# Transistor

File:Transistorer (croped).jpg
Assorted discrete transistors

In electronics, a transistor is a semiconductor device commonly used to amplify or switch electronic signals. The transistor is the fundamental building block of computers, and all other modern electronic devices. Some transistors are packaged individually but most are found in integrated circuits.

## Introduction

An electrical signal can be amplified by using a device that allows a small current or voltage to control the flow of a much larger current. Transistors are the basic devices providing control of this kind. Modern transistors are divided into two main categories: bipolar junction transistors (BJTs) and field effect transistors (FETs). Applying current in BJTs and voltage in FETs between the input and common terminals increases the conductivity between the common and output terminals, thereby controlling current flow between them. The characteristics of a transistor depend on its type.

The term "transistor" originally referred to the point contact type, which saw very limited commercial application, being replaced by the much more practical bipolar junction types in the early 1950s. Today's most widely used schematic symbol, like the term "transistor", originally referred to these long-obsolete devices.[1]

In analog circuits, transistors are used in amplifiers, (direct current amplifiers, audio amplifiers, radio frequency amplifiers), and linear regulated power supplies. Transistors are also used in digital circuits where they function as electronic switches, but rarely as discrete devices, almost always being incorporated in monolithic Integrated Circuits. Digital circuits include logic gates, random access memory (RAM), microprocessors, and digital signal processors (DSPs).

## History

File:Replica-of-first-transistor.jpg
A replica of the first working transistor.

The first patent[2] for the field-effect transistor principle was filed in Canada by Austrian-Hungarian physicist Julius Edgar Lilienfeld on October 22, 1925, but Lilienfeld did not publish any research articles about his devices, and they were ignored by industry. In 1934 German physicist Dr. Oskar Heil patented another field-effect transistor. There is no direct evidence that these devices were built, but later work in the 1990s shows that one of Lilienfeld's designs worked as described and gave substantial gain. Legal papers from the Bell Labs patent show that Shockley and Pearson had built operational versions from Lilienfeld's patents, yet they never referenced this work in any of their later research papers or historical articles.[3]

On 16 December 1947, William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain succeeded in building the first practical point-contact transistor at Bell Labs. This work followed from their war-time efforts to produce extremely pure germanium "crystal" mixer diodes, used in radar units as a frequency mixer element in microwave radar receivers. They made a demonstration to several of their colleagues and managers at Bell Labs on the afternoon of 23 December 1947, often given as the birth date of the transistor. A parallel project on germanium diodes at Purdue University succeeded in producing the good-quality germanium semiconducting crystals that were used at Bell Labs.[4] Early tube-based technology did not switch fast enough for this role, leading the Bell team to use solid state diodes instead. With this knowledge in hand they turned to the design of a triode, but found this was not at all easy. Bardeen eventually developed a new branch of surface physics to account for the "odd" behavior they saw, and Bardeen and Brattain eventually succeeded in building a working device.

At the same time some European scientists were led by the idea of solid-state amplifiers. In August 1948 German physicists Herbert F. Mataré (1912– ) and Heinrich Welker (1912–1981), working in Aulnay-sous-Bois, France, for Compagnie des Freins et Signaux Westinghouse of Paris, applied for a patent on an amplifier based on the minority carrier injection process which they called the "transistron".[5][6][7][8] Since Bell Labs did not make a public announcement of the transistor until June 1948, the transistron was considered to be independently developed. Mataré had first observed transconductance effects during the manufacture of germanium duodiodes for German radar equipment during WWII. Transistrons were commercially manufactured for the French telephone company and military, and in 1953 a solid-state radio receiver with four transistrons was demonstrated at the Düsseldorf Radio Fair.

