Last updated
Electric current from source to drain in a p-channel JFET is restricted when a voltage is applied to the gate.
Pin configurationdrain, gate, source
Electronic symbol
IEEE 315-1975 (1993) IEEE 315-1975 (1993)

The junction-gate field-effect transistor (JFET) is one of the simplest types of field-effect transistor. [1] JFETs are three-terminal semiconductor devices that can be used as electronically controlled switches or resistors, or to build amplifiers.


Unlike bipolar junction transistors, JFETs are exclusively voltage-controlled in that they do not need a biasing current. Electric charge flows through a semiconducting channel between source and drain terminals. By applying a reverse bias voltage to a gate terminal, the channel is "pinched", so that the electric current is impeded or switched off completely. A JFET is usually "on" when there is zero voltage between its gate and source terminals. If a potential difference of the proper polarity is applied between its gate and source terminals, the JFET will be more resistive to current flow, which means less current would flow in the channel between the source and drain terminals.

JFETs are sometimes referred to as depletion-mode devices, as they rely on the principle of a depletion region, which is devoid of majority charge carriers. The depletion region has to be closed to enable current to flow.

JFETs can have an n-type or p-type channel. In the n-type, if the voltage applied to the gate is negative with respect to the source, the current will be reduced (similarly in the p-type, if the voltage applied to the gate is positive with respect to the source). A JFET has a large input impedance (sometimes on the order of 1010 ohms), which means that it has a negligible effect on external components or circuits connected to its gate.


A succession of FET-like devices was patented by Julius Lilienfeld in the 1920s and 1930s. However, materials science and fabrication technology would require decades of advances before FETs could actually be manufactured.

JFET was first patented by Heinrich Welker in 1945. [2] During the 1940s, researchers John Bardeen, Walter Houser Brattain, and William Shockley were trying to build a FET, but failed in their repeated attempts. They discovered the point-contact transistor in the course of trying to diagnose the reasons for their failures. Following Shockley's theoretical treatment on JFET in 1952, a working practical JFET was made in 1953 by George C. Dacey and Ian M. Ross. [3] Japanese engineers Jun-ichi Nishizawa and Y. Watanabe applied for a patent for a similar device in 1950 termed static induction transistor (SIT). The SIT is a type of JFET with a short channel. [3]

High-speed, high-voltage switching with JFETs became technically feasible following the commercial introduction of Silicon carbide (SiC) wide-bandgap devices in 2008. Due to early difficulties in manufacturing in particular, inconsistencies and low yield SiC JFETs remained a niche product at first, with correspondingly high costs. By 2018, these manufacturing issues had been mostly resolved. By then, SiC JEFETs were also commonly used in conjunction with conventional low-voltage Silicon MOSFETs. [4] In this combination, SiC JFET + Si MOSFET devices have the advantages of wide band-gap devices as well as the easy gate drive of MOSFETs. [4]


The JFET is a long channel of semiconductor material, doped to contain an abundance of positive charge carriers or holes (p-type), or of negative carriers or electrons (n-type). Ohmic contacts at each end form the source (S) and the drain (D). A pn-junction is formed on one or both sides of the channel, or surrounding it using a region with doping opposite to that of the channel, and biased using an ohmic gate contact (G).


I-V characteristics and output plot of an n-channel JFET JFET n-channel en.svg
I–V characteristics and output plot of an n-channel JFET

JFET operation can be compared to that of a garden hose. The flow of water through a hose can be controlled by squeezing it to reduce the cross section and the flow of electric charge through a JFET is controlled by constricting the current-carrying channel. The current also depends on the electric field between source and drain (analogous to the difference in pressure on either end of the hose). This current dependency is not supported by the characteristics shown in the diagram above a certain applied voltage. This is the saturation region, and the JFET is normally operated in this constant-current region where device current is virtually unaffected by drain-source voltage. The JFET shares this constant-current characteristic with junction transistors and with thermionic tube (valve) tetrodes and pentodes.

Constriction of the conducting channel is accomplished using the field effect: a voltage between the gate and the source is applied to reverse bias the gate-source pn-junction, thereby widening the depletion layer of this junction (see top figure), encroaching upon the conducting channel and restricting its cross-sectional area. The depletion layer is so-called because it is depleted of mobile carriers and so is electrically non-conducting for practical purposes. [5]

When the depletion layer spans the width of the conduction channel, pinch-off is achieved and drain-to-source conduction stops. Pinch-off occurs at a particular reverse bias (VGS) of the gate–source junction. The pinch-off voltage (Vp) (also known as threshold voltage [6] [7] or cut-off voltage [8] [9] [10] ) varies considerably, even among devices of the same type. For example, VGS(off) for the Temic J202 device varies from −0.8 V to −4 V. [11] Typical values vary from −0.3 V to −10 V. (Confusingly, the term pinch-off voltage is also used to refer to the VDS value that separates the linear and saturation regions. [9] [10] )

To switch off an n-channel device requires a negative gate–source voltage (VGS). Conversely, to switch off a p-channel device requires positive VGS.

