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EP 319-CHAPTER 4

PN JUNCTIONS
FORMATION OF PN JUNCTION

A pn junction is a junction formed by joining p-
type and n-type semiconductors together in very
close contact. The term junction refers to the
boundary interface where the two regions of the
semiconductor meet. If they were constructed of
two separate pieces this would introduce a grain
boundary, so pn junctions are more often
created in a single crystal of semiconductor by
dopi ng, for exampl e by i on i mpl antati on,
di f f us i on of dopant s , or by epi t ax y .
**Remember that two excitation mechanism; diffusion and drift.
Diffusion current is due to the movement of the carriers from high concentration region towards to low
concentration region.
Drift current is due to the movement of the carriers under the influence of an applied electric field.

P-n junctions are formed by joining n-
type and p-type semi conductor
materials, as shown below. Since the
n-type region has a high electron
concentration and the p-type a high
hole concentration, electrons diffuse
from the n-type side to the p-type
side. Similarly, holes flow by diffusion
from the p-type side to the n-type
side. If the electrons and holes were
not charged, this diffusion process
w o u l d c o n t i n u e u n t i l t h e
concentration of electrons and holes
on the two sides were the same.





When the concentration of holes and
electrons are same, a depletion region is
formed. There arent any mobile charge
carriers in this region.
An electric field () therefore builds up
in the so-called depletion region around
the junction to stop the flow.
Depending on the materials used, a
built inpotential (Vbi) owing to will be
formed.
The depletion region makes the p n junction into
a diode, a device that conducts current easily in
one direction only.
The electric field formed in the depletion region
acts as a barrier.
External energy must be applied to get the
electrons to move across the barrier of the
electric field.
The potential difference required to move the
electrons through the electric field is called the
barrier potential (built-in potential).
The way is to move across the electric field
barrier give external voltage to the pn junction by
connecting a battery.
The p-n junction may be connected to a battery
in two ways: (i) in forward bias (ii) in reverse bias
Energy levels in a p-n junction
Forward bias
Forward-bias occurs when the p-type semi-conductor
material is connected to the positive terminal of a battery
and the n-type semi-conductor material is connected to
the negative terminal. With a battery connected this way,
the holes in the p-type region and the electrons in the n-
type region are pushed towards the junction. This
reduces the width of the depletion zone. The positive
charge applied to the p-type material repels the holes,
while the negative charge applied to the n-type material
repels the electrons. As electrons and holes are pushed
towards the junction, the distance between them
decreases.
Forward Bias
This lowers the barrier in the potential. With increasing
forward-bias voltage, the depletion zone eventually
becomes thin enough that the zones electric field cant
counteract the charge carrier motion across the p-n
junction, consequently reducing electrical resistance.
The electrons which cross the p-n junction into the p-
type material (or holes which cross into the n-type
material) will diffuse in the near neutral region.
Therefore, the amount of minority diffusion in the near-
neutral zones determines the amount of current that may
flow through the diode.
Forward Bias
Once is no longer large enough to stop the flow of
electrons and holes, a current is produced. The built in
potential reduces to Vbi V and the current flow increases
exponentially with the applied voltage. This phenomenon
results in the Ideal Diode Law, expressed as




where I is the current, I0 is the dark saturation current (the
diode leakage current density in the absence of light), V is
the applied voltage, q is the charge on an electron, k is
Boltzmanns constant and T is absolute temperature.

Forward Bias
The practical result of the movements of electrons and holes is
summarised by the diode characteristic in Figure. Diode current I
increases with positive bias, growing rapidly above about 0.6 V; but with
negative bias the reverse current saturates at a very small value Io.
Clearly this device only allows current flow easily in one direction.



Reverse Bias
Connecting the p-type region to the negative terminal of
the battery and the ntype region to the positive terminal
produces the reverse-bias effect. Because the p-type
material is now connected to the negative terminal of the
power supply, the holes in the p-type material are pulled
away from the junction, causing the width of the depletion
zone to increase. Similarly, because the n-type region is
connected to the positive terminal, the electrons will also
be pulled away from the junction. Therefore the depletion
region widens, and does so increasingly with increasing
reverse-bias voltage.
Reverse Bias
This increases the voltage barrier, causing a high
resistance to the flow of charge carriers thus allowing
minimal electric current to cross the p-n junction. The
strength of the depletion zone electric field increases as
the reverse-bias voltage increases. Once the electric
field intensity increases beyond a critical level, the p-n
junction depletion zone breaks down and current begins
to flow, usually by either the Zener or the avalanche
breakdown processes. Both of these breakdown
processes are non-destructive and are reversible, so
long as the amount of current flowing does not reach
levels that cause the semi-conductor material to
overheat and cause thermal damage.

Photovoltaic Effect

When the solar cell (p-n junction) is illuminated, electron-
holes pairs are generated and acted upon by the internal
electric fields, resulting in a photo current (IL). The
generated photocurrent flows in a direction opposite to
the forward dark current. Even in the absence of external
applied voltage, this photocurrent continues to flow, and is
measured as the short circuit current (Isc). This current
depends linearly on the light intensity, because absorption
of more light results in additional electrons flowing in the
internal electric field force. The overall cell current I is
determined by subtracting the light induced current IL from
the diode dark current ID.