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FET TRANSISTORS

Field Effect Transistors


A Field Effect Transistor is a solid-state device in which current is controlled between source and drain
terminals by voltage applied to a non-conducting gate terminal (in contrast, bipolar transistors are current-
controlled); a transistor in which output current is controlled by a variable electric field.
Although it has brought about a revolution in the design of electronic equipment, the bipolar (PNP/NPN)
transistor still has one very undesirable characteristic. The low input impedance associated with its base-
emitter junction causes problems in matching impedances between interstage amplifiers.
For years, scientists searched for a solution that would combine the high input impedance of the vacuum
tube with the many other advantages of the transistor. The result of this research is the FIELD-EFFECT
TRANSISTOR (FET). In contrast to the bipolar transistor, which uses bias current between base and emitter
to control conductivity, the FET uses voltage to control an electrostatic field within the transistor. Because
the FET is voltage-controlled, much like a vacuum tube, it is sometimes called the "solid-state vacuum
tube."
The elements of one type of FET, the junction type (JFET), are compared with the bipolar transistor and the
vacuum tube in figure 3-44. As the figure shows, the JFET is a three-element device comparable to the other
two. The "gate" element of the JFET corresponds very closely in operation to the base of the transistor and
the grid of the vacuum tube. The "source" and "drain" elements of the JFET correspond to the emitter and
collector of the transistor and to the cathode and plate of the vacuum tube.

Figure 3-44. - Comparison of JFET, transistor, and vacuum tube symbols.

JFET- Junction Field Effect Transistor

It is a semiconductor device that operates by altering the conductivity of a region of the semiconductor (the
channel) between two contacts (source and drain) by application of a voltage to a third terminal (gate). The
current flow between source and drain is controlled by the gate voltage. In a JFET device, the gate voltage is
applied to the channel across a P-N junction, in contrast to its application across an insulator in a
conventional MOSFET. JFETs are of both P-channel and N-channel types.

Schematic symbol for an N-channel JFET Schematic symbol for a P-channel JFET
Figure 3-45. - JFET structure.
The construction of a JFET is shown in figure 3-45
A solid bar, made either of N-type or P-type material, forms the main body of the device. Diffused into each
side of this bar are two deposits of material of the opposite type from the bar material, which form the
"gate." The portion of the bar between the deposits of gate material is of a smaller cross section than the rest
of the bar and forms a "channel" connecting the source and the drain. Figure 3-45 shows a bar of N-type
material and a gate of P-type material. Because the material in the channel is N-type, the device is called an
N-channel JFET.

In a P-channel JFET, the channel is made of P-type material and the gate of N-type material. In figure 3-46,
schematic symbols for the two types of JFET are compared with those of the NPN and PNP bipolar
transistors. Like the bipolar transistor types, the two types of JFET differ only in the configuration of bias
voltages required and in the direction of the arrow within the symbol. Just as it does in transistor symbols,
the arrow in a JFET symbol always points towards the N-type material. Thus the symbol of the N-channel
JFET shows the arrow pointing toward the drain/source channel, whereas the P-channel symbol shows the
arrow pointing away from the drain/source channel toward the gate.

Symbols and bias voltages for transistors and JFET.

The key to FET operation is the effective cross-sectional area of the channel, which can be controlled by
variations in the voltage applied to the gate. This is demonstrated in the figures which follow.
Figure 3-47 shows how the JFET operates in a zero gate bias condition. Five volts are applied across the
JFET so that current flows through the bar from source to drain, as indicated by the arrow. The gate terminal
is tied to ground. This is a zero gate bias condition. In this condition, a typical bar represents a resistance of
about 500 ohms. A milliammeter, connected in series with the drain lead and dc power, indicates the amount
of current flow. With a drain supply (VDD) of 5 volts, the milliammeter gives a drain current (ID) reading of
10 milliamperes. The voltage and current subscript letters (VDD, ID) used for an FET correspond to the
elements of the FET just as they do for the elements of transistors.

Figure 3-47. - JFET operation with zero gate bias.


In figure 3-48, a small reverse-bias voltage is applied to the gate of the JFET. A gate-source voltage (VGG) of
negative 1 volt applied to the P-type gate material causes the junction between the P- and N-type material to
become reverse biased. Just as it did in the varactor diode, a reverse-bias condition causes a "depletion
region" to form around the PN junction of the JFET. Because this region has a reduced number of current
carriers, the effect of reverse biasing is to reduce the effective cross-sectional area of the "channel." This
reduction in area increases the source-to-drain resistance of the device and decreases current flow.