In normal operation, the electric field developed by the gate blocks source–drain conduction to some extent.

Some JFET devices are symmetrical with respect to the source and drain.

Schematic symbols

Circuit symbol for an n-channel JFET JFET N-dep symbol.svg
Circuit symbol for an n-channel JFET
Circuit symbol for a p-channel JFET JFET P-dep symbol.svg
Circuit symbol for a p-channel JFET

The JFET gate is sometimes drawn in the middle of the channel (instead of at the drain or source electrode as in these examples). This symmetry suggests that "drain" and "source" are interchangeable, so the symbol should be used only for those JFETs where they are indeed interchangeable.

The symbol may be drawn inside a circle (representing the envelope of a discrete device) if the enclosure is important to circuit function, such as dual matched components in the same package. [12]

In every case the arrow head shows the polarity of the P–N junction formed between the channel and the gate. As with an ordinary diode, the arrow points from P to N, the direction of conventional current when forward-biased. An English mnemonic is that the arrow of an N-channel device "points in".

Comparison with other transistors

At room temperature, JFET gate current (the reverse leakage of the gate-to-channel junction) is comparable to that of a MOSFET (which has insulating oxide between gate and channel), but much less than the base current of a bipolar junction transistor. The JFET has higher gain (transconductance) than the MOSFET, as well as lower flicker noise, and is therefore used in some low-noise, high input-impedance op-amps.

Mathematical model

Linear ohmic region

The current in N-JFET due to a small voltage VDS (that is, in the linear or ohmic [13] or triode region [6] ) is given by treating the channel as a rectangular bar of material of electrical conductivity : [14]


ID = drain–source current,
b = channel thickness for a given gate voltage,
W = channel width,
L = channel length,
q = electron charge = 1.6×10−19 C,
μn = electron mobility,
Nd = n-type doping (donor) concentration,
VP = pinch-off voltage.

Then the drain current in the linear region can be approximated as

In terms of , the drain current can be expressed as[ citation needed ]

Constant-current region

The drain current in the saturation or active [15] [6] or pinch-off region [16] is often approximated in terms of gate bias as [14]

where IDSS is the saturation current at zero gate–source voltage, i.e. the maximum current that can flow through the FET from drain to source at any (permissible) drain-to-source voltage (see, e. g., the IV characteristics diagram above).

In the saturation region, the JFET drain current is most significantly affected by the gate–source voltage and barely affected by the drain–source voltage.

If the channel doping is uniform, such that the depletion region thickness will grow in proportion to the square root of the absolute value of the gate–source voltage, then the channel thickness b can be expressed in terms of the zero-bias channel thickness a as[ citation needed ]


VP is the pinch-off voltage  the gate–source voltage at which the channel thickness goes to zero,
a is the channel thickness at zero gate–source voltage.


The transconductance for the junction FET is given by

where is the pinchoff voltage, and IDSS is the maximum drain current. This is also called or (for transadmittance). [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

Transistor Solid-state electrically operated switch also used as an amplifier

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electrical signals and power. The transistor is one of the basic building blocks of modern electronics. It is composed of semiconductor material, usually with at least three terminals for connection to an electronic circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.

MOSFET Transistor used for amplifying or switching electronic signals

The metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor, also known as the metal–oxide–silicon transistor, is a type of insulated-gate field-effect transistor that is fabricated by the controlled oxidation of a semiconductor, typically silicon. The voltage of the gate terminal determines the electrical conductivity of the device; this ability to change conductivity with the amount of applied voltage can be used for amplifying or switching electronic signals.

Schottky barrier Potential energy barrier in metal–semiconductor junctions

A Schottky barrier, named after Walter H. Schottky, is a potential energy barrier for electrons formed at a metal–semiconductor junction. Schottky barriers have rectifying characteristics, suitable for use as a diode. One of the primary characteristics of a Schottky barrier is the Schottky barrier height, denoted by ΦB. The value of ΦB depends on the combination of metal and semiconductor.

