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Module 4
Because of the difficulty B1 stiu nts are having in knowing what to read we have
included a suggested reading list for our module 4 study books.
Book 1
Pages 1 to 16, 30 to 36 (not triac), 37 and 39 to 41.
Book 2
Pages 1 to 9 (transistor as an amplifier - basic appreciation only).
Pages 17 to top of page 21. Basic appreciation only.
Pages 26 and 27.
Pages 31 and 32.
Pages 34 and 35 - transistor as a switch.
Page 35 (integrated circuits) to page 59 - basic appreciation of op-amps,
types and logic gates.
Pages 1 to 16 - up to Phase Advance Damping.
Pages 20 to 55 - basic appreciation of servo motors only


Feb 2003 - Mar 2003

Addendum action in response to student feedback after taking the CAA

examination JAR module 4.
A Desynn slab ;5 made up of a resistance coil.
In a torque synchro system the Receiver can be used as a Transmitter, but a
Transmitter cannot be used as a Receiver.
A transducer is a device to convert a signal from one form to another - usually
from a mechanical movement to an electrical signal (eg variable resistor in a fuel
tank quantity indicator system). Most transducers are analogue, producing a
continuously variable output, some are digital giving a digital output (eg
Logic gates (Not actually specified in the syllabus but the CAA have asked
questions on Boolean algebra.)
These are devices used in logic networks and computers to control the flow of
digital data through a system. Are known as logic gates since the 'gates' are
opened and closed by the binary inputs in order to perform a particular logical
Originally gates were large and operated mechanically by pneumatics etc but now
they are miniature solid state electronic devices. They are the basic building
blocks from which many different kinds of logic outputs are obtained. Common
gates are the AND, NOT, OR, NAND, NOR and XOR gates. The inputs and outputs
to/from the gate can be represented by Boolean algebra (George Boole 1815 1864).
Logic gates have binary inputs of 1 or 0 and they may represent (in a circuit) ON,
CLOSED (logic 1) or OFF, OPEN (logic 0). Commonly American symbols are used
(we use them here) but there are British Standard symbols also.
AND Gate
This gate can have two or more inputs and only one output. It will give an output
if all inputs are on. If any one input is not available the output will be zero. The
symbol for a 2 input AND gate is shown below.

The AND gate can be made up electrically by two switches in series. The lamp will
only light when switches A AND B are both made. If any one switch is open the
lamp will not light.
The operation of the logic gate can be described by means of a TRUTH TABLE.
When switch A is open (logic 0) and switch B is open (logic 0) there is no output
the lamp (logic 0).
When switch A is made (logic 1) and switch B is open (logic 0) there is still no
output to lamp (logic 0).
When switch A is open (logic 0) and switch B is made (logic 1) - still no output to
lamp (logic 0).
. .. When switch A is made (logic 1) and switch B is made (logic 1) there is an output
to the lamp (logic 1).
So when A AND B are logic 1 then there is an output.
This is summarised in the truth table.

Where A and B are the inputs and S is the output, only 2 inputs are shown but
there may be more A, B, C, D etc.
The Boolean expression for this gate is written A.B = S. The dot means AND, and
the expression is read as "A AND B equals S" (in some books the output is called
OR Gate
This can have 2 or more inputs and will give an output if any one input is logic 1.

An OR gate circuit can be made up by two switches in parallel. The lamp will light
if switch A OR B is closed. So the truth table is:

The Boolean expression is:

A + B = S
The + means OR and the expression is read as "A OR B equals S".
NOT Gate
This gate has one input and one output.

This gate produces an inversion of the input signal, so when the input is A the
output is NOT A, which is symbolised by a bar on top of the A = A. So the output
of this gate is the opposite to it's input.

So input logic 1, output logic 0. Input logic 0, output logic 1. The truth table:

The bubble on the end of what is an AND gate has the same function as in the
NOT gate - it inverts the signal, except that in this case more than one input is
involved. In this gate when A is 0 and B is 0 then the output is 1. In the AND gate
this would be 0. So the NAND gate is an inverted AND gate.

Again an input A = 0 and B = 0 would, for a OR gate, give 0 as an output, but for
the NOR gate it would give a 1 as an output. The truth table is:

XOR Gate
The OR gate gives an output when A OR B = 1 and when A AND B = 1. The XOR
gate only gives an output when A OR B are 1 not when A AND B are 1, so it is
exclusively an OR gate and will not work under the AND function. It is read as a
two syllable word x then or.

