Photoresistor

Last updated
Photoresistor
LDR 1480405 6 7 HDR Enhancer 1.jpg
Type Passive
Working principle Photoconductivity
Electronic symbol
Photoresistor symbol.svg
The symbol for a photoresistor

A photoresistor (or light-dependent resistor, LDR, or photo-conductive cell) is a light-controlled variable resistor. The resistance of a photoresistor decreases with increasing incident light intensity; in other words, it exhibits photoconductivity. A photoresistor can be applied in light-sensitive detector circuits, and light-activated and dark-activated switching circuits.

Resistor Passive electrical component providing electrical resistance

A resistor is a passive two-terminal electrical component that implements electrical resistance as a circuit element. In electronic circuits, resistors are used to reduce current flow, adjust signal levels, to divide voltages, bias active elements, and terminate transmission lines, among other uses. High-power resistors that can dissipate many watts of electrical power as heat, may be used as part of motor controls, in power distribution systems, or as test loads for generators. Fixed resistors have resistances that only change slightly with temperature, time or operating voltage. Variable resistors can be used to adjust circuit elements, or as sensing devices for heat, light, humidity, force, or chemical activity.

Photoconductivity is an optical and electrical phenomenon in which a material becomes more electrically conductive due to the absorption of electromagnetic radiation such as visible light, ultraviolet light, infrared light, or gamma radiation.

Contents

A photoresistor is made of a high resistance semiconductor. In the dark, a photoresistor can have a resistance as high as several megaohms (MΩ), while in the light, a photoresistor can have a resistance as low as a few hundred ohms. If incident light on a photoresistor exceeds a certain frequency, photons absorbed by the semiconductor give bound electrons enough energy to jump into the conduction band. The resulting free electrons (and their hole partners) conduct electricity, thereby lowering resistance. The resistance range and sensitivity of a photoresistor can substantially differ among dissimilar devices. Moreover, unique photoresistors may react substantially differently to photons within certain wavelength bands.

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.

Ohm SI derived unit of electrical resistance

The ohm is the SI derived unit of electrical resistance, named after German physicist Georg Simon Ohm. Although several empirically derived standard units for expressing electrical resistance were developed in connection with early telegraphy practice, the British Association for the Advancement of Science proposed a unit derived from existing units of mass, length and time and of a convenient size for practical work as early as 1861. The definition of the ohm was revised several times. Today, the definition of the ohm is expressed from the quantum Hall effect.

Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency, which emphasizes the contrast to spatial frequency and angular frequency. The period is the duration of time of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency. For example: if a newborn baby's heart beats at a frequency of 120 times a minute, its period—the time interval between beats—is half a second. Frequency is an important parameter used in science and engineering to specify the rate of oscillatory and vibratory phenomena, such as mechanical vibrations, audio signals (sound), radio waves, and light.

A photoelectric device can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. An intrinsic semiconductor has its own charge carriers and is not an efficient semiconductor, for example, silicon. In intrinsic devices the only available electrons are in the valence band, and hence the photon must have enough energy to excite the electron across the entire bandgap. Extrinsic devices have impurities, also called dopants, added whose ground state energy is closer to the conduction band; since the electrons do not have as far to jump, lower energy photons (that is, longer wavelengths and lower frequencies) are sufficient to trigger the device. If a sample of silicon has some of its atoms replaced by phosphorus atoms (impurities), there will be extra electrons available for conduction. This is an example of an extrinsic semiconductor. [1]

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:

Design considerations

Three photoresistors with scale in mm Photoresistors - three sizes - mm scale.jpg
Three photoresistors with scale in mm
Large CdS Photocell from a street light. CdS Photocell.jpg
Large CdS Photocell from a street light.

Photoresistors are less light-sensitive devices than photodiodes or phototransistors: the two latter components are true semiconductor devices, while a photoresistor is a passive component and does not have a PN-junction. The photoresistivity of any photoresistor may vary widely depending on ambient temperature, making them unsuitable for applications requiring precise measurement of or sensitivity to light photons.

Photodiode type of photodetector based on a p-n-junction

A photodiode is a semiconductor device that converts light into an electrical current. The current is generated when photons are absorbed in the photodiode. Photodiodes may contain optical filters, built-in lenses, and may have large or small surface areas. Photodiodes usually have a slower response time as their surface area increases. The common, traditional solar cell used to generate electric solar power is a large area photodiode.

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.

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.

