Leakage (electronics)

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In electronics, leakage is the gradual transfer of electrical energy across a boundary normally viewed as insulating, such as the spontaneous discharge of a charged capacitor, magnetic coupling of a transformer with other components, or flow of current across a transistor in the "off" state or a reverse-polarized diode.

Electronics physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter

Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. The identification of the electron in 1897, along with the invention of the vacuum tube, which could amplify and rectify small electrical signals, inaugurated the field of electronics and the electron age.

Capacitor electrical component used to store energy for a short period of time

A capacitor is a passive two-terminal electronic component that stores electrical energy in an electric field. The effect of a capacitor is known as capacitance. While some capacitance exists between any two electrical conductors in proximity in a circuit, a capacitor is a component designed to add capacitance to a circuit. The capacitor was originally known as a condenser or condensator. The original name is still widely used in many languages, but not commonly in English.

Transistor semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external 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. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.

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In capacitors

Gradual loss of energy from a charged capacitor is primarily caused by electronic devices attached to the capacitors, such as transistors or diodes, which conduct a small amount of current even when they are turned off. Even though this off current is an order of magnitude less than the current through the device when it is on, the current still slowly discharges the capacitor. Another contributor to leakage from a capacitor is from the undesired imperfection of some dielectric materials used in capacitors, also known as dielectric leakage. It is a result of the dielectric material not being a perfect insulator and having some non-zero conductivity, allowing a leakage current to flow, slowly discharging the capacitor. [1]

Dielectric electrically poorly conducting or non-conducting, non-metallic substance of which charge carriers are generally not free to move

A dielectric is an electrical insulator that can be polarized by an applied electric field. When a dielectric is placed in an electric field, electric charges do not flow through the material as they do in an electrical conductor but only slightly shift from their average equilibrium positions causing dielectric polarization. Because of dielectric polarization, positive charges are displaced in the direction of the field and negative charges shift in the opposite direction. This creates an internal electric field that reduces the overall field within the dielectric itself. If a dielectric is composed of weakly bonded molecules, those molecules not only become polarized, but also reorient so that their symmetry axes align to the field.

Electric current flow of electric charge

An electric current is the rate of flow of electric charge past a point or region. An electric current is said to exist when there is a net flow of electric charge through a region. In electric circuits this charge is often carried by electrons moving through a wire. It can also be carried by ions in an electrolyte, or by both ions and electrons such as in an ionized gas (plasma).

Another type of leakage occurs when current leaks out of the intended circuit, instead flowing through some alternate path. This sort of leakage is undesirable because the current flowing through the alternate path can cause damage, fires, RF noise, or electrocution. [2] Leakage of this type can be measured by observing that the current flow at some point in the circuit doesn't match the flow at another. Leakage in a high-voltage system can be fatal to a human in contact with the leak, as when a person accidentally grounds a high-voltage power line. [3]

Voltage difference in the electric potential between two points in space

Voltage, electric potential difference, electric pressure or electric tension is the difference in electric potential between two points. The difference in electric potential between two points in a static electric field is defined as the work needed per unit of charge to move a test charge between the two points. In the International System of Units, the derived unit for voltage is named volt. In SI units, work per unit charge is expressed as joules per coulomb, where 1 volt = 1 joule per 1 coulomb. The official SI definition for volt uses power and current, where 1 volt = 1 watt per 1 ampere. This definition is equivalent to the more commonly used 'joules per coulomb'. Voltage or electric potential difference is denoted symbolically by V, but more often simply as V, for instance in the context of Ohm's or Kirchhoff's circuit laws.

Between electronic assemblies and circuits

Leakage may also mean an unwanted transfer of energy from one circuit to another. For example, magnetic lines of flux will not be entirely confined within the core of a power transformer; another circuit may couple to the transformer and receive some leaked energy at the frequency of the electric mains, which will cause audible hum in an audio application. [4]

Leakage current is also any current that flows when the ideal current is zero. Such is the case in electronic assemblies when they are in standby, disabled, or "sleep" mode (standby power). These devices can draw one or two microamperes while in their quiescent state compared to hundreds or thousands of milliamperes while in full operation. These leakage currents are becoming a significant factor to portable device manufacturers because of their undesirable effect on battery run time for the consumer. [5]

Standby power, also called vampire power, vampire draw, phantom load, ghost load or leaking electricity, refers to the way electric power is consumed by electronic and electrical appliances while they are switched off or in standby mode. This only occurs because some devices claimed to be "switched off" on the electronic interface, but are in a different state from switching off at the plug, or disconnecting from the power point, which can solve the problem of standby power completely. In fact, switching off at the power point is effective enough, there is no need to disconnect all devices from the power point. Some such devices offer remote controls and digital clock features to the user, while other devices, such as power adapters for disconnected electronic devices, consume power without offering any features. All of the above examples, such as the remote control, digital clock functions and—in the case of adapters, no-load power—are switched off just by switching off at the power point. However, for some devices with built-in internal battery, such as a phone, the standby functions can be stopped by removing the battery instead.