In the above we have assumed logic 1 to be positive (about +5 volts) and logic 0 to
be zero (0 volts). This is called positive logic and is the notation most frequently
used. However, negative logic may be used, and this means that logic 0 is positive
(+5 volts) and logic 1 is zero (0 volts).

A Gunn Diode (JB Gunn) is a semiconductor 2 terminal device producing an

oscillation or amplification of an applied r. rowave signal.

An integrator, in very basic terms, contains a resistor and a capacitor.

A transistor is in its quiescent state when only dc is applied and there is no ac
An op-amp could be used as a buffer but not usually.
A transistor is saturated when it is fully conducting.
Power is connected to the wiper arms of the toroidal resister in a toroidal resister
transmitter indicator system.

The molecular structure and properties of insulators and conductors and
semiconductors has been dealt with in module 3. However, to revise
your theory on semiconductors figure 1 shows the structure of the
germanium and silicon atoms, two very important elements in the
manufacture of diodes and transistors.

Bear in mind that the diagrams are only two-dimensional and that in
reality the orbiting electrons do not rotate in perfect circles or rotate in a
flat plane.
From figure 1 it can be seen that each atom has four electrons in its
outer shell, these electrons are called VALENCE ELECTRONS, they are
farthest from the nucleus and therefore are least tightly bound (less
attractive force). It is the valence electrons that play the active part in
electrical conduction.
Silicon and germanium are crystalline substances and the valence
electrons of the individual atom link up and arrange themselves with the
valence electrons in adjacent atoms to form CO-VALENT BONDS. Every
atom has a half-share in eight valence electrons. This gives a very stable
arrangement of a regularly repeating three dimensional structure called a
crystal lattice. Figure 2 shows the two dimensional effect of the covalent
bonding. Pure silicon and germanium are therefore very good insulators.
At room temperatures the atoms are vibrating sufficiently in the lattice
for a few bonds to break, setting free some valence electrons, leaving a
"hole" where the electron was. Free electrons are attracted to the hole as
the atom, short of an electron is now positively charged.

If a battery is placed across a pure semiconductor, electrons are

attracted to the positive terminal. These free electrons travel through the
semiconductor topping' from o^~ hole to another, and it therefore
appears that the positive holes c*~ moving towards the negative terminal.
This current flow is very small and is called INTRINSIC CONDUCTION.
To understand the concept of electrons moving one way and holes
moving the other is not easy but it can be likened to an empty seat at the
end of a row in a cinema. Assume the vacant seat to be at the right hand
end of the row. If the first person next to the seat moves into it, then
he/she has moved to the right, but the vacant seat has moved one place
to the left. If each person in the row does the same (ie moves to the
empty seat to his/her right) as soon as it becomes empty, the vacancy
(hole) appears to have moved along the row in one direction while the
occupants (electrons) have move in the opposite direction.
If the temperature is raised more bonds break down and conduction
increases ie, resistance decreases, this means more heat is generated,
and more conduction occurs, resistance decreases further, more heat is
generated - and so on. This is called thermal runaway and will eventually
destroy the crystal structure.
Semiconductors have a negative temperature coefficient. In other words
their resistance decreases with an increase in temperature.
We need now to look at how we can change the basic insulator into a
conductor. This is achieved by mixing (doping) a very small quantity of a
selected impurity atom into the semiconductor material. (Typically 1 part
in 1010). The material now becomes an extrinsic semiconductor.

There are two types of extrinsic semiconductors:


N-Type semi-conductor material.

P-Type semi conductor material.

N-Type Semi-conductor Material

Doping impurities such as phosphorus or arsenic are used. These have
five (pentavalent) electrons in the outermost orbit. When introduced into
the basic material, four of the electrons join up with the co-valent
bonding, whilst one electron is left 'free'. (The number of free electrons
can be strictly controlled by this doping).
The free electrons can migrate through the inter-atomic space and can
therefore act as current carriers when a (very low) voltage is applied.

Note: Although extra electrons have been inserted, it must be

remembered that each impurity atom is itself neutral and so the whole of
the N-type material is also neutral.
[N = N-TYPE]
MINORITY CARRIER - HOLES (due to intrinsic conduction)

P-Type Semi-conductor Material

In this material, impurities such as Indium or Aluminium are used.
These have three (trivalent) electrons in the outermost orbit. When
introduced into the basic material, all three electrons link into the crystal
structure but this leaves a "hole1 in the structure. This hole is looking for
an electron to fill it and so it is a form of positive current carrier. If a
(very small) voltage is applied, electrons will move to fill in the holes but
this forms fresh holes and so there is a general drift of holes through the
material from positive to negative (in the opposite sense to the electron
flow in the N-type material). Again, the material is neutral.


