Chapter 2

Diode Fundamentals
Dr.Debashis De Associate Professor West Bengal University of Technology

 Introduction  Formation of the p–n Junction  Energy Band Diagrams  Concepts of Junction Potential  Modes of the p–n Junction  Derivation of the I–V Characteristics of a p–n Junction Diode  Linear Piecewise Models  Breakdown Diode  Special Types of p–n Junction Semiconductor Diodes  Applications of Diode

 The origin of a wide range of electronic devices being used can be traced back to a simple device, the p–n junction diode.  The p–n junction diode is formed when a p-type semiconductor impurity is doped on one side and an n-type impurity is doped on the other side of a single crystal.  All the macro effects of electronic devices, i.e., wave shaping, amplifying or regenerative effects, are based on the events occurring at the junction of the p–n device.  Most modern devices are a modification or amalgamation of p–n devices in various forms.  Prior to the era of semiconductor diodes, vacuum tubes were being extensively used. These were bulky, costly and took more time to start conducting because of the thermo-ionic emission.  The semiconductor diodes and the allied junction devices solved all these problems.

 When donor impurities are introduced into one side and acceptors into the other side of a single crystal semiconductor through various sophisticated microelectronic device-fabricating techniques, a p–n junction is formed.

A semiconductor p–n junction  The presence of a concentration gradient between two materials in such intimate contact results in a diffusion of carriers that tends to neutralize this gradient. This process is known as the diffusion process.  The nature of the p–n junction so formed may, in general, be of two types: A step-graded junction:- In a step-graded semiconductor junction, the impurity density in the semiconductor is constant. A linearly-graded junction:- In a linearly-graded junction, the impurity density varies linearly with distance away from the junction.

 The p–n Junction at Thermal Equilibrium From the discussion of the law of mass action. nn and pp are the electron and hole concentrations in n.) p-type and n-type semiconductors just before contact . np is the electron concentration in p-type semiconductors. the carrier concentrations on either side away from the junction are given by: (where pn is the hole concentration in n-type semiconductors.and p-type semiconductors respectively.ENERGY BAND DIAGRAMS  The discussion in this section is based on the realistic assumption that a junction is made up of uniformly doped p-type and n-type crystals forming a step-graded junction.

ENERGY BAND DIAGRAMS Band structure of p–n junction The energy band diagram of a p–n junction under the condition of thermal equilibrium .

. the depletion region or the transition region. and this region is called the space-charge region.CONCEPTS OF JUNCTION POTENTIAL  Space-charge Region The non-uniform concentration of holes and electrons at the junction gives rise to a diffusive flow of carriers.  The result of this migration of carriers is that the region near the junction of the n-type is left with a net positive charge (only ionized donor atoms) while that of the p-type is left with a net negative charge (only ionized acceptor atoms). the holes flow from the p-type to the n-type. due to reversibility. electrons flow from the n-type to the p-type and simultaneously.  This diffusive mechanism of migration of the carriers across the junction creates a region devoid of free carriers.  Since the electron density is higher in the n-type crystal than in the ptype crystal.

e. 2.  Built-in and Contact Potentials  This diffusive flow process results in a space-charge region and an electric field. The impure atoms maintaining the space charge are immobile in the temperature range of interest (at very high temperatures. the impurities become mobile). . there exists a built-in potential.  The homogeneous mixing of the two types of carriers cannot occur in the case of charged particles in a p–n junction because of the development of space charge and the associated electric field E0. as noted above. a very important concept.  The resulting diffusion current cannot build up indefinitely because an opposing electric field is created at the junction. which will be discussed shortly). The pre-biased condition can be maintained indefinitely.CONCEPTS OF JUNCTION POTENTIAL  The junction. which in turn indicates that the junction is pre-biased (i. The presence of any free electron or hole is strictly forbidden.. There is a space charge and an electric field across the junction. 3. has three major properties: 1.