In semiconductors

In semiconductor devices, leakage is a quantum phenomenon where mobile charge carriers (electrons or holes) tunnel through an insulating region. Leakage increases exponentially as the thickness of the insulating region decreases. Tunneling leakage can also occur across semiconductor junctions between heavily doped P-type and N-type semiconductors. Other than tunneling via the gate insulator or junctions, carriers can also leak between source and drain terminals of a Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) transistor. This is called subthreshold conduction. The primary source of leakage occurs inside transistors, but electrons can also leak between interconnects. Leakage increases power consumption and if sufficiently large can cause complete circuit failure.

A semiconductor device is an electronic component that exploits the electronic properties of semiconductor material, principally silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide, as well as organic semiconductors. Semiconductor devices have replaced vacuum tubes in most applications. They use electrical conduction in the solid state rather that the gaseous state or thermionic emission in a vacuum.

Electron hole conceptual and mathematical opposite of an electron

In physics, chemistry, and electronic engineering, an electron hole is the lack of an electron at a position where one could exist in an atom or atomic lattice. Since in a normal atom or crystal lattice the negative charge of the electrons is balanced by the positive charge of the atomic nuclei, the absence of an electron leaves a net positive charge at the hole's location. Holes are not actually particles, but rather quasiparticles; they are different from the positron, which is the antiparticle of the electron.

The gate oxide is the dielectric layer that separates the gate terminal of a MOSFET from the underlying source and drain terminals as well as the conductive channel that connects source and drain when the transistor is turned on. Gate oxide is formed by oxidizing the silicon of the channel to form a thin insulating layer of silicon dioxide. A conductive gate material is subsequently deposited over the gate oxide to form the transistor. The gate oxide serves as the dielectric layer so that the gate can sustain as high as 1 to 5 MV/cm transverse electric field in order to strongly modulate the conductance of the channel.

Leakage is currently one of the main factors limiting increased computer processor performance. Efforts to minimize leakage include the use of strained silicon, high-k dielectrics, and/or stronger dopant levels in the semiconductor. Leakage reduction to continue Moore's law will not only require new material solutions but also proper system design.

Certain types of semiconductor manufacturing defects exhibit themselves as increased leakage. Thus measuring leakage, or Iddq testing, is a quick, inexpensive method for finding defective chips.

Increased leakage is a common failure mode resulting from non-catastrophic overstress of a semiconductor device, when the junction or the gate oxide suffers permanent damage not sufficient to cause a catastrophic failure. Overstressing the gate oxide can lead to stress-induced leakage current.

In bipolar junction transistors, the emitter current is the sum of the collector and base currents. Ie = Ic + Ib. The collector current has two components: minority carriers and majority carriers. The minority current is called the leakage current[ clarification needed ].

Leakage current is generally measured in microamperes. For a reverse-biased diode it is temperature sensitive. Leakage current must be carefully examined for applications that work in wide temperature ranges in order to know the diode characteristics .

See also

Related Research Articles

Diode electronic component

A diode is a two-terminal electronic component that conducts current primarily in one direction ; it has low resistance in one direction, and high resistance in the other. A diode vacuum tube or thermionic diode is a vacuum tube with two electrodes, a heated cathode and a plate, in which electrons can flow in only one direction, from cathode to plate. A semiconductor diode, the most common type today, is a crystalline piece of semiconductor material with a p–n junction connected to two electrical terminals. Semiconductor diodes were the first semiconductor electronic devices. The discovery of asymmetric electrical conduction across the contact between a crystalline mineral and a metal was made by German physicist Ferdinand Braun in 1874. Today, most diodes are made of silicon, but other materials such as gallium arsenide and germanium are used.

MOSFET transistor used for amplifying or switching electronic signals

The metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor is a type of field-effect transistor (FET), most commonly fabricated by the controlled oxidation of silicon. It has an insulated gate, whose voltage determines the conductivity of the device. This ability to change conductivity with the amount of applied voltage can be used for amplifying or switching electronic signals. A metal-insulator-semiconductor field-effect transistor or MISFET is a term almost synonymous with MOSFET. Another synonym is IGFET for insulated-gate field-effect transistor.

