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 Electronic devices such as diodes, transistors, and
integrated circuits are made of a semi conductive
 To properly understand how these devices work, you
should have a basic knowledge of the structure of
atoms and the interaction of atomic particles.
 An important concept introduced in this chapter is that
of the pn junction that is formed when two different
types of semi conductive material are joined.
 The pn junction is fundamental to the operation of
devices such as the diode and certain types of
 Atomic Structure
 Semiconductors, Conductors, and Insulators
 Covalent Bonds
 Conduction in Semiconductors
 N-Type and P-Type Semiconductors
 The Diode
 Biasing a Diode
 Voltage-Current Characteristic of a Diode
 Diode Models
 Testing a Diode
 All matter is made of atoms; and all atoms consist
of electrons, protons, and neutrons.
 An atom is the smallest particle of an element that
retains the characteristics of that element.
 Each of the known 109 elements has atoms that
are different from the atoms of all other elements.
This gives each element a unique atomic structure.
 According to the classical Bohr model, atoms have
a planetary type of structure that consists of a
central nucleus surrounded by orbiting electrons, as
illustrated in Figure 1-1.
 The nucleus consists of positively charged particles
called protons and uncharged particles called
 The basic particles of negative charge are called
Atomic Number
 All elements are arranged in the periodic table of
the elements in order according to their atomic
 The atomic number equal the number of protons in
the nucleus. which is the same as the number of
electrons in an electrically balanced (neutral) atom.
 In their normal (or neutral) state, all atoms of a
given element have the same number of electrons
as protons; the positive charges cancel the negative
charges, and the atom has a net charge of zero,
Electron Shells and Orbits
 Electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom at certain
distances from the nucleus.
 Electrons near the nucleus have less energy than
those in more distant orbits. It is known that only
discrete (separate and distinct) values of electron
energies exist within atomic structures.
 Therefore, electrons must orbit only at discrete
distances from the nucleus.
Energy Levels
 Each discrete distance (orbit) from the nucleus
corresponds to a certain energy level.
 In an atom, the orbits are grouped into energy
bands known as shells.
 A given atom has a fixed number of shells. Each
shell has a fixed maximum number of electrons at
permissible energy levels (orbits).
 The differences in energy levels within a shell are
much smaller than the difference in energy
between shells.
Energy Levels
 The shells are designated 1,2.3. and so on, with 1
being closest to the nucleus.
 Some references designate shells by the letters K,
L. M. and so on. This energy band concept is
illustrated in Figure 1-3. which shows the1st shell
with one energy level and the 2nd shell with two
energy levels.
 Additional shells may exist in other types of atoms,
depending on the element.
Valence Electrons
 Electrons that are in orbits farther from the nucleus have higher
energy and are less tightly bound to the atom than those closer
to the nucleus.
 This is because the force of attraction between the positively
charged nucleus and the negatively charged electron
decreases with increasing distance from the nucleus.
 Electrons with the highest energy exist in the outermost shell of
an atom and are relatively loosely bound to the atom.
 This outermost shell is known as the valence shell and electrons
in this shell are called valence electron.
 These valence electrons contribute to chemical reactions and
bonding within the structure of a material and determine its
electrical properties.
Valence Electrons
 If a valence electron acquires a sufficient amount of
energy, it can actually escape from the outer shell
and the atom's influence. The departure of a
valence electron leaves a previously neutral atom
with an excess of positive charge (more protons
than electrons).
 The process of losing a valence electron is known as
 A semiconductor is a material that is between conductors and
insulators in its ability to conduct electrical current.
 A semiconductor in its pure (intrinsic) state is neither a good
conductor nor a good insulator.
 The most common single-element semiconductors are silicon,
germanium, and carbon.
 Compound semiconductors such as gallium arsenide are also
commonly used.
 The single-element semiconductors are characterized by
atoms with four valence electrons.
Energy Bands
 Recall that the valence shell of an atom represents a
band of energy levels and that the valence electrons
are confined to that band.
 When an electron acquires enough additional energy, it
can leave the valence shell, become a free electron,
and exist in what is known as the conduction band.
 The difference in energy between the valence band and
the conduction band is called an energy gap. This is the
amount of energy that a valence electron must have in
order to jump from the valence band to the conduction
Comparison of a Semiconductor Atom
to a Conductor Atom
Silicon and Germanium
 Silicon is the most
widely used
material in diodes,
integrated circuits,
and other
 Notice that both
silicon and
germanium have
the characteristic
four valence
 Figure 1-8
shows how
each silicon
itself with
atoms to
form a
 Silicon (Si) atom with its four valence electrons shares
an electron with each of its four neighbors.
 This effectively creates eight shared valence electrons
for each atom and produces a state of chemical
 Also, this sharing of valence electrons produces the
covalent bonds that hold the atoms together; each
valence electron is attracted equally by the two
adjacent atoms which share it.