the drift and diffusion current densities must cancel for each type of carrier. the field creates a drift component of current from n to p. E0 is in the direction opposite to that of the diffusion current for each type of carrier. the current density due to the drift of carriers in the E0 field must exactly cancel the current density due to diffusion of carriers.CONCEPTS OF JUNCTION POTENTIAL  The electrons diffusing from the n-type to the p-type leave behind uncompensated donor ions in the n-type semiconductor.  This causes the development of a region of positive space charge near the n-side of the junction and negative space charge near the p-side.  Therefore.  Since no net current can flow across the junction at equilibrium. and the holes leave behind uncompensated acceptors in the p-type semiconductors. opposing the diffusion component of the current.  Thus. . The resulting electric field is directed from positive charge towards negative charge. since there can be no net build-up of electrons or holes on either side as a function of time.  Moreover.

there is a gradient in potential in the direction opposite to E0. The variations in the contact potential under the condition of applied bias are given in the subsequent sections. .CONCEPTS OF JUNCTION POTENTIAL  Therefore.  In the electrostatic potential diagram. the electric field E0 builds up to the point where the net current density is zero at equilibrium. and there is an equilibrium potential difference V0 across L (known as contact potential). In accordance with the following fundamental relation:  The contact potential appearing across L under condition of zero external bias is a built-in potential barrier. V0 is an equilibrium quantity. and no net current can result from it.  The electric field appears in the transition region of length L about the junction. In general. in that it is necessary for the maintenance of equilibrium at the junction. the contact potential is the algebraic sum of the built-in potential and the applied voltage.  It does not imply any external potential.

 The barrier energy corresponding to barrier potential Vd is expressed as EB = eVd. the potential barrier Vd and the field E0 are related by:  It should be noted that a voltmeter cannot measure this electrostatic potential since the internal field is set up to oppose the diffusion current and also since the built-in potential is cancelled exactly by the potential drop across the contact. . The value of EB can be changed by doping change. The value of EB is different for different semiconductors.CONCEPTS OF JUNCTION POTENTIAL  Assuming that the field is confined within the space-charge region L.



the junction allows a large current to flow through it due to the low resistance level offered by the junction. In this case the junction is said to be forward biased.  Forward-biased p–n junction  When the positive terminal of a battery is connected to the p-type side and the negative terminals to the n-type side of a p–n junction. Energy band diagram of Forward-biased p–n junction .MODES OF THE p–n JUNCTION There are two modes of switching of a p–n junction diode.

e. the p–n junction is said to be reversebiased.MODES OF THE p–n JUNCTION  Reverse-biased p–n junction When the terminals of the battery are reversed i. the junction allows a very little current to flow through it due to the high resistance level offered by the junction. Under this condition. when the positive terminal is connected to the n-type side and the negative terminal is connected to the p-type side. Energy band diagram of Reverse-biased p–n junction ..

MODES OF THE p–n JUNCTION  The p–n Junction with External Applied Voltage If an external voltage Va is applied across the p–n junction. In order to describe the behaviour of the p–n junction. The energy band distribution. the Fermi level can no longer be identified. For these non-equilibrium conditions.Fermi levels are introduced. is shown in below figure. . the height of the potential barrier is either increased or diminished as compared to Va. depending upon the polarity of the applied voltage. with applied external voltage. quasi.

) . the plus and minus signs are for the reverse-biased and the forward-biased conditions.  Under an external applied voltage. the carrier concentrations near the junction are: (where. it is relatively harder for the majority of the carriers to surmount the potential-barrier.  The increase in the potential barrier height is essentially equal to the applied voltage. the height of the potentialbarrier is increased.  Under this reverse-biased condition.MODES OF THE p–n JUNCTION  Rectifying Voltage–Current Characteristics of a p–n Junction  If the polarity of the applied voltage is such that the p-type region is made negative with respect to the n-type.

