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The point-contact transistor was the first type of transistor to be successfully demonstrated. It was developed by research scientists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain at Bell Laboratories in December 1947.They worked in a group led by physicist William Shockley. The group had been working together on experiments and theories of electric field effects in solid state materials, with the aim of replacing vacuum tubes with a smaller device that consumed less 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.
John Bardeen was an American physicist and electrical engineer. He is the only person to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics twice: first in 1956 with William Shockley and Walter Brattain for the invention of the transistor; and again in 1972 with Leon N Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity known as the BCS theory.
Walter Houser Brattain was an American physicist at Bell Labs who, along with fellow scientists John Bardeen and William Shockley, invented the point-contact transistor in December 1947. They shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for their invention. Brattain devoted much of his life to research on surface states.
The critical experiment, carried out on December 16, 1947, consisted of a block of germanium, a semiconductor, with two very closely spaced gold contacts held against it by a spring. Brattain attached a small strip of gold foil over the point of a plastic triangle — a configuration which is essentially a point-contact diode. He then carefully sliced through the gold at the tip of the triangle. This produced two electrically isolated gold contacts very close to each other.
Germanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ge and atomic number 32. It is a lustrous, hard-brittle, grayish-white metalloid in the carbon group, chemically similar to its group neighbours silicon and tin. Pure germanium is a semiconductor with an appearance similar to elemental silicon. Like silicon, germanium naturally reacts and forms complexes with oxygen in nature.
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 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 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.
The piece of germanium used had a surface layer with an excess of electrons. When an electric signal traveled in through the gold foil, it injected holes (points which lack electrons). This created a thin layer which had a scarcity of electrons.
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.
A small positive current applied to one of the two contacts had an influence on the current which flowed between the other contact and the base upon which the block of germanium was mounted. In fact, a small change in the first contact current caused a greater change in the second contact current, thus it was an amplifier. The first contact is the "emitter" and the second contact is the "collector". The low-current input terminal into the point-contact transistor is the emitter, while the output high current terminals are the base and collector. This differs from the later type of bipolar junction transistor invented in 1951 that operates as transistors still do, with the low current input terminal as the base and the two high current output terminals are the emitter and collector.
A bipolar junction transistor is a type of transistor that uses both electrons and holes as charge carriers.
The point-contact transistor was commercialized and sold by Western Electric and others but was soon superseded by the bipolar junction transistor, which was easier to manufacture and more rugged.
Western Electric Company was an American electrical engineering and manufacturing company that served as the primary supplier to AT&T from 1881 to 1996, and to the local Bell Operating Companies until 1984. The company was responsible for many technological innovations and seminal developments in industrial management. It also served as the purchasing agent for the member companies of the Bell System.
While point-contact transistors usually worked fine when the metal contacts were simply placed close together on the germanium base crystal, it was desirable to obtain as high an α current gain as possible.
To obtain a higher α current gain in a point-contact transistor, a brief high-current pulse was used to modify the properties of the collector point of contact, a technique called 'electrical forming'. Usually this was done by charging a capacitor of a specified value to a specified voltage then discharging it between the collector and the base electrodes. Forming had a significant failure rate, so many commercial encapsulated transistors had to be discarded. While the effects of forming were understood empirically, the exact physics of the process could never be adequately studied and thus no clear theory was ever developed to explain it or provide guidance on improving it.
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.
Unlike later semiconductor devices, it was possible for an amateur to make a point-contact transistor, starting with a germanium point-contact diode as a source of material (even a burnt-out diode could be used; and the transistor could be re-formed if damaged, several times if necessary).
Some characteristics of point-contact transistors differ from the later junction transistor:
William Bradford Shockley Jr. was an American physicist and inventor. Shockley was the manager of a research group at Bell Labs that included John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. The three scientists were jointly awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for "their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect".
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.
In electronics, a multi-transistor configuration called darlington pair, or the Darlington configuration is a compound structure of a particular design made by two bipolar transistors connected in such a way that the current amplified by the first transistor is amplified further by the second one. This configuration gives a much higher current gain than each transistor taken separately.
