P–n junction isolation

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p–n junction isolation is a method used to electrically isolate electronic components, such as transistors, on an integrated circuit (IC) by surrounding the components with reverse biased p–n junctions.

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.

Integrated circuit electronic circuit manufactured by lithography; set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, normally silicon

An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material that is normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny MOS transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, faster, and less expensive than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability, and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.

p–n junction semiconductor–semiconductor junction, formed at the boundary between a p-type and n-type semiconductor

A p–n junction is a boundary or interface between two types of semiconductor materials, p-type and n-type, inside a single crystal of semiconductor. The "p" (positive) side contains an excess of holes, while the "n" (negative) side contains an excess of electrons in the outer shells of the electrically neutral atoms there. This allows electrical current to pass through the junction only in one direction. The p-n junction is created by doping, for example by ion implantation, diffusion of dopants, or by epitaxy. If two separate pieces of material were used, this would introduce a grain boundary between the semiconductors that would severely inhibit its utility by scattering the electrons and holes.



By surrounding a transistor, resistor, capacitor or other component on an IC with semiconductor material which is doped using an opposite species of the substrate dopant, and connecting this surrounding material to a voltage which reverse-biases the p–n junction that forms, it is possible to create a region which forms an electrically isolated "well" around the component.

A dopant, also called a doping agent, is a trace of impurity element that is introduced into a chemical material to alter its original electrical or optical properties. The amount of dopant necessary to cause changes is typically very low. When doped into crystalline substances, the dopant's atoms get incorporated into its crystal lattice. The crystalline materials are frequently either crystals of a semiconductor such as silicon and germanium for use in solid-state electronics, or transparent crystals for use in the production of various laser types; however, in some cases of the latter, noncrystalline substances such as glass can also be doped with impurities.


Assume that the semiconductor wafer is p-type material. Also assume a ring of n-type material is placed around a transistor, and placed beneath the transistor. If the p-type material within the n-type ring is now connected to the negative terminal of the power supply and the n-type ring is connected to the positive terminal, the 'holes' in the p-type region are pulled away from the p–n junction, causing the width of the nonconducting depletion region to increase. Similarly, because the n-type region is connected to the positive terminal, the electrons will also be pulled away from the junction.

Wafer (electronics) thin slice of semiconductor material used in the fabrication of integrated circuits

In electronics, a wafer is a thin slice of semiconductor, such as a crystalline silicon (c-Si), used for the fabrication of integrated circuits and, in photovoltaics, to manufacture solar cells. The wafer serves as the substrate for microelectronic devices built in and upon the wafer. It undergoes many microfabrication processes, such as doping, ion implantation, etching, thin-film deposition of various materials, and photolithographic patterning. Finally, the individual microcircuits are separated by wafer dicing and packaged as an integrated circuit.

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.

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.

This effectively increases the potential barrier and greatly increases the electrical resistance against the flow of charge carriers. For this reason there will be no (or minimal) electric current across the junction.

In physics, a charge carrier is a particle or quasiparticle that is free to move, carrying an electric charge, especially the particles that carry electric charges in electrical conductors. Examples are electrons, ions and holes. In a conducting medium, an electric field can exert force on these free particles, causing a net motion of the particles through the medium; this is what constitutes an electric current. In conducting media, particles serve to carry charge:

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).

At the middle of the junction of the p–n material, a depletion region is created to stand-off the reverse voltage. The width of the depletion region grows larger with higher voltage. The electric field grows as the reverse voltage increases. When the electric field increases beyond a critical level, the junction breaks down and current begins to flow by avalanche breakdown. Therefore, care must be taken that circuit voltages do not exceed the breakdown voltage or electrical isolation ceases.

In electronics, an avalanche diode is a diode that is designed to experience avalanche breakdown at a specified reverse bias voltage. The junction of an avalanche diode is designed to prevent current concentration and resulting hot spots, so that the diode is undamaged by the breakdown. The avalanche breakdown is due to minority carriers accelerated enough to create ionization in the crystal lattice, producing more carriers which in turn create more ionization. Because the avalanche breakdown is uniform across the whole junction, the breakdown voltage is nearly constant with changing current when compared to a non-avalanche diode.


