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Photodetector from a CD-ROM Drive. 3 photodiodes are visible.
A photodiode is a type of photodetector capable of converting light into either current orvoltage, depending upon the mode of operation. Photodiodes are similar to regular semiconductor diodes except that they may be either exposed (to detect vacuum UV or X-rays) or packaged with a window or optical fiberconnection to allow light to reach the sensitive part of the device. Many diodes designed for use specifically as a photodiode will also use a PIN junction rather than the typical PN junction.
• • o o o • o • • o o •
1 Polarity 2 Principle of operation 2.1 Photovoltaic mode 2.2 Photoconductive mode 2.3 Other modes of operation 3 Materials 3.1 Unwanted photodiodes 4 Features 5 Applications 5.1 Comparison with photomultipliers 5.2 P-N vs. P-I-N photodiodes 6 Photodiode array
• • •
7 See also 8 References 9 External links
Photodiode schematic symbol
Some photodiodes will look like the picture to the right, that is, similar to a light emitting diode. They will have two leads, or wires, coming from the bottom. The shorter end of the two is thecathode, while the longer end is the anode. See below for a schematic drawing of the anode and cathode side. Under forward bias, conventional current will pass from the anode to the cathode, following the arrow in the symbol. Photocurrent flows in the opposite direction. Principle
A photodiode is a PN junction or PIN structure. When a photon of sufficient energy strikes the diode, it excites an electron, thereby creating a mobile electron and a positively charged electron hole. If the absorption occurs in the junction's depletion region, or one diffusion length away from it, these carriers are swept from the junction by the built-in field of the depletion region. Thus holes move toward the anode, and electrons toward the cathode, and a photocurrent is produced. Photovoltaic
When used in zero bias or photovoltaic mode, the flow of photocurrent out of the device is restricted and a voltage builds up. The diode becomes forward biased and "dark current" begins to flow across the junction in the direction opposite to the photocurrent. This mode is responsible for the photovoltaic effect, which is the basis for solar cells—in fact, a solar cell is just a large area photodiode. Photoconductive
In this mode the diode is often reverse biased, dramatically reducing the response time at the expense of increased noise. This increases the width of the depletion layer, which decreases the junction's capacitance resulting in faster response times. The reverse bias induces only a small
amount of current (known as saturation or back current) along its direction while the photocurrent remains virtually the same. The photocurrent is linearly proportional to the illuminance. Although this mode is faster, the photovoltaic mode tends to exhibit more electronic noise.[citation
The leakage current of a good PIN diode is so low (< 1nA) that the Johnson–Nyquist
noise of the load resistance in a typical circuit often dominates. Other
modes of operation
Avalanche photodiodes have a similar structure to regular photodiodes, but they are operated with much higher reverse bias. This allows each photo-generated carrier to be multiplied by avalanche breakdown, resulting in internal gain within the photodiode, which increases the effective responsivity of the device. Phototransistors also consist of a photodiode with internal gain. A phototransistor is in essence nothing more than a bipolar transistor that is encased in a transparent case so that light can reach the base-collector junction. The electrons that are generated by photons in the basecollector junction are injected into the base, and this photodiode current is amplified by the transistor's current gain β (or hfe). Note that while phototransistors have a higher responsivity for light they are not able to detect low levels of light any better than photodiodes.[citation
Phototransistors also have slower response times.
