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PHYS 3152 E2

Diodes and Transistors

Purpose: To study the current-voltage characteristic of
semiconductor diodes and working principle of transistors.

Part I -- Diode:
 I-V curves of pn junction diodes
 Applications: half-wave rectifier, full-wave rectifier,
diode limiter
Part II -- Transistor:
 The working principle of a bipolar junction transistor
 Transistor amplifier, emitter follower
Atomic Structure

The Bohr model of an atom

Only certain energy levels are allowed.

Electrons farther from the nucleus have higher energy.
Electrical and chemical properties only depend on the
valence shell (outermost shell (energy band)).
Electronic Structure of Silicon Crystal
Silicon atom (4 out of 14 are valence e)

covalent bond
+4 +4 +4
free electron
+4 +4 +4
ρfree e ~ exp(-U/kBT)
hole conduction band
+4 +4 +4 heat energy kBT Energy gap U
valence band

Covalent bond: Atoms attempt to share valence electrons so each atom

appears to have 8 valence electrons (rule of 8, quantum effect).
Silicon and germanium form solid-state crystals due to covalent bonds
--- basis semiconductor materials.

Insulator, Semiconductor and Conductor
energy energy energy

conduction band kBT ~ 0.025eV

at room T
energy gap ~9eV
conduction band
~1eV conduction band Overlap:
valence band valence band valence band e are equal likely
participating a
covalent bond or
wandering around in
space between atoms
Conductor: valence electrons are loosely bound with atom
(valence shell is incomplete, e.g. only 1 or 2 valence electrons).
semiconductor: atoms have 3, 4, 5 valence e.
e.g semiconductor Si and Ge with 4 valence e.
Insulator: valence shell is complete, no valence e can be
knocked loose.
Conductivity vs. Temperature
 Semiconductors: Higher T, higher conductivity
because higher kBT helps electrons escape from atoms,
more free electrons

 Metals (Conductors): Higher T, lower conductivity,

because electrons flow in less organized patterns at higher
kBT, i.e. more frictions…

Intrinsic semiconductor (pure silicon) is almost an insulator. Semiconductors
are usually doped. 1% doping produces 106 times more charge carriers

+4 +4 +4 +4 +4 +4
boron trivalent atom

+4 +5 +4 +4 +3 +4
phosphorus pentavalent atom
+4 +4 +4 +4 +4 +4

N-type semiconductor P-type semiconductor

majority charge carriers:
free electrons holes
thermal diffusion + drift in E field 6
P-N Junction
−e diffuses from n → p p-type material n-type material
+h diffuses from p → n
− − − − − + + + + +
− − − − − + + + + +
e, h recombine near junction
− − − − − + + + + +
⇒ depleted region of e, h at the junction
⇒ established an internal electric field neutral neutral
⇒ the electric field setup a drift force for e p region E field n region
and h to balance diffusion.
− − − − − + + + + +
At equilibrium: Ihdrift = Ihdiffuse − − − − − + + + + +
Iedrift = Iediffuse − − − − − + + + + +
depletion layer,
no charge carriers
barrier potential:
Si: 0.7V; Ge: 0.3V
Animation of Current Flow in a p-n Junction

Ideal diode: allows current flow only in one direction, from anode to cathode.
anode cathode
forward bias reverse bias

Ideal diode
A real diode consists of a p-n junction (1st approximation)
depletion layer increased,
depletion layer reduced no current flow, insulator

More than 0.7V

2nd approxiamtion
barrier potential 9
I-V Curve
3rd approximation real diode
Slope due to the low
forward resistance

Small leakage current

p E field n Reverse breakdown voltage.

reverse bias may pull out electrons from
− − − − − + + + + + valence bonds and make it like a conductor

− − − − − + + + + +
− − − − − + + + + +
Small leakage current at reverse bias:
Drift of minority charge carriers

I-V Curve

Ideal: I = I (e
qV A / kT
−1 VA: applied voltage
kT: 0.0259eV at room T
I0: reverse saturation current
Non-Ideal: (
I = I 0 e qVA / nkT − 1 ) n = n(V): ideality factor ranging from 1 to 2.
Measure I-V with Tunable Bridge Circuit
Bridge circuit:
outputs the imbalance between arms
arm 1 arm 2


arm 3 arm 4


By tuning the potentiometer, the output V

can continuously change from – to +.

potentiometer: three legs

same variable resistor: two legs
Diodes Used in E2
Rectifier diodes: work at forward bias
At breakdown V ⇒ too much heat
⇒ burn the diode, permanent damage.

