Step recovery diode

Last updated
Signal of a SRD frequency comb generator (HP 33003A) Srd hp33003 EN.png
Signal of a SRD frequency comb generator (HP 33003A)
Circuit Symbol SDR Symbol.svg
Circuit Symbol

In electronics, a step recovery diode (SRD) is a semiconductor junction diode having the ability to generate extremely short pulses. It is also called snap-off diode or charge-storage diode or (much less frequently) memory varactor , and has a variety of uses in microwave electronics as pulse generator or parametric amplifier.

Contents

When diodes switch from forward conduction to reverse cut-off, a reverse current flows briefly as stored charge is removed. It is the abruptness with which this reverse current ceases which characterises the step recovery diode.

Historical note

The first published paper on the SRD is ( Boff, Moll & Shen 1960 ): the authors start the brief survey stating that "the recovery characteristics of certain types of pn-junction diodes exhibit a discontinuity which may be used to advantage for the generation of harmonics or for the production of millimicrosecond pulses". They also refer that they first observed this phenomenon in February, 1959

Operating the SRD

Physical principles

The main phenomenon used in SRDs is the storage of electric charge during forward conduction, which is present in all semiconductor junction diodes and is due to finite lifetime of minority carriers in semiconductors. Assume that the SRD is forward biased and in steady state i.e. the anode bias current does not change with time: since charge transport in a junction diode is mainly due to diffusion, i.e. to a non constant spatial charge carrier density caused by bias voltage, a charge Qs is stored in the device. This stored charge depends on

  1. Intensity of the forward anode currentIA flowing in the device during its steady state.
  2. Minority carrier lifetimeτ, i.e. the mean time a free charge carrier moves inside a semiconductor region before recombining.

Quantitatively, if the steady state of forward conduction lasts for a time much greater than τ, the stored charge has the following approximate expression

Now suppose that the voltage bias abruptly changes, switching from its stationary positive value to a higher magnitude constant negative value: then, since a certain amount of charge has been stored during forward conduction, diode resistance is still low (i.e. the anode-to-cathode voltage VAK has nearly the same forward conduction value). Anode current does not cease but reverses its polarity (i.e. the direction of its flow) and stored charge Qs starts to flow out of the device at an almost constant rate IR. All the stored charge is thus removed in a certain amount of time: this time is the storage time tS and its approximate expression is

When all stored charge has been removed, diode resistance suddenly changes, rising to its cut-off value at reverse bias within a time tTr, the transition time: this behavior can be used to produce pulses with rise time equal to this time.

Operation of the Drift Step Recovery Diode (DSRD)

The Drift Step Recovery Diode (DSRD) was discovered by Russian scientists in 1981 (Grekhov et al., 1981). The principle of the DSRD operation is similar to the SRD, with one essential difference - the forward pumping current should be pulsed, not continuous, because drift diodes function with slow carriers.

The principle of DSRD operation can be explained as follows: A short pulse of current is applied in the forward direction of the DSRD effectively "pumping" the P-N junction, or in other words, “charging” the P-N junction capacitively. When the current direction reverses, the accumulated charges are removed from the base region.

As soon as the accumulated charge decreases to zero, the diode opens rapidly. A high voltage spike can appear due to the self-induction of the diode circuit. The larger the commutation current and the shorter the transition from forward to reverse conduction, the higher the pulse amplitude and efficiency of the pulse generator (Kardo-Sysoev et al., 1997).

Usages

See also

Related Research Articles

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 also used.

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.

Bipolar junction transistor transistor that uses both electrons and holes as charge carriers

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

Zener diode diode that allows current to flow in the reverse direction at a specific voltage

A Zener diode is a type of diode that allows current to flow in the conventional manner - from its anode to its cathode i.e. when the anode is positive with respect to the cathode. When the voltage across the terminals is reversed and the potential reaches the Zener voltage, the junction will breakdown and current will flow in the reverse direction - a desired characteristic. This effect is known as the Zener effect, after Clarence Zener, who first described the phenomenon. Zener diodes are manufactured with a great variety of Zener voltages (Vz) and some are even variable.