Figure 3-48. - JFET with reverse bias.

The application of a large enough negative voltage to the gate will cause the depletion region to become so
large that conduction of current through the bar stops altogether. The voltage required to reduce drain
current (ID) to zero is called "pinch-off" voltage and is comparable to "cut-off" voltage in a vacuum tube. In
figure 3-48, the negative 1 volt applied, although not large enough to completely stop conduction, has
caused the drain current to decrease markedly (from 10 milliamperes under zero gate bias conditions to 5
milliamperes). Calculation shows that the 1-volt gate bias has also increased the resistance of the JFET
(from 500 ohms to 1 kilohm). In other words, a 1-volt change in gate voltage has doubled the resistance of
the device and cut current flow in half.

Figure 3-49. - JFET input impedance.

With a VGG of 1 volt, the microammeter reads .5 microamps. Applying Ohm's law (1V  .5 A) illustrates
that this very small amount of current flow results in a very high input impedance (about 2 megohms). By
contrast, a bipolar transistor in similar circumstances would require higher current flow (e.g., .1 to -1 mA),
resulting in a much lower input impedance (about 1000 ohms or less). The higher input impedance of the
JFET is possible because of the way reverse-bias gate voltage affects the cross-sectional area of the channel.
.

Structure of an N-channel JFET

For an n-channel FET, the device is constructed from a bar of n-type


material, with the shaded areas composed of a p-type material as a Gate.
Between the Source and the Drain, the n-type material acts as a resistor.
The current flow consists of the majority carriers (electrons for n-type
material).
Characteristic curves
Common source amplifier
Since the Gate junction is reverse biased and because there is no minority carrier contribution to the flow
through the device, the input impedance is extremely high.
The control element for the JFET comes from depletion of charge carriers from the n-channel. When the
Gate is made more negative, it depletes the majority carriers from a larger depletion zone around the gate.
This reduces the current flow for a given value of Source-to-Drain voltage. Modulating the Gate voltage
modulates the current flow through the device.
JFET Characteristic Curves

Characteristic curves for the JFET are shown at left. You can see
that for a given value of Gate voltage, the current is very nearly
constant over a wide range of Source-to-Drain voltages. The control
element for the JFET comes from depletion of charge carriers from
the n-channel. When the Gate is made more negative, it depletes the
majority carriers from a larger depletion zone around the gate. This
reduces the current flow for a given value of Source-to-Drain
voltage. Modulating the Gate voltage modulates the current flow
through the device.
The transfer characteristic for the JTET is useful for visualizing the
gain from the device and identifying the region of linearity. The gain
is proportional to the slope of the transfer curve. The current value
IDSS represents the value when the Gate is shorted to ground, the
maximum current for the device. This value will be part of the data
supplied by the manufacturer. The Gate voltage at which the current
reaches zero is called the "pinch voltage", VP. Note that the dashed
line representing the gain in the linear region of operation strikes the
zero current line at about half the pinch voltage

Common Source JFET Amplifier


The most frequently encountered configuration for a JFET amplifier
is the common source circuit. The source is common to the input and
output as shown in the diagram.
JFET discussion
Characteristic curves

MOSFET- Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor


The MOSFET (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor) is a Voltage controlled device. This
means that a voltage at the gate means that a current flows from the drain to the source.
A class of voltage-driven devices that do not require the large input drive currents of bipolar devices; a type
of field-effect transistor that operates and functions similar to a junction field effect transistor (JFET). The
distinction is that in the MOS device the controlling gate voltage is applied to the channel region across an
oxide insulating material, rather than across a P-N junction. The term can be applied either to transistors in
an IC or to discrete transistors. The major advantage of a MOSFET is low power due to its insulation from
source and drain. MOSFETs are of both P-channel and N-channel types. Sometimes called "insulated gate
field effect transistor" (IGFET).

Schematic symbols for an N-channel MOSFET Schematic symbols for a P-channel MOSFET

Structure of an N-channel MOSFET

There are three terminals:


gate - connected to the input device.
drain - connected to the positive, since electrons drain away to the positive.
source - the source of the electrons

We can use MOSFETs where we have a source of voltage that can provide very little current. This circuit is
a touch sensor:
The general characteristics for a MOSFET are:
The input resistance is very high, about 1012 .
The output resistance is about the same as a bipolar transistor. The actual value depends on the type. For a
signal MOSFET it would be in the range 10 to 50 k, while in a power MOSFET it would be somewhat
lower.
Here the MOSFET is used as a switch. There are advantages and disadvantages when compared to the
bipolar transistor as a switch:
Advantages of a MOSFET Disadvantages
Switching time is about 10 times faster Higher resistance than a bipolar transistor
than a bipolar transistor
Very much smaller switching current Can be destroyed by high voltages,
especially static electricity
Less affected by temperature