Bell Telephone Laboratories needed a generic name for the new invention: "Semiconductor Triode", "Solid Triode", "Surface States Triode", "Crystal Triode" and "Iotatron" were all considered, but "transistor," coined by John R. Pierce, won an internal ballot. The rationale for the name is described in the following extract from the company's Technical Memorandum calling for votes:

Transistor. This is an abbreviated combination of the words "transconductance" or "transfer", and "varistor". The device logically belongs in the varistor family, and has the transconductance or transfer impedance of a device having gain, so that this combination is descriptive.

Pierce recalled the naming somewhat differently:

The way I provided the name, was to think of what the device did. And at that time, it was supposed to be the dual of the vacuum tube. The vacuum tube had transconductance, so the transistor would have 'transresistance.' And the name should fit in with the names of other devices, such as varistor and thermistor. And. . . I suggested the name 'transistor.'

Over the next two decades, transistors gradually replaced the earlier vacuum tubes in most applications and later made possible many new devices such as integrated circuits and personal computers.

Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain were honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics "for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect". Bardeen would go on to win a second Nobel in physics, one of only two people to receive more than one in the same discipline, for his work on the exploration of superconductivity.

The commercial uses of germanium transistors were limited by their sensitivity to temperature and humidity. Silicon, a semiconductor with crystal structure identical to germanium, looked promising but attempts over several years to make useful transistors were unsuccessful. In early 1954, M. Tanenbaum et al. (Jl. of Applied Physics, 26, 686 (1955)) at Bell Labs made a high performance silicon transistor using npn junctions produced by growth rate fluctuations during crystal growing. A few months later, working independently at Texas Instruments, G. Teal (unpublished) made similar devices using sequential doping.

While these devices had much superior temperature and environmental properties compared to gemanium transistors, the doping processes were difficult to control. That problem was solved by Tanenbaum and Fuller (Bell Sys. Tech. Jl., 35, 1 (1956)) using gas diffusion techniques to produce npn silicon transistors. The resulting diffused base silicon transistor was the subject of the second Bell Labs symposium. The diffusion process was easy to control, quickly adopted by the semiconductor industry and was the basis for the later invention of the integrated circuit initiating the "silicon age".

The first gallium-arsenide Schottky-gate field-effect transistor (MESFET) was made by Carver Mead and reported in 1966.[9]

## Importance

The transistor is considered by many to be the greatest invention of the twentieth century.[10] It is the key active component in practically all modern electronics. Its importance in today's society rests on its ability to be mass produced using a highly automated process (fabrication) that achieves astonishingly low per-transistor costs.

Although several companies each produce over a billion individually-packaged (known as discrete) transistors every year [11], the vast majority of transistors produced are in integrated circuits (often abbreviated as IC and also called microchips or simply chips) along with diodes, resistors, capacitors and other electronic components to produce complete electronic circuits. A logic gate consists of about twenty transistors whereas an advanced microprocessor, as of 2006, can use as many as 1.7 billion transistors (MOSFETs). [12] "About 60 million transistors were built this year [2002] ... for [each] man, woman, and child on Earth." [13]

The transistor's low cost, flexibility and reliability have made it a universal device for non-mechanical tasks, such as digital computing. Transistorized mechatronics circuits have replaced electromechanical devices for the control of appliances and machinery as well. It is often easier and cheaper to use a standard microcontroller and write a computer program to carry out a control function than to design an equivalent mechanical control function.

Because of the low cost of transistors and hence digital computers, there is a trend to digitize information, such as the Internet Archive. With digital computers offering the ability to quickly find, sort and process digital information, more and more effort has been put into making information digital. As a result, today, much media data is delivered in digital form, finally being converted and presented in analog form to the user. Areas influenced by the Digital Revolution include television, radio, and newspapers.

## Comparison with vacuum tubes

Prior to the development of transistors, vacuum (electron) tubes (or in the UK "thermionic valves" or just "valves") were the main active components in electronic equipment.