Before the invention of the integrated circuit, discrete diodes and transistors exhibited relatively high reverse-bias junction leakages and low breakdown voltage, caused by the large density of traps at the surface of single crystal silicon. The solution to this problem was the surface passivation process developed by Egyptian engineer Mohamed Atalla at Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL). He discovered that when a thin layer of silicon dioxide was grown on the surface of silicon where a p–n junction intercepts the surface, the leakage current of the junction was reduced by a factor from 10 to 100. This showed that the oxide reduces and stabilizes many of the interface and oxide traps. Oxide-passivation of silicon surfaces allowed diodes and transistors to be fabricated with significantly improved device characteristics, while the leakage path along the surface of the silicon was also effectively shut off. This became one of the fundamental isolation capabilities necessary for planar technology and integrated circuits. [1] According to Fairchild Semiconductor engineer Chih-Tang Sah, Atalla's surface passivation method was critical to the development of the silicon integrated circuit. [1] [2]

The integrated circuit (IC) chip was invented during 1958–1959. The idea of integrating electronic circuits into a single device was born when the German physicist and engineer Werner Jacobi developed and patented the first known integrated transistor amplifier in 1949 and the British radio engineer Geoffrey Dummer proposed to integrate a variety of standard electronic components in a monolithic semiconductor crystal in 1952. A year later, Harwick Johnson filed a patent for a prototype IC. Between 1953 and 1957, Sidney Darlington and Yasuro Tarui proposed similar chip designs where several transistors could share a common active area, but there was no electrical isolation to separate them from each other.

Diode abstract electronic component with two terminals that allows current to flow in one direction

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 commonly used 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.

Transistor Basic electronics component

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.

Atalla first published his surface passivation method in BTL memos during 1957, before presenting his work at a 1958 Electrochemical Society meeting. This became the basis for Jean Hoerni's planar process, which in turn was the basis for Robert Noyce's monolithic integrated circuit. [3] [4]

In an article entitled "Microelectronics", published in Scientific American , September 1977 Volume 23, Number 3, pp. 63–9, Robert Noyce wrote:

"The integrated circuit, as we conceived and developed it at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1959, accomplishes the separation and interconnection of transistors and other circuit elements electrically rather than physically. The separation is accomplished by introducing pn diodes, or rectifiers, which allow current to flow in only one direction. The technique was patented by Kurt Lehovec at the Sprague Electric Company".

Sprague Electric Company engineer Kurt Lehovec filed U.S. Patent 3,029,366 for p–n junction isolation in 1959, and was granted the patent in 1962. He is reported[ by whom? ] to have said "I never got a dime out of [the patent]."

When Robert Noyce invented the monolithic integrated circuit in 1959, his idea of p–n junction isolation was based on Hoerni's planar process. [5] In 1976, Noyce stated that, in January 1959, he did not know about the work of Lehovec. [6]

See also

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A semiconductor material has an electrical conductivity value falling between that of a conductor, such as metallic copper, and an insulator, such as glass. Its resistance decreases as its temperature increases, which is the behaviour opposite to that of a metal. Its conducting properties may be altered in useful ways by the deliberate, controlled introduction of impurities ("doping") into the crystal structure. Where two differently-doped regions exist in the same crystal, a semiconductor junction is created. The behavior of charge carriers which include electrons, ions and electron holes at these junctions is the basis of diodes, transistors and all modern electronics. Some examples of semiconductors are silicon, germanium, gallium arsenide, and elements near the so-called "metalloid staircase" on the periodic table. After silicon, gallium arsenide is the second most common semiconductor and is used in laser diodes, solar cells, microwave-frequency integrated circuits and others. Silicon is a critical element for fabricating most electronic circuits.

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 than the gaseous state or thermionic emission in a vacuum.

MOSFET Transistor used for amplifying or switching electronic signals.

The metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET, MOS-FET, or MOS FET), also known as the metal–oxide–silicon transistor (MOS transistor, or MOS), is a type of field-effect transistor that is fabricated by the controlled oxidation of a semiconductor, typically 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. The MOSFET is the basic building block of modern electronics. Since its invention by Mohamed Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in November 1959, the MOSFET has become the most widely manufactured device in history, with an estimated total of 13 sextillion (1.3 × 1022) MOS transistors manufactured between 1960 and 2018.

Bipolar junction transistor transistor that uses both electron and hole charge carriers.In contrast,unipolar transistors such as field-effect transistors,only use one kind of charge carrier.For their operation,BJTs use 2 junctions between 2 semiconductor types,n-type and p-type

A bipolar junction transistor is a type of transistor that uses both electrons and holes as charge carriers.