Electron and hole carriers at the boundaries of a p–n junction under an externally applied voltage . for the usual cases. The minus sign is for the reverse-biased case where minority carriers are extracted.  The concentration of the carriers on the boundaries. Na >> ni and under an external applied voltage V is shown in right side figure.MODES OF THE p–n JUNCTION The injected or extracted minority-carrier concentrations near the junction can be written as: The plus sign is for the forward-biased case where minority carriers are injected.

MODES OF THE p–n JUNCTION The profiles of charge density. potential. and electric field in an abrupt junction .

MODES OF THE p–n JUNCTION The schematic diagram of the varactor diode The doping profiles used in varactor diode .

The solution of the ordinary differential is: where. Lp = √Dpτp is the diffusion length and pn is the equilibrium density of holes in the n-region far away from the junction.  The boundary conditions in this case are: From above two equation we get C2 = 0 and . C1 and C2 are two arbitrary constants. we can write: where. Then from continuity equation.DERIVATION OF THE I–V CHARACTERISTICS OF A p–n JUNCTION DIODE  Let us consider the fact that the drift component of the current is negligible.

e.DERIVATION OF THE I–V CHARACTERISTICS OF A p–n JUNCTION DIODE  Substituting the values of constants C1 and C2 we get: The current density of holes in n-type semiconductors along the x direction by diffusion is given by: From above two equation we get : The hole current density at the edge of the transition region i. from above equation is given as: . at x = xn.

DERIVATION OF THE I–V CHARACTERISTICS OF A p–n JUNCTION DIODE The hole current density at the edge of the transition region i.e. from above equation is given as: The total diode-current density is given by: The total direct current of the diode. with a cross-sectional junction area A. at x = xp. is: where .

It should be noted that because of the higher concentration of holes in the pregion the hole current is much larger than the electron current. is shown below. Actual and theoretical I–V characteristics of a typical semiconductor diode . for forwardbias and reversebias.DERIVATION OF THE I–V CHARACTERISTICS OF A p–n JUNCTION DIODE The plot of the voltage–current characteristics of the diode.

is called the piecewise linear equivalent model.. we can consider an ideal diode as a short circuit when forwardbiased and as an open circuit when reverse-biased. the actual diode characteristic is improved by adding a series resistance (r) to the equivalent circuit.e. The equivalent diode model.  Forward biased diodes exhibit an offset voltage (Vy) that can be approximated by the simple equivalent circuit with a battery in series with an ideal diode. Thus. i. I–V Characteristics of p–n junction diode Linear piecewise models of a diode for different order of approximations .  The series battery in the model keeps the ideal diode turned off for applied voltage less than V. they conduct current in only one direction.LINEAR PIECEWISE MODELS  The p–n junctions are unilateral in nature.

 This breakdown occurs at a critical reverse-bias voltage (Vbr). Reverse-biased p–n junction Reverse breakdown in a p–n junction . The following two mechanisms can cause reverse breakdown in a junction diode.BREAKDOWN DIODE  Breakdown diodes are p–n junction diodes operated in the reverse-bias mode. and relatively large currents flow with little increase in voltage.  These diodes are designed with sufficient power-dissipation capabilities to work in the breakdown region. At this critical voltage the reverse current through the diode increases sharply.

This type of breakdown phenomena is known as Zener breakdown. Energy band diagram of a Zener diode Reverse bias with electron tunnelling from p to n leads to Zener breakdown I–V characteristics . enough to dislodge it from its covalent bond. The resulting electric field at the junction imparts a very large force on a bound electron. Consequently the reverse current becomes very large.  The breaking of the covalent bonds produces a large number of EHP (electron–hole pairs).BREAKDOWN DIODE  Zener Breakdown  Zener breakdown occurs when a sufficiently large reverse-bias is applied across a p–n junction diode.