The key advantages that have allowed transistors to replace their vacuum tube predecessors in most applications are:

• Small size and minimal weight, allowing the development of miniaturized electronic devices.
• Highly automated manufacturing processes, resulting in low per-unit cost.
• Lower possible operating voltages, making transistors suitable for small, battery-powered applications.
• No warm-up period for cathode heaters required after power application.
• Lower power dissipation and generally greater energy efficiency.
• Higher reliability and greater physical ruggedness.
• Extremely long life. Some transistorized devices produced more than 30 years ago are still in service.
• Complementary devices available, facilitating the design of complementary-symmetry circuits, something not possible with vacuum tubes.
• Though in most transistors the junctions have different doping levels and geometry, some allow bidirectional current
• Ability to control very large currents, as much as several hundred amperes.
• Insensitivity to mechanical shock and vibration, thus avoiding the problem of microphonics in audio applications.
• More sensitive than the hot and macroscopic tubes

• Silicon transistors do not operate at voltages higher than about 1 kV, SiC go to 3 kV.
• The electron mobility is higher in a vacuum, so that high power, high frequency operation is easier in tubes.

## Types

Template:Float begin |- align = "center" | 80px || PNP || 80px || P-channel |- align = "center" | 80px || NPN || 80px || N-channel |- align = "center" | BJT || || JFET || Template:Float end

Transistors are categorized by:

• Semiconductor material : germanium, silicon, gallium arsenide, silicon carbide, etc.
• Structure: BJT, JFET, IGFET (MOSFET), IGBT, "other types"
• Polarity: NPN, PNP (BJTs); N-channel, P-channel (FETs)
• Maximum power rating: low, medium, high
• Maximum operating frequency: low, medium, high, radio frequency (RF), microwave (The maximum effective frequency of a transistor is denoted by the term ${\displaystyle f_{\mathrm {T} }}$, an abbreviation for "frequency of transition". The frequency of transition is the frequency at which the transistor yields unity gain).
• Application: switch, general purpose, audio, high voltage, super-beta, matched pair
• Physical packaging: through hole metal, through hole plastic, surface mount, ball grid array, power modules
• Amplification factor hfe (transistor beta)[14]

Thus, a particular transistor may be described as: silicon, surface mount, BJT, NPN, low power, high frequency switch.

### Bipolar junction transistor

The bipolar junction transistor (BJT) was the first type of transistor to be mass-produced. Bipolar transistors are so named because they conduct by using both majority and minority carriers. The three terminals of the BJT are named emitter, base and collector. Two p-n junctions exist inside a BJT: the base/emitter junction and base/collector junction. "The [BJT] is useful in amplifiers because the currents at the emitter and collector are controllable by the relatively small base current."[15] In an NPN transistor operating in the active region, the emitter-base junction is forward biased, and electrons are injected into the base region. Because the base is narrow, most of these electrons will diffuse into the reverse-biased base-collector junction and be swept into the collector; perhaps one-hundredth of the electrons will recombine in the base, which is the dominant mechanism in the base current. By controlling the number of electrons that can leave the base, the number of electrons entering the collector can be controlled.[15]

Unlike the FET, the BJT is a low–input-impedance device. Also, as the base–emitter voltage (${\displaystyle V_{be}}$) is increased the base–emitter current and hence the collector–emitter current (${\displaystyle I_{ce}}$) increase exponentially according to the Shockley diode model and the Ebers-Moll model. Because of this exponential relationship, the BJT has a higher transconductance than the FET.

Bipolar transistors can be made to conduct by exposure to light, since absorption of photons in the base region generates a photocurrent that acts as a base current; the collector current is approximately beta times the photocurrent. Devices designed for this purpose have a transparent window in the package and are called phototransistors.

### Field-effect transistor

The field-effect transistor (FET), sometimes called a unipolar transistor, uses either electrons (in N-channel FET) or holes (in P-channel FET) for conduction. The four terminals of the FET are named source, gate, drain, and body (substrate). On most FETs, the body is connected to the source inside the package, and this will be assumed for the following description.

