts). Triacs cannot switch as much current as high- current SCRs.
L o wcurrent
Technica l Stuff
Here are some common terms used by the manufacturers to describe their triacs: ITRMS,max RMS on-state current. The maximum allowable MT1-to-MT2 current IGT,max DC gate trigger current. The minimum dc gate current needed to switch the triac on VGT,max IH PGM Isurge DC gate trigger voltage. The minimum dc gate voltage required to trigger the gate trig- ger current DC holding current. The minimum MT1-to-MT2 dc current needed to keep the triac in its on state Peak gate power dissipation. The maximum gate-to -MT1 power dissipation Surge current. Maximum allowable surge current
Here’s a sample section of a triac specifications table to give you an idea of what to expect (Table 4.5).
TA B L E4.5
Sa m pleSe ctionof a Triac Sp ecific tions Table a
IT,RMS MAX. (A) IG MAX. (mA) VG MAX. (V ) V FON (V ) I H (mA) ISURGE (A)
MNF R #
4.4.5 Four-Layer Diodes and Diacs
Four-layer diodes and diacs are two-lead thyristors that switch current without the need of a gate signal. Instead, these devices turn on when the voltage across their leads reaches a particular breakdown voltage (or breakover voltage). A four-layer diode resembles an SCR without a gate lead, and it is designed to switch only dc. A diac resembles a pnp transistor without a base lead, and it is designed to switch only ac. four-layer diode
Four-layer diodes and diacs are used most frequently to help SCRs and triacs trig- ger properly. For example, by using a diac to trigger a triac’s gate, as shown in Fig. 4.105a, you can avoid unreliable triac triggering caused by device instability resulting from temperature variations, etc. When the voltage across the diac reaches the break- down voltage, the diac will suddenly release a “convincing” pulse of current into the triac’s gate.
FULL-WAVE PHASE CONTROL CIRCUIT CIRCUIT USED TO MEASURE DIAC CHARACTERISTICS
47K 3.3K triac diac 120 Vrms 60 Hz 0.1 µ F 100V IC 0.1 µ F I
diac under test
load (<1500W) 120 VAC 60 Hz 200K
RL 220 Ω
The circuit in Fig. 4.105 right is used to measure diac characteristics. The 100-kΩ variable resistor is adjusted until the diac fires once for every half-cycle.
Here’s a typical portion of a specifications table for a diac (Table 4.6).
TA B L E4.6
S a m p leSectionof a D ia c Specific tions Table a
VBO (V) IB MAX (µ A ) IPULSE (A) VSWITCH (V ) PD (mW)
MNF R #
Here, VBO is the breakover voltage, IBO is the breakover current, Ipulse is the maximum peak pulse current, Vswitch is the maximum switching voltage, and PD is the maximum power dissipation.
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