Zener diodes: work at reverse breakdown V as a voltage regulator,

heavily doped ⇒ low breakdown V ⇒ no overheating

Light emitting diode (LED) :

produce light at forward bias without much heat.
gallium (radiation is light) instead of silicon (radiation is heat)
Widely used as Indicator lamps on electronic equipments

Identify Diodes

Forward voltage reading:

barrier potential + drop
across forward resistance

Applications of Diodes

Half-wave rectifier

Full-Wave Rectifier

Diode Limiter

silicon diode 0.7 V barrier.

germanium diode 0.3V barrier

Effect of Filter

+ +
- -

- +
+ -

Effect of Filter
The voltages of a discharging capacitor,
− t / RC
V (t ) = Vmax e
The p-p value of the ripple is
Vt ( pp ) = V (T1 ) − V (T2 )
 − 2 1 
T −T
= Vmax 1 − e RC 
 

If C is large, such that RC >> T2 - T1, we

can approximate the exponential
T2 − T1 T 1
Vt ( pp ) ≈ Vmax ≈ Vmax = Vmax
RC 2 RC 2 fRC
T1 T2
Effect of Load Current on Ripple

Larger filter capacitor smoothes

the output waveform better

Larger current needs larger charge

reservoir (capacitor) to stabilize the
When the output is low, the reservoir
releases charges to increase the output;
When the output is high, the reservoir
absorb charges to lower the output.

Various Types of Bridge Rectifiers

Some have a hole through their centre for attaching to a heat sink

Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT)
 A BJT is a three-terminal device with two p-n junctions.
 Two types: npn or pnp. --- bipolar, because this type of transistor makes use of
holes as well of electrons.



BJT can be approximately viewed as two diodes, but more than just two diodes.
When the sandwiched “base” layer is very thin, some interesting effects become possible.
Transistors can be used as amplifiers or switches.
Structure of BJT
cross-section view valve
Mental contacts oxide emitter (base)collector

Emitter and collector are heavily doped. Base is lightly doped with few charge
carriers, so base layer prevents current from E to C. On the other hand, B layer is
very thin so that B may become conductive if applying an appropriate VEB. How
conductive of B? It is exponentially sensitive to VEB. , so VEB is like a sensitive valve.
Some resistors can changes their resistance in response to light (photoresistors) or
to mechanically turning a knob (potentiometers:).
A transistor can be though of as an “electronically-controlled variable resistor”.
Control terminal: Base ; Main terminal: Emitter and Collector.
Principles of BJT Operation
Step 1: forward bias at the E-B junction C
Step 2: reverse bias at the B-C junction B More than
VBE 0.7V
Current can still flow across p-n junction at ~0.7V
reverse bias, e.g. heavily doped Zener diode E
working at the reversed break down voltage.
Key point: a large current can flow across a
reversed-biased p-n junction if there are IC
enough charge carriers near the junction. e current
Increasing VBE = pumping more electrons
from E to B = increasing doping of the base
⇒ increasing Ic, VBE

IC is controlled by the “doping” of B, not by VCE.

Current Flow for a PNP in Operation
(1) Holes diffusing from E into B
(2) Electrons diffusing from B into E
(3) Recombination of holes injected into B,
Base is thin and lightly doped in order to
minimize recombination.
⇒ IB supplies electrons. IB is small, so
(4) Most holes avoid recombination and reach C.
(5) Electron minority carrier current from C to B
(6) Hole minority carrier current from B to C
 Current (5) and (6) can be neglected for most practical purposes
 For diodes, roughly IB ∝ exp(VBE), IC ∝ exp(VBE), so IB ∝ IC, IC = β IB
The current gain β (or hfe) is usually > 100. Using IB to control IC.

Kirchoff’s law: IE = IC + IB
e.g. 100mA = 99mA + 1mA 25
I-V Characteristics of the CE Configuration
maximum power C
B More than
VBE 0.7V

 IC = β IB, IC linearly depends on IB.

 The plateau behavior of IC is due to the fact that IC ≈ IE that doesn’t
really depend on VCE providing that VCE is larger than a threshold value.
 When IB = 0, IC = ICE0 (reverse current of junction CB), the current
caused by the minority carriers crossing the pn-junctions. More precisely
∆IC = β ∆IB 26
Three Configurations

Common Base Common Emitter Common Collector

(most commonly used) i.e. emitter follower
I gain ~1 high high
V gain high high ~1
Power gain average high low
Input R low average high
Output R high average low
Common Collector (Emitter Follower)

A change in base voltage is transmitted (to good approximation) directly to the

A small voltage change on the input terminal will be replicated at the output.

 a large input impedance, so it will not load down the previous circuit
 a small output impedance, so it can drive low-resistance loads
Brief History

Transistors (2nd generation devices) replaced old

Vacuum Tubes and revolutionaries the world of
electronics. It gave way to the Integrated Circuit
(IC) technology around early 50s.

Both BJT and FET (field effect transistor)

are popular