A current mirror is a circuit designed to copy a current through one active device by controlling the current in another active device of a circuit, keeping the output current constant regardless of loading. The current being "copied" can be, and sometimes is, a varying signal current. Conceptually, an ideal current mirror is simply an ideal inverting current amplifier that reverses the current direction as well. Or it can consist of a current-controlled current source (CCCS). The current mirror is used to provide bias currents and active loads to circuits. It can also be used to model a more realistic current source.

Transconductance, also infrequently called mutual conductance, is the electrical characteristic relating the current through the output of a device to the voltage across the input of a device. Conductance is the reciprocal of resistance.

Current source Electronic circuit which delivers or absorbs electric current regardless of voltage

A current source is an electronic circuit that delivers or absorbs an electric current which is independent of the voltage across it.

A MESFET is a field-effect transistor semiconductor device similar to a JFET with a Schottky (metal–semiconductor) junction instead of a p–n junction for a gate.

Threshold voltage Minimum source-to-gate voltage for a field effect transistor to be conducting from source to drain

The threshold voltage, commonly abbreviated as Vth, of a field-effect transistor (FET) is the minimum gate-to-source voltage VGS (th) that is needed to create a conducting path between the source and drain terminals. It is an important scaling factor to maintain power efficiency.

The cascode is a two-stage amplifier that consists of a common-emitter stage feeding into a common-base stage.

Power MOSFET MOSFET that can handle significant power levels

A power MOSFET is a specific type of metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) designed to handle significant power levels. Compared to the other power semiconductor devices, such as an insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) or a thyristor, its main advantages are high switching speed and good efficiency at low voltages. It shares with the IGBT an isolated gate that makes it easy to drive. They can be subject to low gain, sometimes to a degree that the gate voltage needs to be higher than the voltage under control.

Channel length modulation Effect in field effect transistors

Channel length modulation (CLM) is an effect in field effect transistors, a shortening of the length of the inverted channel region with increase in drain bias for large drain biases. The result of CLM is an increase in current with drain bias and a reduction of output resistance. It is one of several short-channel effects in MOSFET scaling. It also causes distortion in JFET amplifiers.


A VMOS transistor is a type of MOSFET. VMOS is also used for describing the V-groove shape vertically cut into the substrate material. VMOS is an acronym for "vertical metal oxide semiconductor", or "V-groove MOS".

Buck converter DC-DC voltage step-down power converter

A buck converter is a DC-to-DC power converter which steps down voltage from its input (supply) to its output (load). It is a class of switched-mode power supply (SMPS) typically containing at least two semiconductors and at least one energy storage element, a capacitor, inductor, or the two in combination. To reduce voltage ripple, filters made of capacitors are normally added to such a converter's output and input. It is called a buck converter because the voltage across the inductor “bucks” or opposes the supply voltage.

Drain-induced barrier lowering

Drain-induced barrier lowering (DIBL) is a short-channel effect in MOSFETs referring originally to a reduction of threshold voltage of the transistor at higher drain voltages. In a classic planar field-effect transistor with a long channel, the bottleneck in channel formation occurs far enough from the drain contact that it is electrostatically shielded from the drain by the combination of the substrate and gate, and so classically the threshold voltage was independent of drain voltage. In short-channel devices this is no longer true: The drain is close enough to gate the channel, and so a high drain voltage can open the bottleneck and turn on the transistor prematurely.

Overdrive voltage, usually abbreviated as VOV, is typically referred to in the context of MOSFET transistors. The overdrive voltage is defined as the voltage between transistor gate and source (VGS) in excess of the threshold voltage (VTH) where VTH is defined as the minimum voltage required between gate and source to turn the transistor on. Due to this definition, overdrive voltage is also known as "excess gate voltage" or "effective voltage." Overdrive voltage can be found using the simple equation: VOV = VGS − VTH.

The hybrid-pi model is a popular circuit model used for analyzing the small signal behavior of bipolar junction and field effect transistors. Sometimes it is also called Giacoletto model because it was introduced by L.J. Giacoletto in 1969. The model can be quite accurate for low-frequency circuits and can easily be adapted for higher frequency circuits with the addition of appropriate inter-electrode capacitances and other parasitic elements.

Depletion and enhancement modes Two major types of field effect transistors

In field-effect transistors (FETs), depletion mode and enhancement mode are two major transistor types, corresponding to whether the transistor is in an on state or an off state at zero gate–source voltage.

Dependent source

In the theory of electrical networks, a dependent source is a voltage source or a current source whose value depends on a voltage or current elsewhere in the network.