Imagine a piece of N-type material being brought into contact with a
piece of P-type material. Both pieces are, up to the instant of contact,
Remembering that the holes are looking for electrons to complete the
lattice network, it can be seen that electrons will migrate across the
junction to fill in the holes as soon as the two materials are brought

As electrons leave the N-type material, it will become positively charged.

As electrons fill holes in the P-type material, it will become negatively
A BARRIER POTENTIAL is built up at the boundary, forming what is
known as the Depletion Layer (figure 8). This build-up in potential will
eventually be strong enough to stop further migration of electrons across
the junction.

The Barrier Potential is approximately 0.2V for Germanium and 0.6V for
Silicon. It must be remembered that the barrier potential is always
present at a P-N junction - even if it is sitting in a storage bag on a shelf.
If an external supply is connected +ve to the P-type material and -ve to
the N-type, it will oppose the barrier potential. If it is bigger than the
barrier potential, the barrier potential will be overcome and current will
flow, electrons moving from supply negative to positive and holes moving
in the opposite direction, as shown in figure 9. This is known as
FORWARD BIASING the junction.

The intrinsic conduction, (covalent bonds breaking down at normal

temperature) produces minority carriers and thus small current flows in
the same direction as the majority carriers ie, it adds to it.

If the external supply is connected in the other sense, +ve to the N-type
and -ve to the P-type, it will reinforce and increase the barrier potential
and therefore no current will flow, except for any slight leakage current
(see below). The depletion layer will be enlarged as shown in figure 10.
This is known as REVERSE BIASING the junction.

At first sight it might appear that there is no current flow, but due to
intrinsic conduction, which produces minority carriers, which causes a
tiny current to flow across the junction this is known as the LEAKAGE
Raising the temperature of the P-N junction causes a rapid increase in
the generation of minority carriers, and therefore leakage current
increases. At room temperature each 10C increase roughly doubles the
rate of generation for germanium.
For silicon the doubling rate is 5C. It might appear from this that
germanium would be used for higher temperature conditions, however,
although the rate of increase is greater for silicon, its actual value is
considerably less than that of germanium, so silicon is used where high
temperatures are encountered.
If an ac supply is applied to a P-N junction then when 'P' is made positive
to 'N' then the positive half cycle will flow through the junction as it is
forward biased. On the negative half cycle of the ac 'P' is negative to 'N'.
This is the reversed bias mode and the junction will not conduct on this
half of the cycle.

The P-N junction is acting as a rectifier and is known as a

SEMICONDUCTOR DIODE. The symbol is as shown in figure 12.
It is important to note that the arrow points in the direction of
CONVENTIONAL current flow and the two connections are known as the
ANODE (A) and CATHODE (K). The cathode (negative end) is often
marked with a band as shown in figure 13.

Diode Characteristics
Typical characteristic curves for silicon and germanium diodes at 25C
are shown in figure 14.
When forward biased, a voltage is required to overcome the barrier
voltage before the diode current increases; this is typically 0.2V for
germanium and 0.6V for silicon. After this, current rises rapidly as the
applied voltage increases.

The left-hand side of the origin of the characteristic curve is where the
voltage is reversed, ie reverse biased. As can be seen the current is
extremely small, this is the leakage current due to minority carriers.
Note that the voltage scale is not linear, with the larger divisions on the
negative axes of the graph.
As the voltage is increased at a certain point the current increases
rapidly to a high value. This is known as AVALANCHE BREAKDOWN
and will cause permanent damage to the diode if it is allowed to occur.

It occurs because as the reverse voltage becomes too great, the minority
carriers are accelerated to a point where they heat up the diode and
collide with atoms in the depletion layer. This will dislodge further
electrons, thus creating more minority carriers and this effect
'avalanches' to cause a rapid rise in current.
The breakdown voltage can have any value from a few volts up to 1000V
for silicon and 100V for germanium depending on the construction of the
diode and the level of doping.