Materials The material used to make a photodiode is critical to defining its properties, because only photons with sufficient energy to excite electronsacross the material's bandgap will produce significant photocurrents. Materials commonly used to produce photodiodes include: Material Wavelength range (nm)
Indium gallium arsenide 800–2600
Because of their greater bandgap, silicon-based photodiodes generate less noise than germanium-based photodiodes, but germanium photodiodes must be used for wavelengths longer than approximately 1 µm. Unwanted
Since transistors and ICs are made of semiconductors, and contain P-N junctions, almost every active component is potentially a photodiode. Many components, especially those sensitive to small currents, will not work correctly if illuminated, due to the induced photocurrents. In most components this is not desired, so they are placed in an opaque housing. Since housings are not completely opaque to X-rays or other high energy radiation, these can still cause many ICs to malfunction due to induced photo-currents. Features
Response of a silicon photo diode vs wavelength of the incident light
Critical performance parameters of a photodiode include: responsivity The ratio of generated photocurrent to incident light power, typically expressed in A/W when used in photoconductive mode. The responsivity may also be expressed as a quantum efficiency, or the ratio of the number of photogenerated carriers to incident photons and thus a unitless quantity. dark current The current through the photodiode in the absence of light, when it is operated in photoconductive mode. The dark current includes photocurrent generated by background radiation and the saturation current of the semiconductor junction. Dark current must be
accounted for by calibration if a photodiode is used to make an accurate optical power measurement, and it is also a source of noise when a photodiode is used in an optical communication system. noise-equivalent power (NEP) The minimum input optical power to generate photocurrent, equal to the rms noise current in a 1 hertz bandwidth. The related characteristic detectivity (D) is the inverse of NEP, 1/NEP; and the specific detectivity ( (A) of the photodetector, input power of a photodiode. When a photodiode is used in an optical communication system, these parameters contribute to the sensitivity of the optical receiver, which is the minimum input power required for the receiver to achieve a specified bit error ratio. Applications P-N photodiodes are used in similar applications to other photodetectors, such as photoconductors, charge-coupled devices, andphotomultiplier tubes. Photodiodes are used in consumer electronics devices such as compact disc players, smoke detectors, and the receivers for remote controls in VCRs and televisions. In other consumer items such as camera light meters, clock radios (the ones that dim the display when it's dark) and street lights,photoconductors are often used rather than photodiodes, although in principle either could be used. Photodiodes are often used for accurate measurement of light intensity in science and industry. They generally have a better, more linear response than photoconductors. They are also widely used in various medical applications, such as detectors for computed tomography (coupled with scintillators) or instruments to analyze samples (immunoassay). They are also used in pulse oximeters. PIN diodes are much faster and more sensitive than ordinary p-n junction diodes, and hence are often used for optical communications and in lighting regulation. P-N photodiodes are not used to measure extremely low light intensities. (*at least one
of these sentences is wrong!)
) is the detectivity normalized to the area . The NEP is roughly the minimum detectable
Instead, if high sensitivity is needed, avalanche
photodiodes, intensified charge-coupled devices or photomultiplier tubes are used for applications such as astronomy,spectroscopy, night vision equipment and laser rangefinding. Comparison
Advantages compared to photomultipliers: 1. Excellent linearity of output current as a function of incident light Spectral response from 190 nm to 1100 nm (silicon),
3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
longer wavelengths with other semiconductor materials Low noise Ruggedized to mechanical stress Low cost Compact and light weight Long lifetime High quantum efficiency, typically 80% No high voltage required
Disadvantages compared to photomultipliers: 1. Small area No internal gain (except avalanche photodiodes, but their gain is
typically 10²–10³ compared to up to 108 for the photomultiplier) Much lower overall sensitivity Photon counting only possible with specially designed, usually
cooled photodiodes, with special electronic circuits 5. P-N 1. Response time for many designs is slower
vs. P-I-N photodiodes
Due to the intrinsic layer, a PIN photodiode must be reverse
biased (Vr). The Vr increases the depletion region allowing a larger volume for electron-hole pair production, and reduces the capacitance thereby increasing the bandwidth. 2. The Vr also introduces noise current, which reduces the S/N
ratio. Therefore, a reverse bias is recommended for higher bandwidth
applications and/or applications where a wide dynamic range is required.
A PN photodiode is more suitable for lower light applications
because it allows for unbiased operation. (*at least one of these sentences is wrong!) Photodiode
Hundreds or thousands (up to 2048) photodiodes of typical sensitive area 0.025mmx1mm each arranged as a one-dimensional array, which can be used as a position sensor. One advantage of photodiode arrays (PDAs) is that they allow for high speed parallel read out since the driving electronics may not be built in like a traditional CMOS or CCD sensor. See
Electronics Band gap Infrared Optoelectronics Opto-isolator Semiconductor device Solar cell Avalanche photodiode Transducer LEDs as Photodiode Light Sensors Light meter
References This article incorporates public domain material from the General Services Administration document "Federal Standard 1037C".
^ International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
"Photodiode". Compendium of Chemical Terminology Internet edition. ^ Held. G, Introduction to Light Emitting Diode Technology and Applications,
CRC Press, (Worldwide, 2008). Ch. 5 p 116. ISBN 1420076620
Gowar, John, Optical Communication Systems, 2 ed., Prentice-Hall, Hempstead UK,
1993 (ISBN 0-13-638727-6)
Technical Information Hamamatsu Photonics Using the Photodiode to convert the PC to a Light Intensity Logger Design Fundamentals for Phototransistor Circuits Working principles of photodiodes
Categories: Optical diodes • • • •
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This page was last modified on 30 October 2009 at 22:51.
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