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Photoconductivity

Conceptual Explanation and Application

by, Sarathy Kannan G

Photoconductivity is an optical and electrical phenomenon in which a material becomes more electrically conductive due to the absorption of electromagnetic radiation such as visible light, ultraviolet light, infrared light, or gamma radiation. Principle When light is absorbed by a material such as a semiconductor, the number of free electrons and electron holes changes and raises its electrical conductivity. To cause excitation, the light that strikes the semiconductor must have enough energy to raise electrons across the band gap, or to excite the impurities within the band gap. When a bias voltage and a load resistor are used in series with the semiconductor, a voltage drop across the load resistors can be measured when the change in electrical conductivity of the material varies the current flowing through the circuit. Classic examples of photoconductive materials include the conductive polymer polyvinylcarbazole used extensively in photocopying (xerography); lead sulfide, used in infrared detection applications, such as the U.S. Sidewinder and Russian Atoll heat-seeking missiles; and selenium, employed in early television and xerography.

If Eg be the minimum band gap in a semiconducting material, then the longest wavelength which may cause this effect is =hc/Eg the electrical conductivity of an insulator or a semiconductor is given by = e(n.n + p.p) where is the conductivity of the material, n and p are the electron and hole concenteration and n and p are the electron and hole mobilities. In a homogeneous material where the electron and hole concenterations are uniform, the rise in conductivity is given by = e(n.n + p.p) In Insulators the value of n and p are large compared to the corresponding to free carrier density in the dark, whereas for semiconductors this rise is very small compared to dark carrier density. In a non-homogeneous material in which n and p are not uniform, the increase in photoconductivity is due to increase in the value of p and n. In these materials the rise in conductivity can be expressed as

= e(n.n +p.p)

Photosensitivity 'Photosensitivity' is the amount to which and receiving photons, especially visible light. S = ph / d where ph = total - d where ph is the photoconductivity and d is the dark conductivity. The Spectral Response The variation of photoconductivity with photon energy is known as spectral response. The maximum value of photocurrent corresponds to band gap energy and spectral response. The energy ranges from 3.7 eV for ZnS to 0.2 eV for cooled PbSe. object reacts upon

Spectral response for photo conducting materials.

Speed of Response It is the rate of the change in photoconductivity with change in photo excitation intensity. It is studied by switching off a steady photo excitation intensity. For materials with exponential decay, the photocurrent reaches the dark current very quickly and for materials with non exponential decay, the decay of photocurrent takes a longer time to reach dark current.

Photoconductive Materials The Required Characteristics of a Photoconductive materials are High spectral sensitivity in the wavelength region of interest Higher quantum efficiency Higher photoconductive gain Higher speed of response and lesser noise Some of the notable photoconductive materials that are being used widely in contemporary world are CdS, CdSe, PbS, InSb, Mercury Cadmium Telluride (HgxCd1-xTe).

Cadmium sulphide (CdS) and Cadmium Selenide (CdSe) They are low cost materials and are used as visible radiation sensors because they are highly sensitive(1O3 to 104). Due to their high Sensitivity, the response time strongly depends on the illumination level, indicating the existence of traps.

Lead Sulphide (PbS) These detectors are used to detect near infrared in the wavelength range from 1 m to 3.4 m. The most sensitive region of this material is 2 with a typical response time of 200 s. Indium Antimony (InSb) These detec tors are formed from single crystals with low impedance (50). It can be used upto 7m with a response time of 50 ns. It can be operated at room temperature; however, one can have an improved noise reduction at low temperatures, such as liquid nitrogen temperature. Mercury Cadmium Telluride It is a combination of semi metal HgTe and semiconductor CdTe alloy with a varying band gap of 0-1.4 eV, the band gap of pure CdTe.. The sensitivities of these detectors lie in the range from 5 to 14 m. The gain of these is about 500, which can be further increased at low temperature and low illuminations due to the effect of traps. Applications a. Photodiode: A photodiode is a type of photo detector capable of converting light into either current or voltage, depending upon the mode of operation. The common, traditional solar cell used to generate electric solar power is a large area photodiode.