In FETs, the drain-to-source current flows via a conducting channel that connects the source region to the drain region. The conductivity is varied by the electric field that is produced when a voltage is applied between the gate and source terminals; hence the current flowing between the drain and source is controlled by the voltage applied between the gate and source. As the gate–source voltage (${\displaystyle V_{gs}}$) is increased, the drain–source current (${\displaystyle I_{ds}}$) increases exponentially for Vgs below threshold, and then at a roughly quadratic rate (${\displaystyle I_{ds}\propto (V_{gs}-V_{T})^{2}}$) (where ${\displaystyle V_{T}}$ is the threshold voltage at which drain current begins)[16] in the "space-charge-limited" region above threshold. A quadratic behavior is not observed in modern devices, for example, at the 65nm technology node.[17]

To turn on a transistor it has to be charged like a capacitor. One polarity of charge is responsible for conduction, the other serves for charge neutrality. In the BJT, both types of charge carriers come close together and so the capacitance is high, therefore only low voltages are needed to produce a given amount of charge. In a FET both types of charges are separated by the dielectric and additionally the Debye length, thus reducing the capacity and increasing the voltage needed for switching. Above zero Kelvin, the exponential curve is convoluted with the hard turn on of the BJT and the parabolic turn on of the FET.

For low noise at narrow bandwidth the higher input resistance of the FET is advantageous.

FETs are divided into two families: junction FET (JFET) and insulated gate FET (IGFET). The IGFET is more commonly known as metal–oxide–semiconductor FET (MOSFET), from their original construction as a layer of metal (the gate), a layer of oxide (the insulation), and a layer of semiconductor. Unlike IGFETs, the JFET gate forms a PN diode with the channel which lies between the source and drain. Functionally, this makes the N-channel JFET the solid state equivalent of the vacuum tube triode which, similarly, forms a diode between its grid and cathode. Also, both devices operate in the depletion mode, they both have a high input impedance, and they both conduct current under the control of an input voltage.

Metal–semiconductor FETs (MESFETs) are JFETs in which the reverse biased PN junction is replaced by a metal–semiconductor Schottky-junction. These, and the HEMTs (high electron mobility transistors, or HFETs), in which a two-dimensional electron gas with very high carrier mobility is used for charge transport, are especially suitable for use at very high frequencies (microwave frequencies; several GHz).

Unlike bipolar transistors, FETs do not inherently amplify a photocurrent. Nevertheless, there are ways to use them, especially JFETs, as light-sensitive devices, by exploiting the photocurrents in channel–gate or channel–body junctions.

FETs are further divided into depletion-mode and enhancement-mode types, depending on whether the channel is turned on or off with zero gate-to-source voltage. For enhancement mode, the channel is off at zero bias, and a gate potential can "enhance" the conduction. For depletion mode, the channel is on at zero bias, and a gate potential (of the opposite polarity) can "deplete" the channel, reducing conduction. For either mode, a more positive gate voltage corresponds to a higher current for N-channel devices and a lower current for P-channel devices. Nearly all JFETs are depletion-mode as the diode junctions would forward bias and conduct if they were enhancement mode devices; most IGFETs are enhancement-mode types.

## Semiconductor material

The first BJTs were made from germanium (Ge) and some high power types still are. Silicon (Si) types currently predominate but certain advanced microwave and high performance versions now employ the compound semiconductor material gallium arsenide (GaAs) and the semiconductor alloy silicon germanium (SiGe). Single element semiconductor material (Ge and Si) is described as elemental.

