Harrison
In this section we will explore the behavior of the MOS transistor in the
subthreshold regime where the channel is weakly inverted. This will allow us
to model transistors operating with small gate voltages, where the strong
inversion model erroneously predicts zero current.
Remember, the strong inversion MOSFET model makes the assumption that
the inversion charge QI goes to zero when the gate voltage drops below the
threshold voltage. We saw that this is not quite true. Below threshold, the
channel charge drops exponentially with decreasing gate voltage.
QI
slope = Cox
VGB
VT0
Depletion Weak Moderate Strong
inversion inversion inversion
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
QI ∝ exp(VGB)
QI = Cox(VGB – VT0)
VGB
VT0
Weak Moderate Strong
inversion inversion inversion
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
reference voltage
VS
electron energy
VG VD
VGS
voltage
Clearly, this model is insufficient to account for weak inversion since the
channel charge is zero. We have to add another degree of realism to our
model to account for subthreshold current flow: water vapor.
Electrons, like water molecules, can be excited by thermal energy into higher
energy levels. Although most water molecules have a potential energy at or
below the level of the liquid in the source and drain tanks, some water
molecules have gained enough energy (thermally) to rise above this level – as
vapor. Similarly, a small fraction of electrons in the source and drain acquire
significantly more energy than the majority of charge carriers in the
conduction band.
The density of water vapor above a liquid follows a decaying exponential with
height (i.e., potential energy). Similarly, air pressure drops exponentially with
altitude. Electrons in a solid obey FermiDirac statistics which leads to this
exponential distribution according to energy. This is similar to the Maxwell
Boltzmann statistics obeyed by atoms in a gas. Let’s add water vapor to our
fluid model:
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
VS
electron energy
VG VD
Q’
VGS
voltage
Now it’s clear that the inversion charge in the channel, while small, is an
exponential function of the barrier height. The barrier height represents the
surface potential ψs. As we mentioned before, in weak inversion the surface
potential is flat – it does not change over the length of the channel. The
surface potential can be modeled fairly accurately by considering the
capacitive divider between the oxide capacitance Cox and the depletion
capacitance Cdep:
VG
VG
polySi
VS VD
SiO2 Cox
n+ n+ ψs
ψs
Cdep

p silicon
VB
VB
Using the equation for a capacitive divider and assuming that VB = 0, we find
that:
ψ s = κVG
where kappa – the gate coupling coefficient – represents the coupling of the
gate to the surface potential:
C ox
κ=
C ox + C dep
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
The depletion capacitance stays fairly constant over the subthreshold region,
and kappa is usually considered to be constant, although it increases slightly
with gate voltage. In modern CMOS processes, kappa ranges between 0.6 and
0.8. It can have slightly different values for pMOS and nMOS devices. A
good, allaround approximation for kappa (unless another value is given) is:
κ ≅ 0.7
¾ Some texts use n or ζ (zeta) instead of κ, where n = ζ = (1/κ) ≅ 1.4.
Now let’s return to the fluid model for VDS > 0:
reference voltage
κVG VG diffusion
VS
electron energy
VD
voltage
(We use “U” instead of “V” for voltage to avoid confusion with the threshold
voltage VT.)
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
W ⎛ κV ⎞ ⎡ ⎛ − VS ⎞ ⎛ − VD ⎞⎤
I D = I0 exp⎜⎜ G ⎟⎟ ⋅ ⎢exp⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ − exp⎜⎜ ⎟⎟⎥
L ⎝ UT ⎠ ⎣ ⎝ UT ⎠ ⎝ UT ⎠⎦
W ⎛ κV − V S ⎞ ⎡ ⎛ − V DS ⎞⎤
I D = I0 exp⎜⎜ G ⎟⎟ ⋅ ⎢1 − exp⎜⎜ ⎟⎟⎥
L ⎝ UT ⎠ ⎣ ⎝ UT ⎠⎦
Notice that when exp(VDS/UT) << 1, the last term is approximately equal to
one, and can be ignored. This occurs (to within 2%) for VDS > 4UT, since e4 ≅
0.018. The expression for drain current then simplifies to:
W ⎛ κV − VS ⎞
ID = I0 exp⎜⎜ G ⎟⎟ for VDS > 4UT (saturation)
L ⎝ UT ⎠
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
VGS = 0.42V
Saturation region
VGS = 0.41V
VGS = 0.40V
Triode
region VDS
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
ID
VGS
VT0
log ID
ID grows as exp(κVG/UT)
slope = efold/(UT/κ)
factor of e
VGS
VT0
(UT/κ) ≈ 40mV
For a pFET, we have to consider the gate, drain, and source potentials with
respect with the well potential VW. Unlike the substrate, the well will not be
at ground, so we need to write it in explicitly:
′ U T2
2µ p C ox ⎛ − κ VT 0 p ⎞
I0p ≡ ⋅ exp⎜ ⎟
κ ⎜ UT ⎟
⎝ ⎠
Typical values of I0p range from 1019A to 1014A.
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
In saturation:
W ⎛ κ (VW − VG ) − (VW − VS ) ⎞
ID = I0 exp⎜⎜ ⎟⎟ for VDS > 4UT
L ⎝ UT ⎠
W ⎛ − [κVGS + (1 − κ )VWS ] ⎞
I D = I0 exp⎜⎜ ⎟⎟
L ⎝ UT ⎠
Where (1  κ) is the backgate coefficient. Notice that the body effect is
explicit in the weakinversion model without having to add a “fudge factor”
like the variable threshold voltage in the strong inversion model.
In weak inversion:
κI D
gm =
UT
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
Moderate Inversion
reference voltage
VS VD
VG
electron energy
voltage
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
kT N sub
ΦF = ln
q ni
ε ox
′ =
C ox
t ox
The α parameter should be set between zero – for extreme weak inversion
(near depletion mode) – and one – for the boundary between weak and
moderate inversion – to account for the slight change in depletion
capacitance. Usually, α = 0.5 is a good value to use for generalpurpose use.
So all we really need to know is the oxide thickness (to determine Cox’) and
the channel doping (Nsub) to estimate kappa. In SPICE models, oxide thickness
is called TOX (units = m) and the channel doping is called NSUB or NCH (units =
cm3).
Example: An nFET has a substrate doping level of 1.7 x 1017cm3 and an oxide
thickness of 139Å. Compute κ, using α = 0.5.
tox = 1.39 × 106cm
Cox’ = 0.248µF/cm2
γ = 0.960V1/2
ΦF = 0.422V
κ = 0.62
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
⎡κ (VG − VT 0 ) − VS ⎤ ⎞⎤
2
⎡ ⎛
I D = I S ⋅ ⎢ln⎜⎜1 + exp⎢ ⎥ ⎟⎟⎥
⎢⎣ ⎝ ⎣ 2U T ⎦ ⎠⎥⎦
where
2 µC ox
′ U T2 W
IS = ⋅
κ L
An expression for transconductance gm valid in all regions of operation is given
by
κI
g m = D ⋅ G (I D )
UT
where
− I
1− e D S
I
G (I D ) = .
ID IS
Note that ID/IS is the inversion coefficient and that G(ID) approaches unity in
weak inversion.
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
where
G ′(I D ) =
1
(I D IS )+
1
ID IS +1
2
or
G ′(I D ) =
2
.
1 + 1 + 4(I D I S )
Either function seems to work well. The latter expression is a bit easier to
calculate.
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MOSFET Operation in Weak and Moderate Inversion R.R. Harrison
Circles represent measured data from a real transistor. Note that in the moderate inversion
region, both strong and weak inversion models overestimate the true transconductance
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