EGE217: Electronics 1 Lecturer: Siti Hamimah Sh.

Ismail January 2009


A bipolar junction transistor is a semiconductor device that can amplify electronic signal such as radio and television signals. This chapter introduces the bipolar transistor, the kind that uses both free electrons and holes. The word bipolar means "two polarities".

4.1 Transistor Construction
A transistor has three doped regions as shown in figure below:

Figure 1 The bottom region is called the emitter, the middle region is the base and the top region is the collector. The transistor in figure above is an npn device, because there is a p region between two n regions. Transistors are also manufactured as pnp devices, but for now we will concentrate on npn first. Note that the emitter is heavily doped, the base is lightly doped and the collector is intermediate between the heavy doping of the emitter and the light doping of the base.


EGE217: Electronics 1 Lecturer: Siti Hamimah Sh. Ismail January 2009

4.2 The Biased Transistor
Now lets look at what happen when the transistor is connected to an external voltage source as in figure below:

Figure 2 The minus signs represent free electrons. The job of heavily doped emitter: to emit its free electrons into the base. The job of lightly doped base: to pass emitter-injected electrons onto the collector.

4.2.1Base Electrons
At the instant that the forward bias is applied to the emitter diode, the electrons in the emitter have not yet entered the base region. If V BB is greater than the emitter-base barrier potential, emitter electrons will enter the base region. Theoretically, these free electrons can flow either to the left and out of the base to RB or flow into the collector. But, actually, most of the free electrons will move to the collector. This is because: 1. The base is lightly doped. Means that the free electrons have a long lifetime in the base region. 2. The base is very thin. Means that the free electrons have a very short distance to go to reach the collector. Thus, most of the free electrons are passed to the collector. Only a few free electrons will recombine with holes in the lightly doped base. Then as valence electrons, they will flow through the base resistor to the positive side of the VBB supply.


EGE217: Electronics 1 Lecturer: Siti Hamimah Sh. Ismail January 2009

4.2.2 Collector Electrons
Once the free electrons are in the collector, they feel the attraction of the VCC source voltage. Because of this, the free electrons flow through the collector and through RC until they reach the positive terminal of the collector supply voltage.

4.3Transistor Currents

Figure 3 In figure above, we can see that there are three different currents in a transistor: • Emitter current IE • Base current IB • Collector current IC The emitter has the largest current because it is the source of the electrons. From Kirchoff's current law: I E = IC + I B

The collector current is almost as large as emitter current because most of the emitter’s electron flow to the collector. IC ≈ IE The base current is very small by comparison, often is less than 1 % of the collector current. I B << I C The dc alpha is defined as the dc collector current divided by the dc emitter current:

α dc =



EGE217: Electronics 1 Lecturer: Siti Hamimah Sh. Ismail January 2009

The dc beta or current gain is defined as the ratio of the dc collector current to the dc base current: I β dc = C IB

4.4The CE Connection
There are three useful ways to connect a transistor: • • • With a common emitter (CE) Common collector (CC) and Common base (CB)

In this chapter we will focus on the CE connection (the most widely used).

4.4.1The Circuit
The common or ground side of each voltage source is connected to the emitter. The circuit has two loops. The left loop is the base loop and the right loop is the collector loop.

Figure 4 In the base loop: The VBB source forward-biases the emitter diode with RB as a current limiting resistance. By changing VBB or RB we can change the base current, and changing the base current will change the collector current. In other words, the base current controls the collector currents.


EGE217: Electronics 1 Lecturer: Siti Hamimah Sh. Ismail January 2009

In the collector loop: VCC reverse-biases the collector diode through RC. The collector must be positive in order to collect most of the free electrons injected into the base.

4.4.2 The Base Curve
Now, lets take a look at the graph of IB versus VBE, as shown in figure below:

Figure 5 Since the emitter is forward biased, we would expect to see the usual diode graph of current versus voltage. Thus: IB = V BB − V BE RB

For ideal condition, VBE = 0, with second approximation, VBE = 0.7. Example: Use the second approximation to calculate the base current. What is the voltage across the base resistor? The collector current if β = 200?

Solution: The base source voltage of 2V forward biases the emitter diode though a current limiting resistance of 100K. Since the emitter diode has 0.7V across it, the voltage across the base resistor is: VB = VBB – VBE =2V – 0.7 V = 1.3V


EGE217: Electronics 1 Lecturer: Siti Hamimah Sh. Ismail January 2009

The current through the base resistor is:

With a current gain of 200, the collector current is:

4.4.3The Collector Curves
Now, we focus on the collector loop. We can vary VBB and VCC in figure below to produce different transistor voltages and currents. By measuring IC and VCE, we can get data for a graph of IC versus VCE .

Figure 6 When VCE is zero, the collector diode is not reversed biased. This is why the graph shows a collector current of zero when VCE is zero. When VCE increases from zero, the collector current rises sharply. When VCE is a few tenths of a volt, the collector current becomes almost constant and equal to 1 mA. After the collector diode becomes reverse biased, it is gathering all the electrons that reach its depletion layer. Further increases in VCE cannot increase the collector current because the collector can collect only those free electrons that the emitter injects into the base. The number of these injected electrons depends only on the base circuit not the collector circuit. This is why the figure shows a constant

EGE217: Electronics 1 Lecturer: Siti Hamimah Sh. Ismail January 2009

collector current between a VCE of less than 1V to a VCE of more than 40V. If VCE is greater than 40V, the collector diode breaks down and normal transistor action is lost. The transistor is not intended to operate in the break down region. From Kirchoff’s law: VCE = VCC − I C RC

Thus the transistor has the power dissipation of : PD = VCE I C Regions of Operation The collector curve shown in previous section, has different regions where the action of a transistor changes. Active Region:

• • •

Region in the middle where VCE is between 1 and 40 V. Normal operation of transistor Emitter diode is forward biased, and the collector diode is reversed biased. Collector is gathering almost all the electrons that the emitter has sent into the base. (Changes in collector voltage has no effect on the collector current)

Breakdown Region: • Transistor should never operate in this region because it will be destroyed. Saturation Region: • Early rising part of the curve, where VCE is between 0 V and a few tenths of a volt. • Collector diode has insufficient positive voltage to collect all the free electrons injected into the base. • Base current IB is larger than normal and the current gain β dc is smaller than normal. Cutoff Region: • The curve when the base current is zero (explain in the next section), there is still a small collector current • The small collector current is called the collector cutoff current.

EGE217: Electronics 1 Lecturer: Siti Hamimah Sh. Ismail January 2009

This current exist due to reverse minority carrier current and surface leakage current. of Collector Curves We can plot the second curve by measuring IB and VCE for IB = 20 µA. The curve is similar to the curve shown in section 4.4.3 except that the collector current is 2 mA in the active region. Similarly we can plot several curves for different base current to get a set of collector curves as shown in figure 8. The bottom curve, (when the base current is zero) is the cutoff region explained before. Note that the saturation and cutoff region are useful in digital and computer circuits referred to as switching circuits which will be explained in the next chapter.


Transistor Equivalent Circuit

For Ideal Approximation: •

we visualize the emitter diode as an ideal diode, with VBE = 0. The collector side acts like a current source that pumps a collector current of I C = β dc I B through the collector resistor.

For Second Approximation: • For silicon transistor; VBE = 0.7 V, for germanium, VBE = 0.3V • The base and collector current will be slightly less than ideal values.


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