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Phototransistors are like regular

transistors however its features are optimized for photo applications. The phototransistor symbol shown does not give a base connection as the light is used to enable the current flow. In some instances the base may be biased to set the required operating point. In this case the base will be shown in the normal way on the phototransistor symbol.

The phototransistor has much larger base

and collector areas. Early photo transistors used germanium or silicon throughout the device giving a homojunction structure. The more modern phototransistors use type III-V materials such as gallium arsenide.

Light strikes the base and

replaces what would ordinarily be voltage being applied to the base. Phototransistor amplifies on variations of light striking on it.


The most common phototransistor is n-p-n phototransistor The light enters the base of the phototransistor where it causes hole-electron pairs to be generated. The hole-electron pairs move under the influence of the electric field and provide the base current, causing electrons to be injected into the emitter. There is a small amount of current that flows in the photo transistor even when no light is present. This is called the dark current, and represents the small number of carriers that are injected into the emitter.

Circuit Configurations
The phototransistor can be used in a variety of different circuit configurations. Like more conventional transistors, the phototransistor can be used in common emitter and common collector circuits. Common base circuits are not normally used because the base connection is often left floating.

Common Emitter
0 The common emitter phototransistor circuit is possibly the most widely used. The collector is taken

to the supply voltage via a collector load resistor, and the output is taken from the collector connection on the phototransistor. 0 The circuit generates an output that moves from a high voltage state to a low voltage state when light is detected. 0 The circuit actually acts as an amplifier. The current generated by the light affects the base region. This is amplified by the current gain of the transistor.

Common Collector
0 The emitter is taken to ground via a load

resistor, and the output for the circuit being taken from the emitter connection of the device. 0 The circuit generates an output that moves from the low state to a high state when light is detected.

Base Connection
0 On some phototransistors, the base

connection is available. Access to the base connection allows the phototransistor circuit conditions to be set more appropriately for some applications. 0 High values of base resistor Rb prevent low levels of light from raising the current levels in the collector emitter circuit.

Modes of Operation
0 Active Mode:

In active mode, the output of the transistor is proportional to the intensity of the light.
0 Switch Mode: The transistor can be switched between the cut-off ("off") and saturated ("on") states. This means that when light strikes the phototransistor, it will conduct, otherwise, it will insulate.

Active mode: VCC > RL x Ic Switch mode: VCC < RL x Ic where, RL = load resistor (Rc or Re ) IC = maximum anticipated current. VCC = supply voltage.

0 High gain 0 Less noise

Not so good high frequency response