Photoresistors also exhibit a certain degree of latency between exposure to light and the subsequent decrease in resistance, usually around 10 milliseconds. The lag time when going from lit to dark environments is even greater, often as long as one second. This property makes them unsuitable for sensing rapidly flashing lights, but is sometimes used to smooth the response of audio signal compression. [2]

Latency is a time interval between the stimulation and response, or, from a more general point of view, a time delay between the cause and the effect of some physical change in the system being observed. Latency is physically a consequence of the limited velocity with which any physical interaction can propagate. The magnitude of this velocity is always less than or equal to the speed of light. Therefore, every physical system with any physical separation (distance) between cause and effect will experience some sort of latency, regardless of the nature of stimulation that it has been exposed to.

Applications

The internal components of a photoelectric control for a typical American streetlight. The photoresistor is facing rightwards, and controls whether current flows through the heater which opens the main power contacts. At night, the heater cools, closing the power contacts, energizing the street light. Streetlight control.jpg
The internal components of a photoelectric control for a typical American streetlight. The photoresistor is facing rightwards, and controls whether current flows through the heater which opens the main power contacts. At night, the heater cools, closing the power contacts, energizing the street light.

Photoresistors come in many types. Inexpensive cadmium sulfide cells can be found in many consumer items such as camera light meters, clock radios, alarm devices (as the detector for a light beam), nightlights, outdoor clocks, solar street lamps and solar road studs, etc.

Cadmium sulfide chemical compound

Cadmium sulfide is the inorganic compound with the formula CdS. Cadmium sulfide is a yellow solid. It occurs in nature with two different crystal structures as the rare minerals greenockite and hawleyite, but is more prevalent as an impurity substituent in the similarly structured zinc ores sphalerite and wurtzite, which are the major economic sources of cadmium. As a compound that is easy to isolate and purify, it is the principal source of cadmium for all commercial applications. Its vivid yellow color led to its adoption as a pigment for the yellow paint "cadmium yellow" in the 18th century.

Nightlight small light fixture used to provide dim illumination during the night

A nightlight is a small light fixture, usually electrical, placed for comfort or convenience in dark areas or areas that may become dark at certain times, such as at night or in an emergency. Small long-burning candles serving a similar function are referred to as "tealights".

Photoresistors can be placed in streetlights to control when the light is on. Ambient light falling on the photoresistor causes the streetlight to turn off. Thus energy is saved by ensuring the light is only on during hours of darkness.

They are also used in some dynamic compressors together with a small incandescent or neon lamp, or light-emitting diode to control gain reduction. A common usage of this application can be found in many guitar amplifiers that incorporate an onboard tremolo effect, as the oscillating light patterns control the level of signal running through the amp circuit.

The use of CdS and CdSe [3] photoresistors is severely restricted in Europe due to the RoHS ban on cadmium.

Lead sulfide (PbS) and indium antimonide (InSb) LDRs (light-dependent resistors) are used for the mid-infrared spectral region. Ge:Cu photoconductors are among the best far-infrared detectors available, and are used for infrared astronomy and infrared spectroscopy.

See also

Related Research Articles

A PIN diode is a diode with a wide, undoped intrinsic semiconductor region between a p-type semiconductor and an n-type semiconductor region. The p-type and n-type regions are typically heavily doped because they are used for ohmic contacts.

Bolometer device for measuring the power of incident electromagnetic radiation via the heating of a material with a temperature-dependent electrical resistance

A bolometer is a device for measuring the power of incident electromagnetic radiation via the heating of a material with a temperature-dependent electrical resistance. It was invented in 1878 by the American astronomer Samuel Pierpont Langley.

Band gap energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist; energy difference (in electron volts) between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band in insulators and semiconductors

In solid-state physics, a band gap, also called an energy gap or bandgap, is an energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist. In graphs of the electronic band structure of solids, the band gap generally refers to the energy difference between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band in insulators and semiconductors. It is the energy required to promote a valence electron bound to an atom to become a conduction electron, which is free to move within the crystal lattice and serve as a charge carrier to conduct electric current. It is closely related to the HOMO/LUMO gap in chemistry. If the valence band is completely full and the conduction band is completely empty, then electrons cannot move in the solid; however, if some electrons transfer from the valence to the conduction band, then current can flow. Therefore, the band gap is a major factor determining the electrical conductivity of a solid. Substances with large band gaps are generally insulators, those with smaller band gaps are semiconductors, while conductors either have very small band gaps or none, because the valence and conduction bands overlap.

This article is about ionizing radiation detectors. For information about semiconductor detectors in radio, see Detector (radio), Crystal detector, Semiconductor diodes, and Rectifier.