CMOS technology for constructing integrated circuits

Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) is a technology for constructing integrated circuits. CMOS technology is used in microprocessors, microcontrollers, static RAM, and other digital logic circuits. CMOS technology is also used for several analog circuits such as image sensors, data converters, and highly integrated transceivers for many types of communication. Frank Wanlass invented CMOS in 1963 while at Fairchild Semiconductor and was granted US patent 3,356,858 in 1967.

Rectifier AC-DC conversion device; electrical device that converts alternating current (AC), which periodically reverses direction, to direct current (DC), which flows in only one direction

A rectifier is an electrical device that converts alternating current (AC), which periodically reverses direction, to direct current (DC), which flows in only one direction.

Insulated-gate bipolar transistor three-terminal power semiconductor device

An insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) is a three-terminal power semiconductor device primarily used as an electronic switch which, as it was developed, came to combine high efficiency and fast switching. It consists of four alternating layers (P-N-P-N) that are controlled by a metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) gate structure without regenerative action. Although the structure of the IGBT is topologically the same as a thyristor with a 'MOS' gate, the thyristor action is completely suppressed and only the transistor action is permitted in the entire device operation range. It switches electric power in many applications: variable-frequency drives (VFDs), electric cars, trains, variable speed refrigerators, lamp ballasts, air-conditioners and even stereo systems with switching amplifiers.

Schottky diode semiconductor diode formed by the junction of a semiconductor with a metal, semiconductor diode with a low forward voltage drop

The Schottky diode, also known as Schottky barrier diode or hot-carrier diode, is a semiconductor diode formed by the junction of a semiconductor with a metal. It has a low forward voltage drop and a very fast switching action. The cat's-whisker detectors used in the early days of wireless and metal rectifiers used in early power applications can be considered primitive Schottky diodes.

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.

Electronic component basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields

An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields. Electronic components are mostly industrial products, available in a singular form and are not to be confused with electrical elements, which are conceptual abstractions representing idealized electronic components.

In semiconductor physics, the depletion region, also called depletion layer, depletion zone, junction region, space charge region or space charge layer, is an insulating region within a conductive, doped semiconductor material where the mobile charge carriers have been diffused away, or have been forced away by an electric field. The only elements left in the depletion region are ionized donor or acceptor impurities.

The term high-κ dielectric refers to a material with a high dielectric constant κ. High-κ dielectrics are used in semiconductor manufacturing processes where they are usually used to replace a silicon dioxide gate dielectric or another dielectric layer of a device. The implementation of high-κ gate dielectrics is one of several strategies developed to allow further miniaturization of microelectronic components, colloquially referred to as extending Moore's Law.

Capacitance–voltage profiling is a technique for characterizing semiconductor materials and devices. The applied voltage is varied, and the capacitance is measured and plotted as a function of voltage. The technique uses a metal–semiconductor junction or a p–n junction or a MOSFET to create a depletion region, a region which is empty of conducting electrons and holes, but may contain ionized donors and electrically active defects or traps. The depletion region with its ionized charges inside behaves like a capacitor. By varying the voltage applied to the junction it is possible to vary the depletion width. The dependence of the depletion width upon the applied voltage provides information on the semiconductor's internal characteristics, such as its doping profile and electrically active defect densities., Measurements may be done at DC, or using both DC and a small-signal AC signal, or using a large-signal transient voltage.

Hot carrier injection (HCI) is a phenomenon in solid-state electronic devices where an electron or a “hole” gains sufficient kinetic energy to overcome a potential barrier necessary to break an interface state. The term "hot" refers to the effective temperature used to model carrier density, not to the overall temperature of the device. Since the charge carriers can become trapped in the gate dielectric of a MOS transistor, the switching characteristics of the transistor can be permanently changed. Hot-carrier injection is one of the mechanisms that adversely affects the reliability of semiconductors of solid-state devices.

Failure of electronic components Ways electronic elements fail and prevention measures

Electronic components have a wide range of failure modes. These can be classified in various ways, such as by time or cause. Failures can be caused by excess temperature, excess current or voltage, ionizing radiation, mechanical shock, stress or impact, and many other causes. In semiconductor devices, problems in the device package may cause failures due to contamination, mechanical stress of the device, or open or short circuits.

This article provides a more detailed explanation of p–n diode behavior than that found in the articles p–n junction or diode.

Field-effect transistor transistor that uses an electric field to control the electrical behaviour of the device. FETs are also known as unipolar transistors since they involve single-carrier-type operation

The field-effect transistor (FET) is an electronic device which uses an electric field to control the flow of current. FETs are 3-terminalled devices, having a source, gate, and drain terminal. FETs control the flow of current by the application of a voltage to the gate terminal, which in turn alters the conductivity between the drain and source terminals.

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