# Lecture 2: Physical Operation of Diodes.

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1 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 1 of 10 Lecture 2: Physical Operation of Diodes. Real diodes have a more complicated iv characteristic curve than ideal diodes. As shown in the text for a silicon diode: (Fig. 4.8) The diode has three distinct regions of operation: 1. Forward bias note that when the diode is on, the voltage drop is approximately 0.6 V to 0.7 V for a silicon diode. 2. Reverse bias in this region i IS, where I S is called the saturation current. For small signal diodes, I S is often on the order of fa (10 15 A). 3. Breakdown in this region v VZK for all I, where V ZK is called the breakdown knee voltage. This region of operation is useful in certain applications. In the forward bias region of operation, it can be shown from first principals that 2016 Keith W. Whites

2 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 2 of 10 v nvt i IS e 1 (4.1),(1) where n = emission constant. Typically between 1 and 2. Your text uses n = 1 throughout, which is typical of integrated circuits. VT kt q 25 mv at room temperature (20 C). Called the thermal voltage. Notice the highly nonlinear relationship between i and v in this equation. (You ll learn where this mathematical expression comes from in EE 362.) When v << 0 in (1), then v nvt i IS e 1 IS which is true for operation in the reverse bias region. (2) We ll now take a quick look at the basic semiconductor physics behind the pn junction, and then follow this up with examples and applications.

3 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 3 of 10 pn Junction Semiconductor junction diodes are made by joining two semiconductors together. A pn junction diode is formed by joining a ptype semiconductor to an ntype semiconductor: p type silicon lattice n type silicon lattice For a silicon diode, both the p and n regions are silicon, but in each of these regions, small amounts of impurities have been added through a process called doping. To make p and n regions, we begin with a silicon crystal as shown in Fig These atoms are held together by covalent bonds (sharing pairs of electrons). (Fig. 3.1)

4 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 4 of 10 At T = 0, the outermost electron (e ) of each atom is held in covalent bonds. No current is possible since no electrons are available to contribute to conduction. For T > 0, random thermal vibration provides enough energy for some of the e to break their covalent bonds (see Fig. 3.2). These e can contribute to conduction current. (Fig. 3.2) Holes When electrons are thermally excited out of covalent bonds, they leave a vacancy at the bond site, as illustrated above in Fig This is called a hole. Interestingly, holes can also contribute to conduction current in a semiconductor material (see the figure below). This movement

5 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 5 of 10 is usually much slower than e so the mobility of holes is smaller. Donors and Acceptors The concentration of holes and free electrons can be changed in a silicon crystal by adding small amounts of impurities called dopants. This is what makes electronic devices possible! (1) To create holes, add acceptor dopants to the silicon (see Fig. 3.4). For such ptype semiconductors, the silicon is doped with trivalent impurity elements such as boron. These impurity atoms displace silicon atoms (having four electrons) with boron atoms (having three electrons). Consequently, the regular silicon lattice has holes, or locations in the lattice that can accept a free electron. This hole can also move through the lattice.

6 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 6 of 10 (Fig. 3.4) (2) To create free electrons, add donor dopants (see Fig. 3.3). For such ntype semiconductors, the silicon is doped with pentavalent impurity elements such as phosphorus. These impurities displace silicon atoms with phosphorous atoms (having five electrons). Consequently, one extra electron is available to move through the silicon lattice. (Fig. 3.3)

7 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 7 of 10 Be aware that the entire ptype and ntype regions remain charge neutral at all times! The dopant atoms are also charge neutral. At room temperature, thermal ionization breaks some covalent bonds. In ntype materials we then have free electrons while in ptype materials we have free holes. p type means positive charge carriers predominate while n type means negative charge carriers predominate. Depletion Region Something very special occurs when we place ptype material in contact with ntype material. There now appears to be an excess of holes in the ptype material and an excess of free electrons in the n type. p type silicon lattice n type silicon lattice Through the mechanism of diffusion (random motion due to thermal agitation), excess holes will migrate to the ntype region while excess free electrons will migrate to the ptype region.

8 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 8 of 10 More specifically, when the p and ntype materials are placed in contact (forming a junction), two things happen near the contact region: (1) Holes diffuse across the junction (diffuse because the hole concentration is higher in p type) into the ntype region and recombine with majority electrons. Diffusion of majority carrier. Recombination p type n type With this electron now gone, we have uncovered a positive charge from the dopant atom in the ntype region. This forms a positively charged region. p type n type (2) Similarly, the majority carriers in the ntype region (electrons) diffuse across the junction and recombine with majority holes in the ptype region. This uncovers negative bound charge. p type n type

9 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 9 of 10 This contact region between the p and n regions now has a bound volume electric charge density. It is called the depletion region. This may seem an unexpected name since only in this region is there a net volume charge density (aka space charge)! Reverse and Forward Biased Junction There are two important states for a pn junction, the reversed biased and forward biased states: (1) Reversed biased state: An electric field E is created in the depletion region because of the uncovered charges near the junction: E battery p E n width of depletion region increases V For the reversed biased state of the pn junction, the electric field produced by the battery E battery adds to this electric field of the space charge E in the depletion region. This increases the width of the depletion region.

10 Whites, EE 320 Lecture 2 Page 10 of 10 Consequently, the majority carriers cannot flow through the region: holes in the p material are opposed by E in the depletion region, as are electrons in the n material. Hence, little current flows (only the drift current I S ) unless the junction breaks down. This occurs when E battery is strong enough to strip electrons from the covalent bonds of the atoms, which are then swept across the junction. (2) Forward biased state: E battery minority carrier p E n minority carrier I width of depletion region decreases V When V is large enough so that E battery > E, then (i) holes are swept from the p to n regions, and (ii) electrons are swept from the n to p regions. We now have current!

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