 Covalent bonding in
an intrinsic silicon
crystal is shown in
Figure 1-9.
 An intrinsic crystal
is one that has no
 Covalent bonding
for germanium is
similar because it
also has four
valence electrons.
 The way a material conducts electrical current is
important in understanding how electronic
devices operate.

 You can't really understand the operation of a

device such as a diode or transistor without
knowing something about the basic current
 As you have learned, the
electrons of an atom can
exist only within prescribed
energy bands.
 Each shell around the
nucleus corresponds to a
certain energy band and is
separated from adjacent
shells by energy gaps. in
which no electrons can exist.
 Figure 1-10 shows the
energy band diagram for
an unexcited (no external
energy such as heat) atom in
a pure silicon crystal. This
condition occurs only at a
temperature of absolute 0
Conduction Electrons and Holes
 An intrinsic (pure)
silicon crystal at room
temperature has
sufficient heat
(thermal) energy for
some valence
electrons to jump the
gap from the valence
band into the
conduction band,
becoming free
 Free electrons are
also called
conduction electrons.
Conduction Electrons and Holes
 When an electron jumps to the conduction band, a
vacancy is left in the valence band within the
 This vacancy is called a hole. For every electron
raised to the conduction band by external energy,
there is one hole left in the valence band, creating
what is called an electron-hole pair.
 Recombination occurs when a conduction-band
electron loses energy and falls back into a hole in
the valence band.
Conduction Electrons and Holes
 To summarize, a piece of
intrinsic silicon at room
temperature has, at any
instant, a number of
conduction-band (free)
electrons that are
unattached to any atom
and are essentially
drifting randomly
throughout the material.
 There is also an equal
number of holes in the
valence band created
when these electrons jump
into the conduction band.
This is illustrated in Figure
Electron Current
 When a voltage is applied across a piece of intrinsic silicon, as shown in
Figure 1-13, the thermally generated free electrons in the conduction band,
which are free to move randomly in the crystal structure, are now easily
attracted toward the positive end.
 This movement of free electrons is one type of current in a semiconductive
material and is called electron current.
Hole Current
 Another type of current occurs in the valence band,
where the holes created by the free electrons exist.
 Electrons remaining in the valence band are still attached
to their atoms and are not free to move randomly in the
crystal structure as are the free electrons.
 However, a valence electron can move into a nearby hole
with little change in its energy level. thus leaving another
hole where it came from.
 Effectively the hole has moved from one place to
another in the crystal structure as illustrated in Figure 1-
14. This is called hole current.
 Semiconductive materials do not conduct current well
and are of limited value in their intrinsic state.
 This is because of the limited number of free
electrons in the conduction band and holes in the
valence band.
 Intrinsic silicon (or germanium) must be modified by
increasing the number of free electrons or holes to
increase its conductivity and make it useful in
electronic devices.
 Two types of extrinsic (impure) semiconductive
materials, n-type and p-type, are the key building
blocks for most types of electronic devices.
 The conductivity of silicon and germanium can be
drastically increased by the controlled addition of
impurities to the intrinsic (pure) semiconductive
 This process, called doping, increases the number
of current carriers (electrons or holes).
 The two categories of impurities are n-type and p-
N- Type Semiconductor
 To increase the number of conduction-band electrons in
intrinsic silicon, pentavalent impurity atoms are added.
 These are atoms with five valence electrons such as arsenic
(As), phosphorus (P), bismuth (Bi), and antimony (Sb).
N- Type Semiconductor
P- Type Semiconductor
 To increase the number of holes in intrinsic silicon,
trivalent impurity atoms are added.
 These are atoms with three valence electrons such as
boron (B), indium (In), and gallium (Ga).
 As illustrated in Figure 1-16, each trivalent atom
(boron. in this case) forms covalent bonds with four
adjacent silicon atoms.
P- Type Semiconductor
P- Type Semiconductor
 All three of the boron atom's valence electrons are
used in the covalent bonds; and, since four electrons
are required, a hole results when each trivalent
atom is added.
 Because the trivalent atom can take an electron, it is
often referred to as an acceptor atom.
 The number of holes can be carefully controlled by
the number of trivalent impurity atoms added to the
silicon. A hole created by this doping process is not
accompanied by a conduction (free) electron.
 If you take a block of silicon and dope part of it
with a trivalent impurity and the other part with a
pentavalent impurity, a boundary called the pn
junction is formed between the resulting p-type
and n-type portions and a basic diode is created.
 A diode is a device that conducts current in only
one direction.
 The pn junction is the feature that allows diodes,
certain transistors, and other devices to work.
 A p-type material consists of silicon atoms and
trivalent impurity atoms such as boron.
