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LAB ACTIVITY 1:

DIODE CHARACTERISTICS



I. Objectives

The objectives of this laboratory activity is to know the characteristics of the diode by
knowing how it functions when it is biased then using that knowledge to investigate the
relationship between the voltage and the current of the diode.

II. Basic Concepts

The diode is the simplest of semiconductor devices but plays a very vital role in electronic
systems, having characteristics that closely match those of a simple switch. In an actual diode the
cathode side of the diode is usually marked by a solid line, its schematic symbol is depicted on
Fig. 1-1.


Fig. 1-1. An actual diode vs. its schematic symbol

SEMICONDUCTORS

A semiconductor is a material whose characteristics are midway to that of conductors and
insulators. Conductors are any materials that are able to support a generous flow of charge when
a voltage source of limited magnitude is applied across its terminals while insulators are those
that offer very low level of conductivity under pressure from an applied voltage source.
Semiconductors, therefore, is a material that has a conductivity somewhere between that of an
insulator and a conductor.
Another characteristic that is inversely proportional to that of conductivity is its
resistance to the flow of charge, or current, known as resistivity. The higher the conductivity of a
material is, the lower its resistance. Insulators, therefore, have high resistivity, conductors have
very low resistivity while semiconductors are somewhere in between.
Germanium and silicon are the most widely used materials for semiconductors devices.
This is due to the fact that not only do they have resistivity levels somewhere halfway between
most conductors and insulators but also that they can also be manufactured to have a very high
purity level. A high purity level is needed for semiconductor materials because of the process
known as doping, which is able to change the characteristics of a material significantly by adding
impurities to a material. Further reasons include that their characteristics can be altered by the
application of heat and light.
Some unique qualities of germanium and silicon are due to their atomic structure. The
atoms of both materials form definite patterns that are periodic in nature. A complete pattern is
called a crystal and the periodic arrangement of the atoms is called the lattice. Any material
composed solely of repeating crystal structures of the same kind is called a single-crystal
structure. For semiconductor materials of practical application in the electronics field, this single
crystal feature exists, and, in addition, the periodicity of the structure does not change
significantly with the addition of impurities in the doping process.
From the structure of the atoms of both germanium and silicon, it can be found that both
have four valence electrons. In a pure germanium or silicon crystal, the four valence electrons
are bonded to four adjoining atoms through covalent bonding, which is the sharing of electrons
between atoms.

Fig. 1-2. Covalent bonding in a Silicon crystal

Although the covalent bond will result in a stronger bond between the valence electrons
and their parent atom, it is still possible for the valence electrons to absorb sufficient kinetic
energy from natural causes to break the covalent bond and assume the free state. The term free
reveals that their motion is quite sensitive to applied electric fields such as established by voltage
sources or any difference in potential. These natural causes include effects such as light energy in
the form of photons and thermal energy from the surrounding medium. Increasing the
temperature of the material causes an increasing number of valence electrons to break their
covalent bonds and cause and increase in the number of free electrons.

P-TYPE AND N-TYPE MATERIALS

Intrinsic materials are those semiconductors that have been carefully refined to reduce the
impurities to a very low level essentially as pure as can be made available through modern
technology. Extrinsic materials on the other hand are semiconductors that have been subjected to
the doping process. They are materials whose characteristics are altered by the addition of certain
impurity atoms, and only by a very small amount, into the relatively pure semiconductor
material. There are two extrinsic materials of importance to semiconductor device fabrication:
the n-type and the p-type.
The n-type material is created by introducing impurity elements which has five valence
electrons such as antimony, arsenic or any other in the group V elements. The effect of the
impurity causes the material to have an extra electron due to the impurity element, which is
unassociated to any particular covalent bond. The extra electron, loosely bound to its parent
atom, is relatively free to move within the newly formed n-type material. Since the impurity
atom added a relatively free atom to the structure, diffused impurities with five valence electrons
are called donor atoms. Even though there is a large number of free carriers in the n-type
material, it is still electrically neutral since ideally, the number of protons in the nuclei is still
equal to the number of free and orbiting electrons in the structure.


Fig. 1-3. Antimony impurity in an n-type material

The p-type material is formed by doping a pure germanium or silicon crystal with
impurity atoms having three valence electrons such as boron, gallium or any other in the group
III elements. The effect of the impurity causes the material to have an insufficient number of
electrons to complete the covalent bonds of the newly formed p-type material. The resulting
vacancy is called a hole. Since the resulting vacancy will readily accept a free electron, the
diffused impurities with three valence electrons are called acceptor atoms. The resulting p-type
material is still electrically neutral for the same reasons described in the n-type material.


Fig. 1-4. Boron impurity in a p-type material
If a valence electron acquires sufficient kinetic energy to break its bond and fills the void
created by the hole, then the resulting transfer of the electron causes a new hole from the
covalent bond released by the electron.