Diode Parameters
Diodes are manufactured in a wide range of voltage and current ratings.
These must be taken into account when choosing a diode for a particular
Typical parameters considered are:

Maximum forward current

Peak inverse voltage
Maximum operating temperature

The diode has a small forward resistance when it is conducting, so power

must be dissipated as it conducts. This power dissipation causes heat at
the junction, this local heating must be kept down, as excessive leakage
current will occur. There is therefore a MAXIMUM FORWARD CURRENT
so that the temperature is not reached which will cause deterioration of
the structure of the diode.
The PEAK INVERSE VOLTAGE (PIV) is the maximum operating voltage
appearing across the terminals of the diode acting in the reverse
direction, and therefore represents the maximum reverse voltage that
may be applied to the diode without reverse breakdown occurring. This
may be written as Maximum Reverse Voltage instead of PIV.
temperature above, which the structure of the diode deteriorates. The
maximum forward current is so chosen that this temperature is not
exceeded in the worst combination of circumstances.
However, it should be remembered that the maximum forward current
will also depend on the temperature in which the diode is operating; and
maximum forward current is usually quoted at two or more ambient

We know as the temperature rises the leakage current increases and as a

guide the leakage current doubles in value for each 10C rise in
Depending on its use, frequency is also a parameter to be considered,
but generally these are special diodes and will be discussed later.

Application of Semi-conductor P-N Junction Diodes

Diodes in Series
When diodes are connected in series to a known load then it must be
remembered that the current will be the same and the maximum forward
current must not be exceeded for each diode. Because each diode has a
small forward resistance there will be a volts drop across each diode,
which will depend on each diode's characteristics. These individual volts
drops will subtract from the supply voltage to leave a certain voltage
across the load (see later notes on rectifiers).

Diodes in Parallel
Where current supplied by one rectifier would exceed its maximum
forward current, or exceed its maximum operating temperature, it is
possible to connect two or more diodes in parallel. The current, therefore,
will be divided between the diodes.

The voltage across each diode will be the same and the current
distribution between the diodes will depend on the characteristics of the
diodes (again, for further information on rectifiers see later notes in this
Single Phase Half Wave Rectifier
With reference to figure 17, when terminal A is positive with respect to B
the diode conducts, this causes a current to flow around the circuit and
a voltage will be developed across RL. When the input polarity reverses
terminal A will be negative with respect to B and the diode will switch off.

The voltage developed across RL is therefore half-sine-waves and is

known as a half wave rectifier. The output being dc, albeit variable. The
average value being half that of the supply, ie peak x 0.318. (assuming
no losses). The output dc 'ripples' have a frequency equal to the input
frequency of the ac supply, ie ripple frequency = supply frequency.
Single Phase Full Wave Rectifier
As the name implies this uses both half cycles of the input wave form.
Figure 18 shows diodes Di and D2 used with a transformer, which is
centre tapped at C. The point C can be considered as neutral with
terminals A and B swinging alternately positive and negative about it.
When A is positive to C, Diode Di conducts with D2 switched off. On the
other half cycle of input, B is positive to C and D2 conducts with Di
switched off. The output is therefore undirectional, with both diodes
alternately conducting, giving a full wave output across RL. The average
output voltage is 0.637 x peak (assuming no losses), ie average of the

The output dc 'ripple' is therefore twice the input supply frequency.

Having to use the double winding on the transformer makes this
component more bulky in size and therefore more expensive.
A point to note about this circuit is that when DI is conducting, the
voltage across the load resistor RL is the peak voltage. With Dz cut off the
voltage across C-B is in series with this voltage, so these two voltages
combine to give a total of twice the peak voltage.
This will act as a reverse voltage across D2 so the peak inverse voltage for
the diodes must be twice the peak voltage on either half of the secondary
of the transformer.
Bridge Rectifier
This is also a single phase full wave rectifier, and has advantages over
the previous circuit in that the transformer does not need to produce
twice the voltage required and the secondary is in use all the time. Unlike
the previous circuit where only half the secondary winding was used at
any one time.
Figure 19 shows a bridge rectifier. Assume the top of the secondary
winding of the transformer to be positive (positive half cycle), trace the
current flow through the load using the arrows shown.

On the next half cycle (figure 20) assume the bottom of the secondary is
positive and trace the circuit through the load following the arrows. Note
the direction of current through the load is the same during each half
cycle, ie it is dc.
Note that in this circuit the two non-conducting diodes have twice the
supply voltage across them, (load/supply voltage + supply voltage = twice
supply voltage). However, this voltage is shared between the two nonconducting diodes in series, therefore the peak inverse voltage per diode
is the supply voltage. As before the ripple frequency is twice the supply
Typically all four diodes are available in one package.

