domingo, 21 de marzo de 2010



A BJT consists of three differently doped semiconductor regions, the emitter region, the base region and the collector region. These regions are, respectively, p type, n type and p type in a PNP, and n type, p type and n type in a NPN transistor. Each semiconductor region is connected to a terminal, appropriately labeled: emitter (E), base (B) and collector (C).
The base is physically located between the emitter and the collector and is made from lightly doped, high resistivity material. The collector surrounds the emitter region, making it almost impossible for the electrons injected into the base region to escape being collected, thus making the resulting value of α very close to unity, and so, giving the transistor a large β. A cross section view of a BJT indicates that the collector-base junction has a much larger area than the emitter-base junction.

Simplified cross section of a planar NPN bipolar junction transistor

The bipolar junction transistor, unlike other transistors, is usually not a symmetrical device. This means that interchanging the collector and the emitter makes the transistor leave the forward active mode and start to operate in reverse mode. Because the transistor's internal structure is usually optimized for forward-mode operation, interchanging the collector and the emitter makes the values of α and β in reverse operation much smaller than those in forward operation; often the α of the reverse mode is lower than 0.5. The lack of symmetry is primarily due to the doping ratios of the emitter and the collector. The emitter is heavily doped, while the collector is lightly doped, allowing a large reverse bias voltage to be applied before the collector-base junction breaks down. The collector-base junction is reverse biased in normal operation. The reason the emitter is heavily doped is to increase the emitter injection efficiency: the ratio of carriers injected by the emitter to those injected by the base. For high current gain, most of the carriers injected into the emitter-base junction must come from the emitter.
The low-performance "lateral" bipolar transistors sometimes used in CMOS processes are sometimes designed symmetrically, that is, with no difference between forward and backward operation.
Small changes in the voltage applied across the base-emitter terminals causes the current that flows between the emitter and the collector to change significantly. This effect can be used to amplify the input voltage or current. BJTs can be thought of as voltage-controlled current sources, but are more simply characterized as current-controlled current sources, or current amplifiers, due to the low impedance at the base.
Early transistors were made from germanium but most modern BJTs are made from silicon. A significant minority are also now made from gallium arsenide, especially for very high speed applications (see HBT, below).

Die of a KSY34 high-frequency NPN transistor, base and emitter connected via bonded wires

Regions of operation

Bipolar transistors have five distinct regions of operation, defined mostly by applied bias:
  • Forward-active (or simply, active): The base-emitter junction is forward biased and the base-collector junction is reverse biased. Most bipolar transistors are designed to afford the greatest common-emitter current gain, βF, in forward-active mode. If this is the case, the collector-emitter current is approximately proportional to the base current, but many times larger, for small base current variations.
  • Reverse-active (or inverse-active or inverted): By reversing the biasing conditions of the forward-active region, a bipolar transistor goes into reverse-active mode. In this mode, the emitter and collector regions switch roles. Because most BJTs are designed to maximize current gain in forward-active mode, the βF in inverted mode is several (2-3 for the ordinary germanium transistor) times smaller. This transistor mode is seldom used, usually being considered only for failsafe conditions and some types of bipolar logic. The reverse bias breakdown voltage to the base may be an order of magnitude lower in this region.
  • Saturation: With both junctions forward-biased, a BJT is in saturation mode and facilitates high current conduction from the emitter to the collector. This mode corresponds to a logical "on", or a closed switch.
  • Cutoff: In cutoff, biasing conditions opposite of saturation (both junctions reverse biased) are present. There is very little current flow, which corresponds to a logical "off", or an open switch.
  • Avalanche breakdown region
Although these regions are well defined for sufficiently large applied voltage, they overlap somewhat for small (less than a few hundred millivolts) biases. For example, in the typical grounded-emitter configuration of an NPN BJT used as a pulldown switch in digital logic, the "off" state never involves a reverse-biased junction because the base voltage never goes below ground; nevertheless the forward bias is close enough to zero that essentially no current flows, so this end of the forward active region can be regarded as the cutoff region.

Ricardo A. Monroy B.   C.I. 17646658


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