In the n-type material, the number of free electrons increases due to the impurity atoms
that were added, the number of holes, however, does not change significantly from its intrinsic
state. The result, therefore, is that the number of electrons far outweighs the holes. For this
reason, the electrons are called the majority carriers and the holes are called the minority carriers
in an n-type material. For the p-type material the number of holes outweighs the number of
electrons thus, the holes are called the majority materials and the electrons are called the
minority carriers.

When the fifth electron of a donor atom leaves the parent atom, the atom remaining
acquires a net positive charge. For similar reasons, a negative charge is acquired in the acceptor
ion.

SEMICONDUCTOR DIODE

The semiconductor diode is created by combining the p-type material and the n-type
material. At the instant the two materials are joined the electrons and holes in the region of the
junction will combine, resulting in a lack of carriers in the region near the junction. This region
is called the depletion region due to the depletion of carriers in this region. Since the diode is a
two terminal device, the application of voltage across its terminals leaves three possibilities: no
bias (V
D
=0V), reverse-bias (V
D
<0V) and forward-bias (V
D
>0V).


Fig. 1-5. Diode under no biasing.

When the junction is made, the electrons in the n-type material combines with the holes
in the p-type region, this combination is called the diffusion. After diffusing, the electrons will
create a wall of negative ions in the p-type region where they combined with the holes and leaves
a wall of positive ions in the n-type region near the junction. This diffusion will continue to
occur until the wall of negative ions in the p-type region will have sufficient charge to repel the
electrons in the n-type region. The same thing goes with the positive ions in the n-type region
and the holes in the p-type region. The region, now created by the diffusion of electrons and
holes creates a wall of positive and negative ions, is called the depletion region due to the lack of
free carriers in the region.

Under no biasing, there is no applied voltage across the terminals of the diode. Any
minority carriers within the depletion region will try to pass on to the other side. At the same
time, majority carriers on both sides will try to migrate to the other side. The resulting
magnitudes of all the vector flows of minority and majority carriers cancel out each other
causing a net flow of zero on either direction. In summary, under no biasing, the net flow charge
in any one direction for a semiconductor diode is zero.


Fig. 1-6. Diode under Reverse-Bias

If an external potential is added across the p-n junction where, the negative terminal is
connected to the p-type material and the positive terminal is connected to the n-type material, the
diode will experience a reverse biasing. Under this condition, the number of positive ions in the
depletion region in the n-type material increases due to the large number of free electrons
attracted to the positive potential of the applied voltage. For the same reasons, the number of
negative ions will increase in the p-type material. The net effect, therefore, is the widening of the
depletion region. The widening of the depletion region will be too great a barrier for the majority
carriers to overcome, effectively reducing the majority carrier flow to zero. The number of
minority carriers, however, that find themselves entering the depletion region will not change,
resulting in minority carrier flow vectors of the same magnitude as no biasing. The current that
flows under reverse bias is called the reverse saturation current; the term saturation comes from
the fact that it reaches its maximum level very quickly and does not increase significantly with
the increase of reverse-biased potential.
As the voltage across the diode increases in the reverse-bias region, the velocity of the
minority carriers responsible for the reverse saturation current will also increase. Eventually,
their velocity and associated kinetic energy will be sufficient to release additional carriers
through collisions with otherwise stable atomic structures. That is, an ionization process will
result whereby valence electrons absorb sufficient energy to leave the parent atom. These
additional carriers can then aid the ionization process to the point where a high avalanche current
is established and the avalanche breakdown region determined. The maximum potential that can
be applied to a diode before reaching breakdown is call the peak inverse voltage or peak reverse
voltage.


Fig. 1-7. Diode under Forward-Bias

The forward-bias condition is established by applying positive potential to the p-type
material and a negative potential to the n-type material. The application of forward-bias potential
will pressure the majority carriers to recombine with the ions near the boundary and reduce the
width of the depletion region. The minority carrier flow across the junction does not change, but
the decreasing of the width of the depletion region causes a heavy majority carrier flow across
the junction. The electrons in the n-type material now sees a reduced barrier at the junction due
to the reduced depletion region and a strong attraction to the positive potential applied to the p-
type material. As the applied potential increases in magnitude, the depletion continues to
decrease in width until a flood of electrons can pass through the junction, resulting in an
exponential rise in current. (Boylestad, Nashelsky, 1998)

III. Materials and Equipment

Diode: 1N4001 (Table 1-1 for datasheet)
Resistor: 100
Connectors
Breadboard
DC Variable Voltage Source
Multitester

IV. Procedure

1. Forward-Bias
[2]

a. Construct the circuit as shown in Fig. 1-8. Make sure that the diode is in the correct
polarity.
A resistor is used in the circuit to prevent the current of the circuit to go above
the maximum average rectified current (maximum forward current), that is,
I
F(AV)
= 1A. If the current goes above this value, the diode will break. The
student deemed that 100 is enough to prevent such a thing from happening.
b. Set the DC variable voltage source to the lowest possible setting. Turn on the supply.
c. If the DC variable voltage source does not indicate the present voltage setting, use the
multitester to record the voltage setting in the VS column of Table 1-2.
d. Measure the voltage across the resistor and the diode using the multitester and record
it in Table 1-2.
e. Measure the current flowing through the circuit using the multitester and record it in
Table 1-2.
f. Turn the knob to the next voltage rating in the DC variable voltage source and repeat
steps c to f until the Table 1-2 is filled up.