 The multiplication can become quite large if the carriers generated by this collision also acquire to create more carriers.  The field then separates the electron and hole of this newly created EHP and we now have three mobile carriers instead of one. . and we say that the junction breaks down. thereby initiating a chain reaction. they occasionally have collisions with atoms in the lattice. On their way across this region. a carrier drifting across the depletion region is accelerated to the point where it has enough energy to knock a valance electron free from its host atom during a collision.  Once the process starts.BREAKDOWN DIODE  Avalanche Breakdown  In a reverse-biased junction. so the terminal current grows rapidly. the number of multiplication that can occur from a single collision increases rapidly with further increase in the reverse-bias. the minority-carriers drift across the depletion region. This process is called avalanche multiplication.  With a large enough field. This is called avalanche breakdown.

the generated hole is swept to the p-type semiconductors. while.BREAKDOWN DIODE A single such event results in multiplication of carriers. Avalanche breakdown in low doped semiconductor Carrier multiplications in the depletion region due to impact ionization . the original electron as well as the secondary electron are swept to the n-type semiconductor.

BREAKDOWN DIODE  Comparison between Zener and avalanche breakdown Comparison of Zener breakdown of Ge The I–V characteristics comparison and Si semiconductor diodes with respect to I–V curve between Zener and avalanche breakdown .

The negative resistance is created by the tunnel effect of the electrons in the p–n junction as already discussed in the section of Zener diode.SPECIAL TYPES OF p–n JUNCTION SEMICONDUCTOR DIODES  Tunnel Diode  The tunnel diode is a negative-resistance semiconductor p–n junction diode. Tunnel diode under zero bias equilibrium Small reverse bias .

and n-type regions of the tunnel diode is very high—impurity concentration of 1019 to 1020 atoms/cm3 are used (which means both n-type and p-type semiconductors having parabolic energy bands are highly degenerate)—and the depletion layer barrier at the junction is very thin. in the order of 10-6cm.SPECIAL TYPES OF p–n JUNCTION SEMICONDUCTOR DIODES  The doping of both the p. Small forward bias Increased forward bias Increased forward bias condition where the current begins to increase again .

Rs 1 Ω.SPECIAL TYPES OF p–n JUNCTION SEMICONDUCTOR DIODES I–V characteristics of a tunnel diode Small-signal model of the tunnel diode. Ls 5 nH and capacitance C 20 pF respectively) Symbol of tunnel diode . (Typical values for these parameters for a tunnel diode of peak current IP 10 mA are –Rn – 30 Ω.

LEDs exhibit high resistance to mechanical shock and vibration and allow them to be used in severe environment conditions. Low operating voltage.  When the junction is forward-biased the free electron is in the conduction band and is at a higher energy level than the hole located at valence band. or infrared regions. the light will be emitted and the junction becomes a light source. . visible. 2. i.. LEDs are p–n junctions that can emit spontaneous radiation in ultraviolet. thereby improving the overall reliability and lowering the maintenance costs of equipment.e. 3. If the semiconductor material is translucent.  The recombination process involves radiation of energy in the form of photons.  Advantages of LEDs 1.SPECIAL TYPES OF p–n JUNCTION SEMICONDUCTOR DIODES  Light-emitting Diode  Charge carriers recombination takes place at the p–n junction as electron crosses from the n-side and recombines with holes on the pside. LEDs ensure a longer operating life line. current and power consumption make LEDs compatible with electronic drive circuits. a light-emitting diode (LED).

LEDs have low inherent noise levels and also high immunity to externally generated noise. 5. LEDs exhibit linearity of radiant power output with forward current over a wide range. (a) Schematic showing the basic process of absorption (b) emission The symbol of an LED . 3. Sensitivity to damages by over voltage or over current.SPECIAL TYPES OF p–n JUNCTION SEMICONDUCTOR DIODES 4. Limitations of LEDs Temperature dependence of radiant output power and wavelength. Theoretical overall efficiency is not achieved except in special cooled or pulsed conditions. 2.  1.