Rough parameters for the most common semiconductor materials used to make transistors are given in the table below; it must be noted that these parameters will vary with increase in temperature, electric field, impurity level, strain and various other factors:

Semiconductor material characteristics
Semiconductor
material
Junction forward
voltage
V @ 25 °C
Electron mobility
m²/(V·s) @ 25 °C
Hole mobility
m²/(V·s) @ 25 °C
Max. junction temp.
°C
Ge 0.27 0.39 0.19 70 to 100
Si 0.71 0.14 0.05 150 to 200
GaAs 1.03 0.85 0.05 150 to 200
Al-Si junction 0.3 150 to 200

The junction forward voltage is the voltage applied to the emitter-base junction of a BJT in order to make the base conduct a specified current. The current increases exponentially as the junction forward voltage is increased. The values given in the table are typical for a current of 1 mA (the same values apply to semiconductor diodes). The lower the junction forward voltage the better, as this means that less power is required to "drive" the transistor. The junction forward voltage for a given current decreases with increase in temperature. For a typical silicon junction the change is approximately −2.1 mV/°C.[18]

The density of mobile carriers in the channel of a MOSFET is a function of the electric field forming the channel and of various other phenomena such as the impurity level in the channel. Some impurities, called dopants, are introduced deliberately in making a MOSFET, to control the MOSFET electrical behavior.

The electron mobility and hole mobility columns show the average speed that electrons and holes diffuse through the semiconductor material with an electric field of 1 volt per meter applied across the material. In general, the higher the electron mobility the faster the transistor. The table indicates that Ge is a better material than Si in this respect. However, Ge has four major shortcomings compared to silicon and gallium arsenide:

• its maximum temperature is limited
• it has relatively high leakage current
• it cannot withstand high voltages
• it is less suitable for fabricating integrated circuits

Because the electron mobility is higher than the hole mobility for all semiconductor materials, a given bipolar NPN transistor tends to be faster than an equivalent PNP transistor type. GaAs has the highest electron mobility of the three semiconductors. It is for this reason that GaAs is used in high frequency applications. A relatively recent FET development, the high electron mobility transistor (HEMT), has a heterostructure (junction between different semiconductor materials) of aluminium gallium arsenide (AlGaAs)-gallium arsenide (GaAs) which has double the electron mobility of a GaAs-metal barrier junction. Because of their high speed and low noise, HEMTs are used in satellite receivers working at frequencies around 12 GHz.

Max. junction temperature values represent a cross section taken from various manufacturers' data sheets. This temperature should not be exceeded or the transistor may be damaged.

Al-Si junction refers to the high-speed (aluminum-silicon) semiconductor-metal barrier diode, commonly known as a Schottky diode. This is included in the table because some silicon power IGFETs have a parasitic reverse Schottky diode formed between the source and drain as part of the fabrication process. This diode can be a nuisance, but sometimes it is used in the circuit.

## Packaging

File:Transistor-photo.JPG
Through-hole transistors (tape measure marked in centimetres)

Transistors come in many different packages (chip carriers) (see images). The two main categories are through-hole (or leaded), and surface-mount, also known as surface mount device (SMD). The ball grid array (BGA) is the latest surface mount package (currently only for large transistor arrays). It has solder "balls" on the underside in place of leads. Because they are smaller and have shorter interconnections, SMDs have better high frequency characteristics but lower power rating.

Transistor packages are made of glass, metal, ceramic or plastic. The package often dictates the power rating and frequency characteristics. Power transistors have large packages that can be clamped to heat sinks for enhanced cooling. Additionally, most power transistors have the collector or drain physically connected to the metal can/metal plate. At the other extreme, some surface-mount microwave transistors are as small as grains of sand.

Often a given transistor type is available in different packages. Transistor packages are mainly standardized, but the assignment of a transistor's functions to the terminals is not: different transistor types can assign different functions to the package's terminals. Even for the same transistor type the terminal assignment can vary (normally indicated by a suffix letter to the part number- i.e. BC212L and BC212K).

## Usage

For a basic guide to the operation of transistors, see How a transistor works.

In the early days of transistor circuit design, the bipolar junction transistor, or BJT, was the most commonly used transistor. Even after MOSFETs became available, the BJT remained the transistor of choice for digital and analog circuits because of their ease of manufacture and speed. However, desirable properties of MOSFETs, such as their utility in low-power devices, have made them the ubiquitous choice for use in digital circuits and a very common choice for use in analog circuits.