Fig, 1-8.Circuit setup in analyzing forward-biased diode.

2. Reverse-Bias
[2]

a. Construct the circuit as shown in Fig. 1-9. Make sure that the diode is in the correct
polarity.
b. Set the DC voltage source to the lowest possible setting. Turn on the supply.
c. If the DC voltage source does not indicate the present voltage setting, use the
multitester to record the voltage setting in the VS column of Table 1-3.
d. Measure the voltage across the resistor and the diode using the multitester and record
it in Table 1-3.
e. Turn the knob to the next voltage rating in the DC voltage source and repeat steps c to
f until the Table 1-3 is filled up.

Fig, 1-9.Circuit setup in analyzing reverse-biased diode.



V. Tables and Observations

After conducting the activity, the student observed that the data taken was insufficient as the
DC voltage source can only provide voltages from 1V-30V, it cannot provide more or less than
the given range. In turn, the student made a simulation of the same experiment using NI
Multisim,acircuit design software.








Table 1-1. 1N4001
Specifications
[3]

Where:
V
RRM
- the maximum amount of voltage the diode can withstand in reverse-bias mode, in
repeated pulses.
V
DC
- the maximum amount of voltage the diode can withstand in reverse-bias mode on a
continual basis. Ideally, this figure would be infinite.
V
DC
amount of AC power that produces the same heating effect as an equivalent DC power.
I
F(AV)
- the maximum average amount of current the diode is able to conduct in forward bias
mode.






Table 1-2. Forward Bias Data
Parameter

Symbol 1N4001
Maximum repetitive peak
reverse voltage
V
RRM
50V
Maximum RMS voltage V
RMS
35V
Maximum DC blocking voltage V
DC
50V
Maximum average rectified
current
I
F(AV)
1.0A
Vs Vd Vr Id
0.2V 0.199V 0.148mV 1.49uV
0.4V 0.394V 6.44mV 64.399uV
0.6V 0.522V 77.65mV 776.466uV
0.8V 0.577V 0.223V 2.23mV
1V 0.606V 0.393V 3.936mV
2V 0.669V 1.33V 13.3mV
3V 0.698V 2.30V 23mV
4V 0.717V 3.28V 32.8mV
5V 0.731V 4.27V 42.7mV

Fig. 1-10.Current vs. Voltage graph in Forward Bias.
Vs Vd Vr Id
0.5 0.5 0V 0mA
2 2 0V 0mA
5 5 0V 0mA
10 10 0V 0mA
50 50 0V 0mA
55 53.136 1.86V 18.64mA
60 53.172 6.828V 68.28mA
75 53.208 21.792V 217.9mA
100 53.239 46.761V 467.6mA
Table 3-3. Reverse Bias Data

0.000
0.005
0.010
0.015
0.020
0.025
0.030
0.035
0.040
0.045
0.200 0.394 0.522 0.577 0.606 0.670 0.699 0.717 0.731 .......
Forward Bias
x-axis = Vd y-axis = Id
-0.5
-0.45
-0.4
-0.35
-0.3
-0.25
-0.2
-0.15
-0.1
-0.05
0
Reverse Bias
X
x-axis = Vd y-axis = Id
VBD
Fig. 1-11.Current vs. Voltage in Reverse Bias.
VI. Conclusion

After the activity was conducted, it is concluded that diode is a semiconductor device that
only allows current to flow in one direction, in which it will do so if the diode is in forward-bias.
If the diode is in reverse-bias, it blocks off the current unless the input voltage reaches
breakdown where voltage is strong enough to allow current to pass through the diode. In this
way, the diode may act as a switch; it is on if it is in forward-bias and is off when it is in
reverse-bias.

In forward-bias, it is observed that the voltage across the resistor is much less than that of the
input voltage, this due to the voltage drop across the diode. In reverse-bias, there is no voltage
across the load, which is due to the diode blocking the flow of current, making the circuit open.
When voltage input is high enough in reverse bias, the diode may breakdown and may allow
current to flow through.

In the relationship between the current and voltage of the diode during forward-bias, it was
observed that after the input voltage reached the diodes voltage drop and as it continued to
increase, the current increased exponentially. It was also observed that the voltage drop of the
diode increased gradually as the input voltage is also increased. In reverse-bias, the voltage of
the diode is equal to that of the input voltage while the current was equal to zero.

These characteristics make the diode an essential component that can be used in a lot of
applications in Electronics. One such application is the rectification process which will be
conducted in the next laboratory activity.

VII. References

[1]
Boylestad, R. &Nashelsky L.(1998). Electronic Devices and Circuit Theory.Prentince Hall,
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

[2]
Awad N., Al-Khawaldeh S., Electronics Lab. Electrical Engineering Department, University of
Jordan.

[3]
Diodes Incorporated.1N4001 - 1N4007.http://www.diodes.com/datasheets/ds28002.pdf