Field-effect transistor Type of transistor

The field-effect transistor (FET) is a type of transistor that uses an electric field to control the flow of current in a semiconductor. FETs are devices with three terminals: source, gate, and drain. FETs control the flow of current by the application of a voltage to the gate, which in turn alters the conductivity between the drain and source.

A voltage-controlled resistor (VCR) is a three-terminal active device with one input port and two output ports. The input-port voltage controls the value of the resistor between the output ports. VCRs are most often built with field-effect transistors (FETs). Two types of FETs are often used: the JFET and the MOSFET. There are both floating voltage-controlled resistors and grounded voltage-controlled resistors. Floating VCRs can be placed between two passive or active components. Grounded VCRs, the more common and less complicated design, require that one port of the voltage-controlled resistor be grounded.


  1. Hall, John. "Discrete JFET" (PDF). linearsystems.com.
  2. Grundmann, Marius (2010). The Physics of Semiconductors. Springer-Verlag. ISBN   978-3-642-13884-3.
  3. 1 2 Junction Field-Effect Devices, Semiconductor Devices for Power Conditioning, 1982.
  4. 1 2 Flaherty, Nick (October 18, 2018), "Third generation SiC JFET adds 1200 V and 650 V options", EeNews Power Management.
  5. For a discussion of JFET structure and operation, see for example D. Chattopadhyay (2006). "§13.2 Junction field-effect transistor (JFET)". Electronics (fundamentals and applications). New Age International. pp. 269 ff. ISBN   978-8122417807.
  6. 1 2 3 "Junction Field Effect Transistor (JFET)" (PDF). ETEE3212 Lecture Notes. value of vGS ... for which the channel is completely depleted ... is called the threshold, or pinch-off, voltage and occurs at vGS = VGS(OFF). ... This linear region of operation is called ohmic (or sometimes triode) ... Beyond the knee of the ohmic region, the curves become essentially flat in the active (or saturation) region of operation.
  7. Sedra, Adel S.; Smith, Kenneth C. "5.11 THE JUNCTION FIELD-EFFECT TRANSISTOR (JFET)" (PDF). Microelectronic Circuits. At this value of vGS the channel is completely depleted ... For JFETs the threshold voltage is called the pinch-off voltage and is denoted VP.
  8. Horowitz, Paul; Hill, Winfield (1989). The art of electronics (2nd ed.). Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press. p. 120. ISBN   0-521-37095-7. OCLC   19125711. For JFETs the gate-source voltage at which drain current approaches zero is called the "gate-source cutoff voltage", VGS(OFF), or the "pinch-off voltage", VP ... For enhancement-mode MOSFETs the analogous quantity is the "threshold voltage"
  9. 1 2 Mehta, V. K.; Mehta, Rohit (2008). "19 Field Effect Transistors" (PDF). Principles of electronics (11th ed.). S. Chand. pp. 513–514. ISBN   978-8121924504. OCLC   741256429. Pinch off Voltage (VP). It is the minimum drain–source voltage at which the drain current essentially becomes constant. ... Gate–source cut off voltage VGS (off). It is the gate–source voltage where the channel is completely cut off and the drain current becomes zero.
  10. 1 2 U. A. Bakshi; A. P. Godse (2008). Electronics Engineering. Technical Publications. p. 10. ISBN   978-81-8431-503-5. Do not confuse cutoff with pinch off. The pinch-off voltageVP is the value of the VDS at which the drain current reaches a constant value for a given value of VGS. ... The cutoff voltage VGS(off) is the value of VGS at which the drain current is 0.
  11. "J201 data sheet" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  12. "A4.11 Envelope or Enclosure". ANSI Y32.2-1975 (PDF). The envelope or enclosure symbol may be omitted from a symbol referencing this paragraph, where confusion would not result
  13. "What is the Ohmic Region of a FET Transistor". www.learningaboutelectronics.com. Retrieved 2020-12-13. ohmic region ... also called the linear region
  14. 1 2 Balbir Kumar and Shail B. Jain (2013). Electronic Devices and Circuits. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. pp. 342–345. ISBN   9788120348448.
  15. "Junction Field Effect Transistor". Electronics Tutorials. Saturation or Active Region
  16. Scholberg, Kate (2017-03-23). "What is the meaning of "pinch-off region"?". The "pinch-off region" (or "saturation region") refers to operation of a FET with more than a few volts.
  17. Kirt Blattenberger RF Cafe. "JFETS: How They Work, How to Use Them, May 1969 Radio-Electronics" . Retrieved 2021-01-04. yfs – Small-signal, common-source, forward transadmittance (sometimes called gfs-transconductance)