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The Field-Effect TransistorAugust 1972 Popular Electronics Page 1 of 5

Fig. 1 - FET acts as variable resistor in which the gate field

has a direct effect on source-to-drain current flow.

The Field-Effect TransistorAugust

1972 Popular Electronics
Kirt Blattenberger RF Cafe

August 1972 Popular Electronics

Table of ContentsPeople old and young enjoy waxing

nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early
electronics. Popular Electronics was published from
October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights are
hereby acknowledged. See all articles from .

Although the first patent for a field effect transistors (FET) was
assigned to Julius Edgar Lilienfeld in 1925, it was not until sometime
around 1960 that the first commercial product was available - a
MOSFET designed by Dawon Kahng and Martin M. (John) Atalla at
Bell Labs. This article from a 1972 issue of Popular Electronics intro-
duces the hobbyist readers to properties and uses for the by-then
common junction FET (JFET) and MOSFET. Nowadays, MOSFETs are
the backbone of the vast majority of integrated circuits.

The Field-Effect Transistor: What It Is and

How It Has Revolutionized Electronics
By William R. Shippee

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The Field-Effect TransistorAugust 1972 Popular Electronics Page 2 of 5

Ever since its introduction, the field-effect transistor has been creat-
ing quite a stir in electronics. Devices and systems heretofore impos-
sible to produce with bipolar transistors had to be built around
vacuum tubes - if at all. Now, the FET is changing the situation.

Fig. 2 - Shown here are the schematic symbols for a p-type

(left) and an n-type junction field-effect transistor.

Fig. 3 - Biasing arrangements for n-type JFET and vacuum

tube triode are same.

Fig. 4 - Schematic symbols for single-gate and dual-gate

MOSFET's are shown here.

The FET has many of the qualities and advantages of both the vacuum
tube triode and the bipolar transistor. It is as compact as most small-
signal transistors. It operates at low voltages, thus eliminating most
of the bulk and expense of the power supply. Its input impedance can
be rigged to fall into the desirable multi-megohm category. Recent

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developments have produced FET's which are capable of dissipating

several watts of power; and since they exhibit the property of having
a negative temperature coefficient, it is hard to make them succumb
to thermal runaway.

Viewed as a design element, the FET is a semiconductor device which

behaves in the manner of a variable resistor. As shown in Fig. 1, cur-
rent flow between the source and drain is controlled by the gate volt-
age which is applied to both p sections simultaneously. As the reverse
bias increases, the space charge area starts to pinch off, causing the
source-to-drain current to fall almost to zero. Thus, the gate "field"
has a direct "effect" on the source-to-drain current - hence the term
"field-effect" transistor.

Types of FET's. There are basically two types of field-effect transis-

tors in regular use today. The most common is the junction field-ef-
fect transistor, or JFET, which has a direct ohmic contact at the gate.
The MOSFET, or metal-oxide field-effect transistor (sometimes
known as an IGFET for insulated-gate field-effect transistor) has an
electrically isolated gate.

In the JFET category, there are p- and n-channel types (see Fig. 2).
The n-channel FET is very similar in voltage polarities and biasing to
the vacuum tube triode as shown in Fig. 3.

The MOSFET, a long-needed semiconductor device, even more closely

approximates the input impedance of the typical vacuum tube. It can
be fabricated to yield gate impedances well into the several hundred
megohm region - beyond the usual capabilities of the common JFET.
As shown in Fig. 4, there are currently two types of MOSFET's availa-
ble. The one on the left is a single-gate type, while the one on the
right has two gates.

The MOSFET's substrate is usually connected internally to the source;

if not, the substrate is externally connected to the source or to
ground. Great care must be exercised in handling the MOSFET since
the gate input impedance is so high and the gate insulation is so thin
that any static charge introduced at the gate can perforate the oxide
insulator barrier and destroy the device.

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The dual-gate MOSFET finds its most popular application as the mixer
stage in AM, FM, and TV tuners where it provides a convenient means
of "beating" two frequencies in a nonlinear device while maintaining
isolation between the two signals. Also the MOSFET appears to
exhibit less noise and cross modulation problems than do conven-
tional transistors and vacuum tubes.

Virtually all MOSFET's produced for large current conditions are con-
tained in single packages - not integrated circuits. The reason for this
is that the FET needs roughly ten times the active area required by
bipolar transistors to provide the same current capabilities.

It is well to note that as r-f amplifiers, FET's are immune to strong-

signal overloads. Some FET's are so symmetrically constructed that
their drain and source leads are interchangeable.

The past few years have witnessed some remarkable developments in

the semiconductor scene. It will be interesting to see which directions
research and development will take in the future.

Posted July 28, 2017

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