Three Phase Half Wave Rectification

In order to obtain three-phase half wave rectification a diode must be
inserted into each of the supply lines to the load and the return from the
load to the supply MUST be to the star point of the three-phase system.
Therefore this form of rectification can only be used where there is a star
connection using a neutral line. Assume this star connection is the
secondary of a three phase (DELTA-STAR) transformer as shown in figure
Figure 22 shows the waveform of the three-phase supply and the
resultant supply voltage to the load.

Note that the ripple frequency of this rectifier output is three times the
supply frequency, with three dc output voltage 'blips' for one sequence of
the three-phase ac supply.

Three Phase Full Wave Rectification

This form of connection does not require a neutral line, so can be used
on either Star or Delta connected systems. Figure 23 shows the diode
circuit diagram.

The arrows show the time in the three phase cycle when phase A is
maximum and passing peak current to the load (say 10 amps). After
passing through the load, the current splits into two, of five amps each to
return to the B and C lines back to the supply.
The output ripple frequency is six times the supply frequency.
We shall now look at some other uses of diodes.

As the name implies it is the limiting' or 'clipping off of part of the
voltage waveform that lies above or below a certain chosen level. This
level is called the bias, or reference level. Some examples are shown in
figure 25.

In figure 26, assume the input is a sinewave of (say) +20 to -20 volts.
When the diode is conducting (assuming negligible resistance) the voltage
across it is negligible and the output voltage (Vour) will be equal to VIM.
When the diode is cut off the output voltage is practically zero. The
circuit therefore clips the portion of the waveform, which goes negative.

If the diode was to be turned round we then have a series positive limiter
and the diode only conducts on the negative going cycles and so the
positive going portion of the input waveform is clipped.
The resistance R must be some value intermediate between the two diode
extremes of resistance. This means R is very large compared to the
conducting resistance (almost zero ohms) and very small compared with
the cut-off resistance (which is almost infinite). A typical value for R in
practice will be between lOkQ and lOOkQ. Figure 28 shows a shunt
positive limiter with the diode in shunt (parallel) with the component
(VOLT) and the resistor is in series.

During the positive half cycles, with the diode conducting the voltage
developed across it is practically zero, so output voltage is zero. When
the diode is cut off on the negative half-cycles, practically the whole of
the input voltage is across the diode and therefore VOUT = VIN. This
circuit therefore clips the portion of the input waveform, which goes

If we wish to remove the negative cycles of the waveform all that is

required us to turn the diode around; the circuit now becomes a shunt
negative limiter.
The circuits so far discussed have all 'clipped' or limited the waveform
above zero volts. In practice it is often necessary to clip the portion of
the waveform above or below some reference voltage other than zero.
This can be done using slightly modified versions of the basic limiting
circuits already shown.
Figure 30 shows a shunt negative limiter to -10V.

The waveform may be limited to any positive or negative value by holding

the appropriate electrode of the diode at the required bias or reference
On one half cycle of the input, the diode is cut off and practically the
whole of the input voltage appears as VOUT. On the other half cycle the
diode is cut off until it reaches above the bias level, up to this point
VIN = VOUT, when the diode conducts the VOUT is equal to the bias level
and clips the negative half cycle as shown in figure 31.
If the polarity of the bias was turned around the other way then the
output would be as shown in figure 32.

If the diodes are turned round then the reverse outputs will occur. The
same principle can be applied to series limiters. Figure 33 shows a
series positive limiter to -10V and figure 34 shows its waveform.

Again if the diodes were turned around the reverse outputs will occur.
Figure 36 shows the circuit where the two are combined. This 'combined
limiter' can be used to take a 'slice' out of an input waveform, as shown
in figure 37.

In practice, reference or bias levels are not provided by batteries, but by a

potentiometer connected across a dc supply line.
These circuits are widely used in radar and communications equipment
to change the reference level of a waveform without reducing its
amplitude. Circuits which move waveforms up or down in this way are
known as Clamping Circuits because their effect is to fix or clamp the top
or bottom level of the waveform. Figure 38 shows the difference between
a limiter/clipping circuit and a clamping circuit. The limiter circuit
simply 'cuts off a part of the waveform, whilst a clamping circuit moves
the whole waveform up or down.

The simplest form of clamping circuit is a diode circuit that consists of a

capacitor and resistor, forming a long CR circuit to the input waveform.
The voltage to which the bottom ends of the resistor or diode are
returned is again known as the bias or reference level. It may be of
either polarity including zero volts.

The circuit is clamped to this bias level. In the previous drawing the
output waveform is clamped to zero volts. The two types of clamping
circuits are:
1. Positive clamping - the bottom of the output waveform is clamped
to the bias voltage, so the output waveform is positive to the bias
2. Negative clamping - the top of the waveform is clamped to the bias
voltage, so the output waveform is negative to the bias level.
Figure 40 shows a circuit with positive clamping to zero volts and figure
41 shows the waveforms.