.2 to 0.3 micrometre.  It is also known as solar energy converter.  The energy reaching the earth’s surface from the sun is primarily electromagnetic radiation. it is basically a p–n junction diode which converts solar energy into electrical energy.  The conversion of this energy into electrical energy is called photoelectric effect. which covers a spectral range of 0.  Surface layer of the p-material is made extremely thin so that the incident light (photons) can penetrate and reach the p–n junction easily.  Construction and working principle  A photovoltaic diode essentially consists of a silicon p–n junction diode usually packaged with a glass window on the top.SPECIAL TYPES OF p–n JUNCTION SEMICONDUCTOR DIODES  Photovoltaic Diode The photovoltaic diode or solar cell is an important technological device for overcoming energy problems.

The open circuit voltage Voc is a function of illumination. Structure of a solar cell .SPECIAL TYPES OF p–n JUNCTION SEMICONDUCTOR DIODES  When these photons collide with the valence electrons.  This. Consequently. power output of a solar cell depends on the level of sunlight illumination. Consequently.  This current is directly proportional to the illumination (lumen/m2 or mW/m2). In this way. their flow constitutes a current (minority current). free electrons and holes are generated on both sides of the junction. Power cells are also available in the form of a flat strip so as to cover sufficiently large surface areas. in general depends on the size of the surface being illuminated. they impart in them sufficient energy so that they gain enough energy to leave the parent atoms.

In the absence of light. thermally generated minority carriers across the junction constitute the reverse saturation current.  The power delivered by the device can be maximized by maximizing the area under the curve or by maximizing the product (Isc Voc).SPECIAL TYPES OF p–n JUNCTION SEMICONDUCTOR DIODES  Current–voltage characteristics  It is seen that the curve passes through the fourth quadrant and hence the device can deliver power from the curve. I–V characteristics of an illuminated solar cell Top finger contact with antishowing the point of maximum power reflecting coating . By properly choosing the load resistor. output power can be achieved.

 Over-voltage Protection:.APPLICATIONS OF DIODE  Radio Demodulation:. H-bridge motor controller and relay circuit’s diodes are used to deenergize coils rapidly without damaging voltage spikes that would otherwise occur.In the Cockcroft–Walton voltage multiplier. which converts ac into very high dc voltages. which generates sound. The crystal diodes rectify the AM signal. the diodes become forward-biased (conducting). When the voltage rises from normal range. This is called diode logic. Full-wave rectifiers are made using diodes. leaving a signal whose average amplitude is the desired audio signal. These are called a fly-back diodes. In stepper motor.  Power Conversion:. to convert alternating current electricity into direct current . diodes are used. . The average value is obtained by using a simple filter and the signal is fed into an audio transducer.In demodulation of amplitude modulated (AM) radio broadcasts diodes are used.AND and OR logic gates are constructed using diodes in combination with other components.  Logic Gates:.Diodes are used to conduct damaging high voltages away from sensitive electronic devices by putting them in reversebiased condition under normal circumstances.

APPLICATIONS OF DIODE  Ionizing Radiation Detectors  In addition to light. an accurate measurement of the particle’s energy is possible. .  If the depletion layer is large enough to catch the whole energy or to stop a heavy particle. having very high electron volts of energy.Arrays of photodiode. This temperature dependence follows from the Shockley ideal diode equation and is typically around -2. as its energy is transmitted in the semiconductor material.  A single particle of radiation.  Temperature Measuring:. energetic radiation also excites semiconductor diodes.  These semiconductor radiation detectors require efficient charge collection and low leakage current.The forward voltage drop across the diode depends on temperature. They are cooled by liquid nitrogen. integrated with readout circuitry are used in digital cameras and similar units.  Charge-coupled Devices:.2 mV per degree Celsius. Common materials are Ge and Si. generates many charge carrier pairs. A diode can be used as a temperature measuring device.

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