File:Transistor as switch.svg
BJT used as an electronic switch, in grounded-emitter configuration
File:Common emitter amplifier.svg
Amplifier circuit, standard common-emitter configuration

### Switches

Transistors are commonly used as electronic switches, for both high power applications including switched-mode power supplies and low power applications such as logic gates.

### Amplifiers

From mobile phones to televisions, vast numbers of products include amplifiers for sound reproduction, radio transmission, and signal processing. The first discrete transistor audio amplifiers barely supplied a few hundred milliwatts, but power and audio fidelity gradually increased as better transistors became available and amplifier architecture evolved.

Transistors are commonly used in modern musical instrument amplifiers, in which circuits up to a few hundred watts are common and relatively cheap. Transistors have largely replaced valves (electron tubes) in instrument amplifiers. Some musical instrument amplifier manufacturers mix transistors and vacuum tubes in the same circuit, to utilize the inherent benefits of both devices.

### Computers

The "first generation" of electronic computers used vacuum tubes, which generated large amounts of heat, were bulky, and were unreliable. The development of the transistor was key to computer miniaturization and reliability. The "second generation" of computers, through the late 1950s and 1960s featured boards filled with individual transistors and magnetic memory cores. Subsequently, transistors, other components, and their necessary wiring were integrated into a single, mass-manufactured component: the integrated circuit.

## References

1. Ralph S. Carson, Principles of Applied Electronics, McGraw–Hill 1961.
2. 1745175 Patent US Julius Edgar Lilienfeld: "Method and apparatus for controlling electric current" first filed in Canada on 22.10.1925, describing a device similar to a MESFET via CAMBIA Patent Lens[1] – espacenet[2]
3. Arns, R.G.: The other transistor: early history of the metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor. Engineering Science and Education Journal Volume 7, Issue 5, Oct 1998 Page(s):233 - 240
4. Ralph Bray: The Origin of Semiconductor Research at Purdue. 2005
5. 1010427 Patent FR H. F. Mataré/H. Welker/Westinghouse: "Nouveau sytème cristallin à plusieurs électrodes réalisant des effects de relais électroniques" filed on 13.08.1948 via CAMBIA Patent Lens[3] – espacenet[4]
6. 2673948 Patent US H. F. Mataré/H. Welker/Westinghouse: "Crystal device for controlling electric currents by means of a solid semiconductor" FR priority 13.08.1948 via CAMBIA Patent Lens[5] – espacenet[6]
7. Armand Van Dormael: The “French” Transistor. Proceedings of the 2004 IEEE Conference on the History of Electronics, Bletchley Park, June 2004.
8. Transistron imaged in „Computer History Museum“
9. C. A. Mead (Feb. 1966). "Schottky barrier gate field effect transistor". Proceedings of the IEEE. 54 (2): 307–308. Check date values in: |date= (help)
10. Dennis F. Herrick (2003). Media Management in the Age of Giants: Business Dynamics of Journalism. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0813816998.
11. FETs/MOSFETs: Smaller apps push up surface-mount supply
12. Intel® Multi-Core Processor Architecture Development 29.09.2006.
13. Embedded.com - The Two Percent Solution
14. "Transistor Example". 071003 bcae1.com
15. Streetman, Ben (1992). Solid State Electronic Devices. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. pp. 301–305. ISBN 0-13-822023-9.
16. Horowitz, Paul (1989). The Art of Electronics (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 115. ISBN 0-521-37095-7. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
17. W. M. C. Sansen (2006). Analog design essentials. New York ; Berlin: Springer. p. §0152, p. 28. ISBN 0-387-25746-2.
18. A.S. Sedra and K.C. Smith (2004). Microelectronic circuits (Fifth Edition ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. p. 397 and Figure 5.17. ISBN 0-19-514251-9.