With reference to figure 40, since R and the diode are in parallel the
output voltage always equals the voltage developed across R. In any CR
circuit the input voltage VIN = Vc+ VR at all times.

The description of the waveforms (figure 41) is as follows:

A to B

The input rises to lOOv from zero. The capacitor is initially

uncharged and cannot charge immediately. VR therefore
rises instantly to lOOv and since this voltage is applied to the
cathode of the diode, the diode is cut-off.

B to C

With the diode cut-off, C charges on a long time constant CR

seconds and Vc (voltage across the capacitor) rises by a
small amount. Thus VR falls by the same amount.

C to D

The input fails by lOOv to zero and since Vc cannot change

immediately VR also falls to lOOv to a small negative
potential which causes the diode to conduct.

D to E

With the diode conducting, C discharges on a short time

constant CRo seconds. RD is diode resistance. Both Vc and
VR quickly return to zero volts and the diode is cut off.

E to F

The input rises again by lOOv and the cycle is repeated.

Except for small negative 'pips' the output VR is clamped to a base level
of zero volts and is positive going from this level.
A similar action takes place with a negative going square wave.
Figure 42 shows a negative clamping circuit and figure 43 shows the

Assuming a square wave of 0V and +100V (figure 43).

Prior to A - the capacitor is initially uncharged and since VIN equals zero
volts, VOUT equals zero volts.
A to B

The input voltage rises from zero, and since C cannot

change its state of charge instantaneously, the rise
appears in full across R (VOUT). Since VR is the same as the
voltage across the diode the diode conducts.

B to C

Capacitor C and the conducting diode form a short CR

circuit and so the capacitor quickly charges to +100v. VOUT
falls to zero volts.

C to D

VIN changes instantaneously from +100v to zero volts and

this step appears in full across R. Thus VR becomes
immediately -lOOv, the diode is non-conducting and Vc is

D to E

The circuit is now a long CR and C discharges slowly, VR

rises slowly towards zero volts. (In a very long CR circuit
the change of D to E is only a very small proportion of the
input waveform amplitude).

E to F

VIN instantly becomes lOOv again, and this rise causes VR

jump from -98v (say) to +2v, which causes the diode to

After F

C quickly charges back to +100v on the short CR circuit

and the process repeats itself.

Thus after the initial spike is over, the waveform VOUT is a very slightly
distorted version of the input waveform, but negatively clamped to zero
In the examples shown the output waveform is clamped to either
positively or negatively to zero volts. If it was necessary, as in some
radar circuits, to clamp to a. level other than zero, then the bias voltage is
placed in the resistor rectifier line as shown in figures 44, 46 and 48. The
waveforms produced are shown respectively in figures 45, 47 and 49.

Another application of a diode is in a voltage doubler circuit, which is
typically used in a High Energy Ignition Unit, (HEIU). Figure 50 shows
the basic principle of a voltage doubler circuit.

On one half cycle of the supply capacitor Ci will charge up to V volts, on

the other half cycle C2 will charge up to V volts. As the two capacitors
are in series then the output is approximately 2V volts. Figure 51 shows
another type of voltage doubling circuit.

With reference to figure 51, Ca is charged to V volts during the negative

half cycle of the supply voltage. The potential between Ca now acts as a
battery in series with the supply. In the positive half cycle of the supply,
4 is charged to a voltage equal to the sum of the peak supply voltage
and the voltage across Ca, ie approximately 2V.
By connecting the output of one multiplying circuit onto the input of the
next (cascading) the dc voltage output can be four times the ac input.


Sometimes a diode is connected across a relay coil. When the supply is
switched off the collapse of current causes a self-induced emf in the coil
which by Lenz's Law tries to keep the current flowing and may cause
arcing across the control switch contacts. The diode allows a path for
the dissipation of this voltage and prevents this possible arcing. This
may also be called a free-wheel diode.

It is essential the diode is connected the correct way round in a circuit,
so a coloured band or spot usually marks the cathode (k) end.

If it is necessary to verify the connections in the absence of any marking

then a test meter is used. Using the old AVO-meter it should be
remembered, as with any ohmmeter, that the BLACK (NEGATIVE)
terminal becomes the positive output and RED (POSITIVE) terminal is the
negative. When a 'FLUKE' is used it has a switch selection to test diodes.
The meter displays the forward voltage drop (VF) up to 2 volts and beeps
briefly for one diode drop (Vp < 0.7v) for the forward bias test. For
reverse bias or open circuit the meter displays OL, and if there is a short
circuit the meter emits a continuous tone.
Now to look at other types of diode.