Resistor–transistor logic (RTL) is a class of digital circuits built using resistors as the input network and bipolar junction transistors (BJTs) as switching devices. RTL is the earliest class of transistorized digital logic circuit used; other classes include diode–transistor logic (DTL) and transistor–transistor logic (TTL). RTL circuits were first constructed with discrete components, but in 1961 it became the first digital logic family to be produced as a monolithic integrated circuit. RTL integrated circuits were used in the Apollo Guidance Computer, whose design was begun in 1961 and which first flew in 1966.
In electronics, the Gummel plot is the combined plot of the base and collector electric currents, and , of a bipolar transistor vs. the base-emitter voltage, , on a semi-logarithmic scale. This plot is very useful in device characterization because it reflects on the quality of the emitter–base junction while the base–collector bias, , is kept constant.
The heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) is a type of bipolar junction transistor (BJT) which uses differing semiconductor materials for the emitter and base regions, creating a heterojunction. The HBT improves on the BJT in that it can handle signals of very high frequencies, up to several hundred GHz. It is commonly used in modern ultrafast circuits, mostly radio-frequency (RF) systems, and in applications requiring a high power efficiency, such as RF power amplifiers in cellular phones. The idea of employing a heterojunction is as old as the conventional BJT, dating back to a patent from 1951. Detailed theory of heterojunction bipolar transistor was developed by Herbert Kroemer in 1957.
An avalanche transistor is a bipolar junction transistor designed for operation in the region of its collector-current/collector-to-emitter voltage characteristics beyond the collector-to-emitter breakdown voltage, called avalanche breakdown region. This region is characterized by avalanche breakdown, which is a phenomenon similar to Townsend discharge for gases, and negative differential resistance. Operation in the avalanche breakdown region is called avalanche-mode operation: it gives avalanche transistors the ability to switch very high currents with less than a nanosecond rise and fall times. Transistors not specifically designed for the purpose can have reasonably consistent avalanche properties; for example 82% of samples of the 15V high-speed switch 2N2369, manufactured over a 12-year period, were capable of generating avalanche breakdown pulses with rise time of 350 ps or less, using a 90V power supply as Jim Williams writes.
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.
The germanium alloy-junction transistor, or alloy transistor, was an early type of bipolar junction transistor, developed at General Electric and RCA in 1951 as an improvement over the earlier grown-junction transistor.
The drift-field transistor, also called the drift transistor or graded base transistor, is a type of high-speed bipolar junction transistor having a doping-engineered electric field in the base to reduce the charge carrier base transit time.
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.
In solid-state physics, a metal–semiconductor (M–S) junction is a type of electrical junction in which a metal comes in close contact with a semiconductor material. It is the oldest practical semiconductor device. M–S junctions can either be rectifying or non-rectifying. The rectifying metal–semiconductor junction forms a Schottky barrier, making a device known as a Schottky diode, while the non-rectifying junction is called an ohmic contact.
A diode-connected transistor is a method of creating a two-terminal rectifying device out of a three-terminal transistor. A characteristic of diode-connected transistors is that they are always in the saturation region for metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) and junction-gate field-effect transistors (JFETs), and in the active region for bipolar junction transistors (BJTs).
Baker clamp is a generic name for a class of electronic circuits that reduce the storage time of a switching bipolar junction transistor (BJT) by applying a nonlinear negative feedback through various kinds of diodes. The reason for slow turn-off times of saturated BJTs is the stored charge in the base. It must be removed before the transistor will turn off since the storage time is a limiting factor of using bipolar transistors and IGBTs in fast switching applications. The diode-based Baker clamps prevent the transistor from saturating and thereby accumulating a lot of stored charge.
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.
John Northrup Shive was an American physicist and inventor. He made notable contributions in electronic engineering and solid-state physics during the early days of transistor development at Bell Laboratories. In particular, he produced experimental evidence that holes could diffuse through bulk germanium, and not just along the surface as previously thought. This paved the way from Bardeen and Brattain's point-contact transistor to Shockley's more-robust junction transistor. Shive is best known for inventing the phototransistor in 1948, and for the Shive wave machine in 1959.
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.