 The boron atom adds a hole when it bonds with the
silicon atoms.
 However, since the number of protons and the
number of electrons are equal throughout the
material, there is no net charge in the material and
so it is neutral.
 An n-type silicon material consists of silicon atoms
and pentavalent impurity atoms such as antimony.
 As you have seen. an impurity atom releases an
electron when it bonds with four silicon atoms.
 Since there is still an equal number of protons and
electrons (including the free electrons) throughout the
material, there is no net charge in the material and
so it is neutral.
 If a piece of intrinsic silicon is doped so that part is
n-type and the other part is p-type.
 A pn junction forms at the boundary between the
two regions and a diode is created.
 The p region has many holes (majority carriers)
from the impurity atoms and only a few thermally
generated free electrons (minority carriers).
 The n region has many free electrons (majority
carriers) from the impurity atoms and only a few
thermally generated holes (minority carriers).
Formation of the Depletion Region
Formation of the Depletion Region
 As you have seen, the free electrons in the n region
are randomly drifting in all directions.
 At the instant of the pn junction formation, the free
electrons near the junction in the n region begin to
diffuse across the junction into the p region where
they combine with holes near the junction,
Formation of the Depletion Region
Formation of the Depletion Region
 Before the pn junction is formed, recall that there are
as many electrons as protons in the n-type material,
making the material neutral in terms of net charge.
The same is true for the p-type material.
 When the pn junction is formed, the n-region loses
free electrons as they diffuse across the junction.
 This creates a layer of positive charges (pentavalent
ions) near the junction.
 As the electrons move across the junction. the p region
loses holes as the electrons and holes combine.
Formation of the Depletion Region
 This creates a layer of negative charges (trivalent
ions) near the junction. These two layers of positive
and negative charges form the depletion region.
 The term depletion refers to the fact that the region
near the pn junction is depleted of charge carriers
(electrons and holes) due to diffusion across the
 Keep in mind that the depletion region is formed
very quickly and is very thin compared to the n
region and p region.
Formation of the Depletion Region
 After the initial surge of free electrons across the pn
junction, the depletion region has expanded to a point
where equilibrium is established and there is no further
diffusion of electrons across the junction.
 This occurs as follows. As electrons continue to diffuse
across the junction, more and more positive and negative
charges are created near the junction as the depletion
region is formed.
 A point is reached where the total negative charge in the
depletion region repels any further diffusion of electrons
(negatively charged particles) into the p region (like
charges repel) and the diffusion stops.
 In other words, the depletion region acts as a barrier to
the further movement of electrons across the junction.
Barrier Potential
 Any time there is a positive charge and a negative
charge near each other, there is a force acting on
the charges as described by Coulomb's law.
 In the depletion region, there are many positive
charges and many negative charges on opposite
sides of the pn junction.
 The forces between the opposite charges form a
"field of forces" called an electric field.
Barrier Potential
 This electric field is a barrier to the free electrons in
the n region, and energy must be expended to
move an electron through the electric field.
 That is, external energy must be applied to get the
electrons to move across the barrier of the electric
field in the depletion region.
Barrier Potential
 The potential difference of the electric field across the
depletion region is the amount of voltage required to
move electrons through the electric field.
 This potential difference is called the barrier potential
and is expressed in volts.
 Stated another way, a certain amount, of voltage
equal to the barrier potential and with the proper
polarity must be applied across a pn junction before
electrons will begin to flow across the junction.
Barrier Potential
 The barrier potential of a pn junction depends on
several factors; including the type of semiconductive
material, the amount of doping, and the
 The typical barrier potential is approximately 0.7 V
for silicon and 0.3 V for germanium at 25°C.
Energy Diagrams of the PN Junction
and Depletion Region
 The valence and conduction bands in an n-type
material are at slightly lower energy levels than the
valence and conduction bands in a p-type material.
 This is due to differences in the atomic
characteristics of the pentavalent and the trivalent
impurity atoms.
Energy Diagrams of the PN Junction
and Depletion Region
 As you have learned, no electrons move through the
pn junction at equilibrium.
 Generally the term bias refers to the use of a dc
voltage to establish certain operating conditions for
an electronic device. In relation to a diode, there are
two bias conditions: forward and reverse.
 Either of these bias conditions is established by
connecting a sufficient dc voltage of the proper
polarity across the pn junction.
Forward Bias

 To bias a diode, you

apply a dc voltage
across it.
 Forward bias is the
condition that allows
current through the pn
Forward Bias
 Notice that the negative side of VBlAS is connected
to the n region of the diode and the positive side is
connected to the p region.
 This is one requirement for forward bias.
 A second requirement is that the bias voltage, VBlAS ,
must be greater than the barrier potential.
Forward Bias
 Because like charges repel, the
negative side of the bias-
voltage source "pushes" the free
electrons, which are the majority
carriers in the n region, toward
the pn junction.
