# Semiconductor Device Physics

Lecture 7
PN Junction Diodes: I-V Characteristics
Dr. Gaurav Trivedi,
EEE Department,
IIT Guwahati

Qualitative Derivation
Majority
carriers

Majority
carriers

Current Flow in a pn Junction Diode
 When a forward bias (V
A
> 0) is applied, the potential barrier to diffusion across the
junction is reduced.
 Minority carriers are “injected” into the quasi-neutral regions
 Δn
p
> 0, Δp
n
> 0.
 Minority carriers diffuse in the quasi-neutral regions, recombining with majority carriers.

Ideal Diode: Assumptions
 Non-degenerately doped step junction.
 One-dimensional diode.
 Low-level injection conditions prevail in the quasi-neutral regions.
 No processes other than drift, diffusion, and thermal R–G take place inside the diode.
Current Flow in a pn Junction Diode
N n N n N
( )
( )
dn d n
x q n qD q n qD
dx dx
µ µ
A
= + = + J E E
P p P p P
( )
( )
dp d p
x q p qD q p qD
dx dx
µ µ
A
= ÷ = ÷ J E E
 Current density J = J
N
(x) + J
P
(x)
 J
N
(x) and J
P
(x) may vary with position, but J is constant throughout the diode.
 Yet an additional assumption is now made, that thermal recombination-generation is
negligible throughout the depletion region  J
N
and J
P
are therefore determined to be
constants independent of position inside the depletion region.

Carrier Concentrations at –x
p
, +x
n

n-side p-side
p0 p A
2
i
p0 p
A
( )
( )
p x N
n
n x
N
÷ =
÷ =
n0 n D
2
i
n0 n
D
( )
( )
n x N
n
p x
N
=
=
p p A
( ) p x N ÷ =
n n D
( ) n x N =
 Consider the equilibrium carrier concentrations at V
A
= 0:
 If low-level injection conditions prevail in the quasi-neutral regions when V
A
= 0, then:

“Law of the Junction”
i P
N i
( )
i
( )
i
E F kT
F E kT
p n e
n n e
÷
÷
=
=
A
2
i
qV kT
np n e =
N i i P
N P
( ) ( ) 2
i
( ) 2
i

F E kT E F kT
F F kT
np n e e
n e
÷ ÷
÷
=
=
p n
for x x x ÷ s s
 The voltage V
A
applied to a pn junction falls mostly across the depletion region (assuming
that low-level injection conditions prevail in the quasi-neutral regions).
 Two quasi-Fermi levels is drawn in the depletion region:

Excess Carrier Concentrations at –x
p
, x
n

p p A
( ) p x N ÷ =
n-side p-side
n n D
( ) n x N =
A
2
i
p p
A
( ) ( 1)
qV kT
n
n x e
N
A ÷ = ÷
A
2
i
n n
D
( ) ( 1)
qV kT
n
p x e
N
A = ÷
A
A
2
i
p p
A
p0
( )

qV kT
qV kT
n e
n x
N
n e
÷ =
=
A
A
2
i
n n
D
n0
( )

qV kT
qV kT
n e
p x
N
p e
=
=
Excess Carrier Distribution
A
n n n0
( ) ( 1)
qV kT
p x p e A = ÷
2
n n
P
2
p
0 , 0
d p p
D x
dx t
A A
'
= ÷ >
'
P P
n 1 2
( )
x L x L
p x Ae A e
' ' ÷
'
A = +
0 x
'' 0 x
'
P P p
L Dt =
for 0 x
'
>
 From the minority carrier diffusion
equation,
 We have the following boundary
conditions:
n
( ) 0 p A · ÷
 For simplicity, we develop a new
coordinate system:
 Then, the solution is given by:
• L
P
: hole minority carrier
diffusion length
Excess Carrier Distribution
A
n n0
( 0) ( 1)
qV kT
p x p e
'
A ÷ = ÷
A P
n n0
( ) ( 1) , 0
qV kT x L
p x p e e x
' ÷
' '
A = ÷ >
P P
'/ '/
n 1 2
( )
x L x L
p x Ae A e
÷
'
A = +
N A
p p0
( ) ( 1) , 0
x L qV kT
n x n e e x
'' ÷
'' ''
A = ÷ >
A
/
1 n0
( 1)
qV kT
A p e = ÷
2
0 A =
 New boundary conditions
n
( ) 0 p x
'
A ÷· =
 From the x’ → ∞,
From the x’ → 0,
 Therefore
 Similarly,
pn Diode I–V Characteristic
A P
n P
P P n0
P
( )
( ) ( 1)
qV kT x L
d p x D
x qD q p e e
dx L
' ÷
'
A
'
= ÷ = ÷
'
J
N A
p
N
N N p0
N
( )
( ) ( 1)
x L qV kT
d n x
D
x qD q n e e
dx L
'' ÷
''
A
''
= ÷ = ÷
''
J
n-side
p-side
p n
N P N P
0 0 x x x x x x '' ' =÷ = = =
= + = + J J J J J
A
2
N P
i
N A P D
( 1)
qV kT
D D
qn e
L N L N
| |
= + ÷
|
\ .
J
pn Diode I–V Characteristic
A
0
2
N P
0 i
N A P D
( 1)
qV kT
I I e
D D
I Aqn
L N L N
= ÷
| |
= +
|
\ .
I A = J
A
2
N P
i
N A P D
( 1)
qV kT
D D
Aqn e
L N L N
| |
= + ÷
|
\ .
• Shockley Equation,
for ideal diode
• I
0
can be viewed as the drift
current due to minority carriers
generated within the diffusion
lengths of the depletion region

Diode Saturation Current I
0

 I
0
can vary by orders of magnitude, depending on the semiconductor material, due to n
i
2

factor.
 In an asymmetrically doped pn junction, the term associated with the more heavily doped
side is negligible.
 If the p side is much more heavily doped,

 If the n side is much more heavily doped,
2
N P
0 i
P D N A
D D
I Aqn
L N L N
| |
= +
|
\ .
2
P
0 i
P D
D
I Aqn
L N
| |
~
|
\ .
2
N
0 i
N A
D
I Aqn
L N
| |
~
|
\ .
Diode Carrier Currents
N P
= + J J J
N p n N p
P p n P n
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
x x x x
x x x x
÷ s s = ÷
÷ s s =
J J
J J
• Total current density is
constant inside the diode
• Negligible thermal R-G throughout
depletion region
 dJ
N
/dx = dJ
P
/dx = 0
Carrier Concentration: Forward Bias
n0
p
p0
p
p0
n
n0
n
A
2
i
qV kT
np n e =
p A
n D
p N
n N
=
=
Excess minority
carriers

Excess minority
carriers

A P
n n0
( ) ( 1)
qV kT x L
p x p e e
' ÷
'
A = ÷
N A
p p0
( ) ( 1)
x L qV kT
n x n e e
'' ÷
''
A = ÷
 Law of the Junction
 Low level injection conditions
Carrier Concentration: Reverse Bias
 Deficit of minority carriers near the depletion region.
 Depletion region acts like a “sink”, draining carriers from the adjacent quasineutral regions

Deviations from the Ideal I-V Behavior