You will remember that, with a P-N diode under reverse bias conditions,
the only current flowing is due to the minority carriers passing across the
depletion layer.

As can be seen from the graph if the reverse bias is increased, there is
little effect on the flow at the minority carriers, if the reverse bias is
continually increased the point of breakdown is reached and the current
increases rapidly. In the rectifier diodes discussed so far we make sure
we do not get anywhere near this value of reverse voltage because the
diode would be destroyed. However, the zener diode makes use of this
breakdown or avalanche condition.
Just to look at the breakdown mechanism in a little more detail. As the
reverse bias increases the acceleration of the electrons increases and
they dislodge other electrons as they collide with the atoms.

More electrons are now created to cause more collisions and so on, and a
situation is reached which is uncontrollable (avalanche) and the diode is
destroyed. However, if a resistor of a suitable value is placed in series
with the diode the current can be limited which ensures no overheating
and does not cause damage to the diode.
The zener diode is always connected in REVERSE BIAS, ie cathode to
positive, anode to negative. At the required breakdown voltage,
determined by the doping levels the zener will breakdown, but if the
reverse voltage is reduced then the zener will again become a blocking
If you look at the graph again you will see that the Voltage across the
diode remains virtually constant at the breakdown voltage value even
though the current through it can increase. The zener is therefore a
wide range of breakdown voltages 2 - 200v being a typical and also a
wide range of power ratings from half a watt to many watts. The zener
diode symbol is shown in figure 55.

The zener diode can be used as a voltage stabilizer, ie to keep the voltage
constant across a circuit irrespective of load current or supply voltage
variations. With reference to figure 56:

If the load current IL increases, the zener current decreases

by the amount, if IL decreases then the zener current
increases by the same amount thus maintaining a constant
voltage across the load at all times.


If the supply voltage should increase, then the current

through the zener increases while the increase in voltage
appears across RD not across the zener. The zener voltage
remains at breakdown value irrespective of the increase in
current through it. If the input voltage falls, zener current
decreases and the voltage across RD falls, but again the
voltage across the zener and the load remains constant.

The property of the zener means it can also be used as a reverse voltage
switch, ie it can be arranged to breakdown at a certain reverse voltage to
activate a switch, as used in aircraft transistorized regulators and
protection systems.
The SCR is a P-N-P-N semiconductor switching device, which has three
terminals ANODE, CATHODE and GATE.

An explanation of the operation of the SCR can be carried out using the
two-transistor analogy. For this you should refer to Book 2 in this series.
You may wish to do that now and come back to this section.

If the two centre regions of the SCR are regarded as being split diagonally
as shown in figure 58, it becomes two interconnected transistors TR1
and TR2. TR1 is a PNP transistor and TR2 is an NPN transistor. With
the anode positive to the cathode, the base collector junctions' (J2) are
reverse biased and apart from a small leakage current no current flows.
If a pulse of current is injected into the gate terminal this turns TR2 on,
this base current produces a larger collector current in TR2 which also
forms the conduction path for the base current of TR1, which increases
its collector current and forms the base current of TR2. The SCR is now
self-sustaining and the gate supply can be removed. Typically a few
microseconds of a small current applied to the gate will turn the SCR
The device will remain in its conducting state until:

The device is reverse biased, ie positive to cathode, negative

to anode.

The supply is removed.

The voltage across the device is reduced so that the current

falls below its "holding value" (see characteristic).

Figure 59 shows a graph of the characteristics for an SCR for different

values of gate voltage. The points a, b and c represent values at which
the junction reverse bias is overcome and the SCR conducts, known as
^breakover', 'a' represents the highest voltage and 'c' the lowest gate
voltage. Once the SCR is conducting the voltage across it is typically 1
The SCR can be made to carry a wide range of currents from 1A to
1000A. Figure 60 shows different types of SCR.

In aircraft systems, the SCR would be typically used in firewire control,

windscreen-heating control, etc. In windscreen heat control, the SCR
can be gated at the beginning or at any point through out the half cycle.
The earlier it is gated then more current will flow to the windscreen, the
later it is gated then less current will flow.