 This flow of free electrons is
called electron current.
 The negative side of the source
also provides a continuous flow
of electrons through the
external connection (conductor)
and into the n region as shown.
The Effect of Forward Bias on the
Depletion Region
 As more electrons flow into
the depletion region. the
number of positive ions is
 As more holes effectively
flow into the depletion
region on the other side of
the pn junction, the number
of negative ions is reduced.
 This reduction in positive and
negative ion is during
forward bias causes the
depletion region to narrow.
Reverse Bias
 Reverse bias is the condition that essentially
prevents current through the diode.
 This external bias voltage is designated as VBIAS
just as it was for forward bias.
 Notice that the positive side of VBIAS is connected to
the n-region of the diode and the negative side is
connected to the p-region.
 Also note that the depletion region is shown much
wider than in forward bias or equilibrium.
Reverse Bias
 Because unlike charges attract,
the positive side of the bias-
voltage source "pulls" the free
electrons, which are the
majority carriers in the n-
region, away from the pn
 As the electrons flow toward the
positive side of the voltage
source, additional positive ions
are created.
 This results in a widening of the
depletion region and a
depletion of majority carriers.
Reverse Bias
 In the p region, electrons from
the negative side of the voltage
source enter as valence electrons
and move from hole to hole
toward the depletion region
where they create additional
negative ions.
 This results in a widening of the
depletion region and a depletion
of majority carriers.
 The flow of valence electrons can
be viewed as holes being
"pulled" toward the positive side.
Reverse Current
 The extremely small current that exists in reverse bias
after the transition current dies out is caused by the
minority carriers in the n and p regions that are
produced by thermally generated electron-hole pairs.
 The small number of free minority electrons in the p
region are "pushed" toward the pn junction by the
negative bias voltage.
 When these electrons reach the wide depletion region,
they "fall down the energy hill" and combine with the
minority holes in the n region as valence electrons and
flow toward the positive bias voltage, creating a small
hole current.
Reverse Current
 The conduction band in the p region is at a higher
energy level than the conduction band in the n region.
 Therefore, the minority electrons easily pass through the
depletion region because they require no additional
Reverse Breakdown
 Normally, the reverse current is so small that it can be
 However, if the external reverse-bias voltage is
increased to a value called the breakdown voltage, the
reverse current will drastically increase.
 This is what happens. The high reverse-bias voltage
imparts energy to the free minority electrons so that as
they speed through the p region, they collide with
atoms with enough energy to knock valence electrons
out of orbit and into the conduction band.
Reverse Breakdown
 The newly created conduction electrons are also high in
energy and repeat the process. If one electron knocks only
two others out of their valence orbit during its travel
through the p region. the numbers quickly multiply.
 As these high-energy electrons go through the depletion
region, they have enough energy to go through the n
region as conduction electrons, rather than combining with
 The multiplication of conduction electrons just discussed is
known as avalanche and results in a very high reverse
current that can damage the diode because of excessive
heat dissipation.
The Complete V-I Characteristic Curve
DIODE MODEL: The Ideal Diode Model
 The ideal model of a
diode is a simple switch.
When the diode is
forward-biased, it acts
like a closed (on) switch.
 When the diode is
reverse-biased. it acts
like an open (off) switch.
 The barrier potential, the
forward dynamic
resistance, and the
reverse current are all
DIODE MODEL: The Practical Diode
 The practical model adds the
barrier potential to the ideal
switch model.
 When the diode is forward-
biased, it is equivalent to a
closed switch in series with a
small equivalent voltage source
equal to the barrier potential
(0.7 V) with the positive side
toward the anode.
 This equivalent voltage source
represents the fixed voltage
drop (VF) produced across the
forward-biased pn junction of
the diode and is not an active
source of voltage.
DIODE MODEL: The Practical Diode
 When the diode is reverse-biased. it is equivalent to an
open switch just as in the ideal model.
 The barrier potential does not affect reverse bias. so it
is not a factor.
 Since the barrier potential is included and the dynamic
resistance is neglected, the diode is assumed to have a
voltage across it when forward-biased, as indicated by
the portion of the curve to the right of the origin.

VF = 0.7V
DIODE MODEL: The Complete Diode
 The complete model of a diode consists of the barrier
potential, the small forward dynamic resistance (rd’),
and the large internal reverse resistance (rd’).
 The reverse resistance is taken into account because it
provides a path for the reverse current, which is
included in this diode model.
 When the diode is forward-biased, it acts as a closed
switch in series with the barrier potential voltage and
the small forward dynamic resistance (rd’).
 When the diode is reverse-biased, it acts as an open
switch in parallel with the large internal reverse
resistance (rd’).
DIODE MODEL: The Complete Diode