Photodiodes are similar to regular semiconductor diodes except that they may be either exposed (to detect vacuum UV or X-rays) or packaged with a

window or optical fiber connection to allow light to reach the sensitive part of the device. Many diodes designed for use specifically as a photodiode use a PIN junction rather than a p-n junction, to increase the speed of response. A photodiode is designed to operate in reverse bias. A photodiode is a p-n junction or PIN structure. When a photon of sufficient energy strikes the diode, it excites an electron, thereby creating a free electron (and a positively charged electron hole). This mechanism is also known as the inner photoelectric effect. If the absorption occurs in the junction's depletion region, or one diffusion length away from it, these carriers are swept from the junction by the built-in field of the depletion region. Thus holes move toward the anode, and electrons toward the cathode, and a photocurrent is produced. This photocurrent is the sum of both the dark current (without light) and the light current, so the dark current must be minimized to enhance the sensitivity of the device. Photovoltaic mode: When used in zero bias or photovoltaic mode, the flow of photocurrent out of the device is restricted and a voltage builds up. This mode exploits the photovoltaic effect, which is the basis for solar cells a traditional solar cell is just a large area photodiode. Photoconductive mode: In this mode the diode is often reverse biased (with the cathode positive), dramatically reducing the response time at the expense of increased noise. This increases the width of the depletion layer, which decreases the junction's capacitance resulting in faster response times. The reverse bias induces only a small amount of current (known as saturation or back current) along its direction while the photocurrent remains virtually the same. For a given spectral distribution, the photocurrent is linearly proportional to the illuminance (and to the irradiance).

Although this mode is faster, the photoconductive mode tends to exhibit more electronic noise.[citation needed] The leakage current of a good PIN diode is so low (<1 nA) that the JohnsonNyquist noise of the load resistance in a typical circuit often dominates. Applications P-N photodiodes are used in similar applications to other photo detectors, such as photoconductors, charge-coupled devices, and photomultiplier tubes. They may be used to generate an output which is dependent upon the illumination (analog; for measurement and the like), or to change the state of circuitry (digital; either for control and switching, or digital signal processing).

Photodiodes are used in consumer electronics devices such as compact disc players, smoke detectors, and the receivers for infrared remote control devices used to control equipment from televisions to air conditioners. For many applications either photodiodes or photoconductors may be used. Either type of photo sensor may be used for light measurement, as in camera light meters, or to respond to light levels, as in switching on street lighting after dark. Photodiodes are often used for accurate measurement of light intensity in science and industry. They generally have a more linear response than photoconductors. They are also widely used in various medical applications, such as detectors for computed tomography (coupled with scintillators), instruments to analyze samples (immunoassay), and pulse oximeters. P-N photodiodes are not used to measure extremely low light intensities. Instead, if high sensitivity is needed, avalanche photodiodes, intensified charge-coupled devices or photomultiplier tubes are used for applications such as astronomy, spectroscopy, night vision equipment and laser range finding. b. Photovoltaic cell( Solar Cell)

Becquarel in 1839 discovered that when a pair of electrodes is immersed in an electrolyte and light is allowed to incident on one of them , a potential difference is created between electrodes . This phenomenon is called photovoltaic effect. Device based on this effect are known as Photo-Voltaic cell . This photovoltaic cell are the devices in which light energy is use to create a potential difference so developed is directly proportional to the frequency and intensity of incident light.

Uses Operation of relays Photographic exposure Direct reading illumination metro.

c. Photoconductive cell (or Photoresistor) A photoresistor or light dependent resistor (LDR) is a resistor whose resistance decreases with increasing incident light intensity; in other words, it exhibits photoconductivity.

Principle A photoresistor is made of a high resistance semiconductor. If light falling on the device is of high enough frequency, photons absorbed by the semiconductor give bound electrons enough energy to jump into the conduction band. The resulting free electron (and its hole partner) conduct electricity, thereby lowering resistance.

Sketch of Photoconductive device

symbol of photo resistor

A photoelectric device can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. An intrinsic semiconductor has its own charge carriers and is not an efficient semiconductor, for example, silicon. In intrinsic devices the only available electrons are in the valence band, and hence the photon must have enough energy to excite the electron across the entire bandgap. Extrinsic devices have impurities, also called dopants, added whose ground state energy is closer to the conduction band; since the electrons do not have as far to jump, lower energy photons (that is, longer wavelengths and lower frequencies) are sufficient to trigger the device. If a sample of silicon has some of its atoms replaced by phosphorus atoms (impurities), there will be extra electrons available for conduction. This is an example of an extrinsic semiconductor. Photoresistors are basically photocells.

Spectral response of CdS cell

Specification and model There are many types of photoresistors, with different specifications and models. Photoresistors can be coated with or packaged in different materials that vary the resistance, depending on the use for each LDR. Applications Photoresistors come in many different types. Inexpensive cadmium sulphide cells can be found in many consumer items such as camera light meters, street lights, clock radios, alarm devices, outdoor clocks, solar street lamps and solar road studs, etc. They are also used in some dynamic compressors together with a small incandescent lamp or light emitting diode to control gain reduction and are also used in bed lamps, etc. Lead sulfide (PbS) and indium antimonide (InSb) LDRs (light dependent resistor) are used for the mid infrared spectral region. Ge:Cu photoconductors are among the best far-infrared detectors available, and are used for infrared astronomy and infrared spectroscopy.

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