The basic SCR, when fed with ac, will switch off after one half cycle as
the other half cycle will reverse bias the SCR. So it only allows half
power through.
A TRIAC consists of two SCR's connected in parallel but in opposition
and controlled by the same gate. It is triggered on both half cycles and
therefore one conducts on one half cycle and the other one conducts on
the other half cycle. Figure 62 shows the symbol.

The TRIAC is therefore used in windscreen heat control and domestically

as a lamp dimmer or motor speed control for an electric drill.


An LED consists of a junction diode made from the semiconductor
compound gallium arsenide phosphide. It emits light when forward
biased, the colour of the light emitted is in direct proportion to the
current flow. Light emission in the red, orange, green and yellow regions
of the spectrum is obtained depending on the composition and impurity
content of the compound.

When a P-N junction is forward biased electrons move across the

junction from the N-type side to the P-type side where they recombine
with holes near the junction. The same occurs with holes going across
the junction from the P-type side. Every recombination results in the
release of a certain amount of energy, causing, in most semiconductors,
a temperature rise. In gallium arsenide phosphide some of the energy is
emitted as light that gets out of the LED because the junction is formed
very close to the surface of the material.
In applying this to aircraft displays either the 7 segment or dot matrix
configurations may be used.
In the 7 segment display for numerical indication as shown in figure 64,
each segment is an LED mounted within a reflective cavity with a plastic

When used on with an ac supply should be protected against reverse

breakdown, this can be done with a conventional diode connected in
shunt across the LED. On reverse voltage the diode will conduct at
about 0.4v protecting the LED which would breakdown at about 3-11
volt reverse voltage.
This diode is a rectifying metal to semiconductor junction. Several
metals may be used, including gold and aluminum, which are fused
directly to a semiconductor material.
Since the mobility of electrons is greater than holes an N-type semiconductor is used. Current flow in this diode differs from current flow i
conventional P-N junction diodes in that the minority carriers do not tal
any part in the process. The diode has very low capacitance and high
switching speeds, produces less noise and has a smaller forward
conducting voltage (0.2 to 0.4v) then conventional P-N diodes.

The basic construction, as already mentioned, is a piece of aluminum

fused to an N type semiconductor. Some of the aluminum atoms diffuse
into the silicon because aluminum has a valency of 3. This makes a very
small P region. The current carrier is almost 100% electrons due to free
electrons in the N type semiconductor and the metal.
The shottky diode is used in the making of logic gates as the switching
time is high.

Under reverse bias conditions, a junction diode can be regarded as a
parallel plate capacitor having two plates (the P and N regions) that are
separated by a dielectric (depletion layer). The capacitance will vary
according to the area and width of the depletion layer. The narrow
depletion layer gives a higher capacitance than a wider depletion layer.

If this reverse bias can be varied then we have a variable capacitor

typically between 2-10pf. These diodes are used to tune TV and VHP
radio sets in special circuits, which allow the set to lock on to the desired
station automatically. Figure 66 shows the symbol for the varactor
(varicap) diode.
The metal oxide varistor (MOV) is a semiconductor resistor made of zinc
oxide semiconductor crystals. When the voltage across this specialised
resistor becomes two high, the resistor breaks down and becomes a
conductor. The action of the varistor can be compared to a pair of zener
diodes wired back to back in series.

They are used for transient voltage suppression, voltage stabilisation and
switch contact protection.
Figure 68 shows the symbol used in drawings and figure 69 shows how a
varister reduces noise spikes in an ac voltage.

The varistor is connected across the secondary of the transformer and at

normal voltage has a very high resistance and takes a very small current.
However when the voltage spikes exceed the breakdown voltage, it
conducts and clips off the noise spikes. The varistor switches extremely
fast, unlike zener diodes that are slow switching. The principle described
here could also be used for switch contact protection.
The photodiode is a P-N junction that is reversed biased in normal
operation. Its case has a transparent window through which light can

As it operates in reverse bias there will be leakage current (minority

carriers) which increases in proportion to the amount of light falling on
the junction. The light energy breaks the bonding in the crystal lattice of
the semiconductor and produces electrons and holes to increase the
leakage current. Figure 70 shows the drawing symbol and figure 71
shows the characteristics of the photodiode.

Typically silicon diodes are used, as their leakage current with no light
(dark current) is much lower than germanium. The sensitivity lies
between 10mA/1m to about 50mA/1m (1m = lumen which is the amount
of light emitted from a light source 1 candela strong) and the spectral
response covers the visible to the infrared range. Photodiodes used with
laser systems can operate at very high frequencies. They are very fast
operating and are used in laser gyros and as an optical receiver for laser