In semiconductor production, doping is the intentional introduction of impurities into an intrinsic semiconductor for the purpose of modulating its electrical, optical and structural properties. The doped material is referred to as an extrinsic semiconductor. A semiconductor doped to such high levels that it acts more like a conductor than a semiconductor is referred to as a degenerate semiconductor.

Lead(II) sulfide chemical compound

Lead(II) sulfide is an inorganic compound with the formula PbS. Galena is the principal ore and the most important compound of lead. It is a semiconducting material with niche uses.

Photodetector sensors of light or other electromagnetic energy

Photodetectors, also called photosensors, are sensors of light or other electromagnetic radiation. A photo detector has a p–n junction that converts light photons into current. The absorbed photons make electron–hole pairs in the depletion region. Photodiodes and photo transistors are a few examples of photo detectors. Solar cells convert some of the light energy absorbed into electrical energy.

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.

Mercury cadmium telluride alloy

Hg1−xCdxTe or mercury cadmium telluride is an chemical compound of cadmium telluride (CdTe) and mercury telluride (HgTe) with a tunable bandgap spanning the shortwave infrared to the very long wave infrared regions. The amount of cadmium (Cd) in the alloy can be chosen so as to tune the optical absorption of the material to the desired infrared wavelength. CdTe is a semiconductor with a bandgap of approximately 1.5 electronvolts (eV) at room temperature. HgTe is a semimetal, which means that its bandgap energy is zero. Mixing these two substances allows one to obtain any bandgap between 0 and 1.5 eV.


An intrinsic(pure) semiconductor, also called an undoped semiconductor or i-type semiconductor, is a pure semiconductor without any significant dopant species present. The number of charge carriers is therefore determined by the properties of the material itself instead of the amount of impurities. In intrinsic semiconductors the number of excited electrons and the number of holes are equal: n = p. This may even be the case after doping the semiconductor, though only if it is doped with both donors and acceptors equally. In this case, n = p still holds, and the semiconductor remains intrinsic, though doped.

Infrared detector

An infrared detector is a detector that reacts to infrared (IR) radiation. The two main types of detectors are thermal and photonic (photodetectors).

An extrinsic semiconductor is one that has been doped; during manufacture of the semiconductor crystal a trace element or chemical called a doping agent has been incorporated chemically into the crystal, for the purpose of giving it different electrical properties than the pure semiconductor crystal, which is called an intrinsic semiconductor. In an extrinsic semiconductor it is these foreign dopant atoms in the crystal lattice that mainly provide the charge carriers which carry electric current through the crystal. The doping agents used are of two types, resulting in two types of extrinsic semiconductor. An electron donor dopant is an atom which, when incorporated in the crystal, releases a mobile conduction electron into the crystal lattice. An extrinsic semiconductor which has been doped with electron donor atoms is called an n-type semiconductor, because the majority of charge carriers in the crystal are negative electrons. An electron acceptor dopant is an atom which accepts an electron from the lattice, creating a vacancy where an electron should be called a hole which can move through the crystal like a positively charged particle. An extrinsic semiconductor which has been doped with electron acceptor atoms is called a p-type semiconductor, because the majority of charge carriers in the crystal are positive holes.

Transition-edge sensor type of cryogenic energy sensor or cryogenic particle detector

A transition-edge sensor (TES) is a type of cryogenic energy sensor or cryogenic particle detector that exploits the strongly temperature-dependent resistance of the superconducting phase transition.

In phosphors and scintillators, the activator is the element added as dopant to the crystal of the material to create desired type of nonhomogeneities.

Resistive opto-isolator

Resistive opto-isolator (RO), also called photoresistive opto-isolator, vactrol, analog opto-isolator or lamp-coupled photocell, is an optoelectronic device consisting of a source and detector of light, which are optically coupled and electrically isolated from each other. The light source is usually a light-emitting diode (LED), a miniature incandescent lamp, or sometimes a neon lamp, whereas the detector is a semiconductor-based photoresistor made of cadmium selenide (CdSe) or cadmium sulfide (CdS). The source and detector are coupled through a transparent glue or through the air.

References

  1. Diffenderfes, Robert (2005). Electronic Devices: System and Applications. New Delhi: Delimar. p. 480. ISBN   978-1401835149.
  2. "Photo resistor - Light Dependent Resistor (LDR) » Resistor Guide". resistorguide.com. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  3. "Silonex: TO-18 photocells on ceramic substrate" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 April 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013.