A unijunction transistor (UJT) is a three-lead electronic semiconductor device with only one junction that acts exclusively as an electrically controlled switch.

Passivation, in physical chemistry and engineering, refers to a material becoming "passive," that is, less affected or corroded by the environment of future use. Passivation involves creation of an outer layer of shield material that is applied as a microcoating, created by chemical reaction with the base material, or allowed to build from spontaneous oxidation in the air. As a technique, passivation is the use of a light coat of a protective material, such as metal oxide, to create a shell against corrosion. Passivation can occur only in certain conditions, and is used in microelectronics to enhance silicon. The technique of passivation strengthens and preserves the appearance of metallics. In electrochemical treatment of water, passivation reduces the effectiveness of the treatment by increasing the circuit resistance, and active measures are typically used to overcome this effect, the most common being polarity reversal, which results in limited rejection of the fouling layer. Other proprietary systems to avoid electrode passivation, several discussed below, are the subject of ongoing research and development.

Fairchild Semiconductor company

Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc. was an American semiconductor company based in San Jose, California. Founded in 1957 as a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument, it became a pioneer in the manufacturing of transistors and of integrated circuits. Schlumberger bought the firm in 1979 and sold it to National Semiconductor in 1987; Fairchild was spun off as an independent company again in 1997. In September 2016, Fairchild was acquired by ON Semiconductor.

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.

Traitorous eight Group of PHDs employed at Shockley Semiconductor that left to form Fairchild Semiconductor.

The traitorous eight was a group of eight employees who left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in 1957 to found Fairchild Semiconductor. William Shockley had in 1956 recruited a group of young PhD graduates with the goal to develop and produce new semiconductor devices. While Shockley had received a Nobel Prize in Physics and was an experienced researcher and teacher, his management of the group was authoritarian and unpopular. This was accentuated by Shockley's research focus not proving fruitful. After the demand for Shockley to be replaced was rebuffed, the eight left to form their own company.

Jean Amédée Hoerni was a Swiss-American engineer. He was a silicon transistor pioneer, and a member of the "traitorous eight". He developed the planar process, an important technology for reliably fabricating and manufacturing semiconductor devices, such as transistors and integrated circuits.

Planar process

The planar process is a manufacturing process used in the semiconductor industry to build individual components of a transistor, and in turn, connect those transistors together. It is the primary process by which silicon integrated circuit chips are built. The process utilizes the surface passivation and thermal oxidation methods.

A diffused junction transistor is a transistor formed by diffusing dopants into a semiconductor substrate. The diffusion process was developed later than the alloy junction and grown junction processes for making BJTs.

A transistor is a semiconductor device with at least three terminals for connection to an electric circuit. The vacuum-tube triode, also called a (thermionic) valve, was the transistor's precursor, introduced in 1907. The principle of a field-effect transistor was proposed by Julius Edgar Lilienfeld in 1925.

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.

Mohamed Atalla mechanical engineer

Mohamed Atalla was an Egyptian-American engineer, physical chemist, cryptographer, inventor, and entrepreneur. His pioneering work in semiconductor technology laid the foundations for modern electronics. Most importantly, his invention of the MOSFET in 1959, along with his earlier surface passivation and thermal oxidation processes, revolutionized the electronics industry. He is also known as the founder of the data security company Atalla Corporation, which he founded after he invented the first hardware security module (HSM) in 1972. He received the Stuart Ballantine Medal and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his important contributions to semiconductor technology as well as data security.

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 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.


  1. 1 2 Wolf, Stanley (March 1992). "A review of IC isolation technologies". Solid State Technology: 63.
  2. Sah, Chih-Tang (October 1988). "Evolution of the MOS transistor-from conception to VLSI" (PDF). Proceedings of the IEEE . 76 (10): 1280–1326 (1290). doi:10.1109/5.16328. ISSN   0018-9219.
  3. Lojek, Bo (2007). History of Semiconductor Engineering. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 120 & 321-323. ISBN   9783540342588.
  4. Bassett, Ross Knox (2007). To the Digital Age: Research Labs, Start-up Companies, and the Rise of MOS Technology. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 46. ISBN   9780801886393.
  5. Brock, D.; Lécuyer, C. (2010). Lécuyer, C. (ed.). Makers of the Microchip: A Documentary History of Fairchild Semiconductor. MIT Press. p. 158. ISBN   9780262014243.
  6. "Interview with Robert Noyce, 1975–1976". IEEE. Archived from the original on 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2012-04-22.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)