MOSFETS are commonly used because they are easier to drive in high current applications (such as the
switching power supplies found in car audio amplifiers). If a bipolar transistor is used, a fraction of the
collector/emitter current must flow through the base junction. In high current situations where there is
significant collector/emitter current, the base current may be significant. FETs can be driven by very little
current (compared to the bipolar transistors). The only current that flows from the drive circuit is the current
that flows due to the capacitance. As you already know, when DC is applied to a capacitor, there is an initial
surge then the current flow stops. When the gate of an FET is driven with a high frequency signal, the drive
circuit essentially sees only a small value capacitor. For low to intermediate frequencies, the drive circuit has
to deliver little current. At very high frequencies or when many FETs are being driven, the drive circuit must
be able to deliver more current.
Note:
The gate of a MOSFET has some capacitance which means that it will hold a charge (retain voltage). If the
gate voltage is not discharged, the FET will continue to conduct current. This doesn't mean you can charge it
and expect the FET to continue to conduct indefinitely but it will continue to conduct until the voltage on the
gate is below the threshold voltage. You can make sure it turns off if you connect a pulldown resistor
between the gate and source.
High Current Terminals:
The 'controlled' terminals are called the source and the drain. These are the terminals responsible for
conducting the current through the transistor.
Transistor Packages:
The MOSFETs use the same 'packages' as bipolar transistors. The most common in car stereo amplifiers is
currently the TO-220 package (shown above).
Transistor In Circuit:
This diagram shows the voltages across the resistor and the FET with 3 different gate voltages. You should
see that there is no voltage across the resistor when the gate voltage is around 2.5 volts. This means that
there is no current flowing because the transistor is not turned on. When the transistor is partially turned on,
there is a voltage drop (voltage) across both components. When the transistor is fully turned on (gate voltage
approx. 4.5 volts), the full supply voltage is across the resistor and there is virtually no voltage drop across
the transistor. This means that both terminals (source and drain) of the transistor have essentially the same
voltage. When the transistor is fully turned on, the lower lead of the resistor is effectively connected to
ground.
Voltage applied to gate Voltage across resistor Voltage across transistor
2.5 volts no voltage approximately 12 volts
3.5 volts less than 12 volts less than 12 volts
4.5 volts approximately 12 volts virtually no voltage
In the following demo, you can see that there is an FET connected to a lamp. When the voltage is below
about 3 volts, the lamp is completely off. There is no current flowing through the lamp or the FET. When
you push the button, you can see that the capacitor starts to charge (indicated by the rising yellow line and
by the point where the capacitor's charging curve intersects with the white line sweeping from left to right.
When the FET starts to turn on, the voltage on the drain starts to fall (indicated by the falling green line and
the point where the green curve intersects with the white line). As the gate voltage approaches the threshold
voltage (~3.5v), the voltage across the lamp starts to increase. The more it increases, the brighter the lamp
becomes. After the voltage on the gate reaches about 4 volts, you can see that the bulb is fully on (it has the
full 12 volts across its terminals). There is virtually no voltage across the FET. You should notice that the
FET is fully off below 3 volts and fully on after 4 volts. Any gate voltage below 3 volts has virtually no
effect on the FET. Above 4 volts, there is little effect.
Design Parameters
GATE VOLTAGE
As you already know, the FET is controlled by its gate voltage. For this type of MOSFET the maximum safe
gate voltage is ±20 volts. If more than 20 volts is applied to the gate (referenced to the source) it will destroy
the transistor. The transistor will be damaged because the voltage will arc through the insulator that
separates the gate from the drain/source part of the FET.
CURRENT
As with bipolar transistors, each FET is designed to safely pass a specified amount of current. If the
temperature of the FET is above 25c (approx. 77 degrees farenheit), the transistor's "safe" current carrying
capabilities will be reduced. The safe operating area (S.O.A) continues to be diminished as the temperature
rises. As the temperature approaches the maximum safe operating temperature, the transistor's current rating
approaches zero.
VOLTAGE
FETs will be damaged if its specified maximum drain-source voltage is exceeded. You can obtain a data
sheet from the manufacturer. The data sheet will give you all of the information you need to use it.
POWER DISSIPATION
FETs are similar to bipolar transistors as far as packages and power dissipation go, and you can follow this
link back to the bipolar page for more information. Hit you're "back" button to return.