Thyristor semiconductor device with three p-n junctions, having two steady states: off (non-conducting) and on (conducting) and three terminals.

A thyristor is a solid-state semiconductor device with four layers of alternating P- and N-type materials. It acts exclusively as a bistable switch, conducting when the gate receives a current trigger, and continuing to conduct until the voltage across the device is reversed biased, or until the voltage is removed. There are two designs, differing in what triggers the conducting state. In a three-lead thyristor, a small current on its Gate lead controls the larger current of the Anode to Cathode path. In a two-lead thyristor, conduction begins when the potential difference between the Anode and Cathode themselves is sufficiently large.

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.

Varicap semiconductor diode used as voltage-controlled capacitor

In electronics, a varicap diode, varactor diode, variable capacitance diode, variable reactance diode or tuning diode is a type of diode designed to exploit the voltage-dependent capacitance of a reverse-biased p–n junction.

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.

Silicon controlled rectifier semiconductor electronic device with three p-n junctions, mainly used in devices where the control of high power is demanded

A silicon controlled rectifier or semiconductor controlled rectifier is a four-layer solid-state current-controlling device. The principle of four-layer p–n–p–n switching was developed by Moll, Tanenbaum, Goldey and Holonyak of Bell Laboratories in 1956. The practical demonstration of silicon controlled switching and detailed theoretical behavior of a device in agreement with the experimental results was presented by Dr Ian M. Mackintosh of Bell Laboratories in January 1958. The name "silicon controlled rectifier" is General Electric's trade name for a type of thyristor. The SCR was developed by a team of power engineers led by Gordon Hall and commercialized by Frank W. "Bill" Gutzwiller in 1957.

TRIAC generic trademark for a three-terminal thyristor that conducts current in either direction when triggered

TRIAC is a generic trademark for a three terminal electronic component that conducts current in either direction when triggered. Its formal name is bidirectional triode thyristor or bilateral triode thyristor. A thyristor is analogous to a relay in that a small voltage induced current can control a much larger voltage and current. The illustration on the right shows the circuit symbol for a TRIAC where "A1" is Anode 1, "A2" is Anode 2, and "G" is Gate. Anode 1 and Anode 2 are normally termed Main Terminal 1 (MT1) and Main Terminal 2 (MT2) respectively.

Tunnel diode type of semiconductor diode

A tunnel diode or Esaki diode is a type of semiconductor diode that has effectively "negative resistance" due to the quantum mechanical effect called tunneling. It was invented in August 1957 by Leo Esaki, Yuriko Kurose, and Takashi Suzuki when they were working at Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, now known as Sony. In 1973, Esaki received the Nobel Prize in Physics, jointly with Brian Josephson, for discovering the electron tunneling effect used in these diodes. Robert Noyce independently devised the idea of a tunnel diode while working for William Shockley, but was discouraged from pursuing it. Tunnel diodes were first manufactured by Sony in 1957, followed by General Electric and other companies from about 1960, and are still made in low volume today.

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.

Single-photon avalanche diode solid-state photodetector

A single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) is a solid-state photodetector in which a photon-generated carrier can trigger a short-duration but relatively large avalanche current. This avalanche is created through a mechanism called impact ionization, whereby carriers are accelerated to high kinetic energies through a large potential gradient (voltage). If the kinetic energy of a carrier is sufficient further carriers are liberated from the atomic lattice. The number of carriers thus increases exponentially from, in some cases, as few as a single carrier. This mechanism was observed and modeled by John Townsend for trace-gas vacuum tubes, becoming known as a Townsend discharge, and later being attributed to solid-state breakdown by K. McAfee. This device is able to detect low-intensity ionizing radiation, including: gamma, X-ray, beta, and alpha-particle radiation along with electromagnetic signals in the UV, Visible and IR. SPADs are also able to distinguish the arrival times of events (photons) with a timing jitter of a few tens of picoseconds.

Diffusion Capacitance is the capacitance due to transport of charge carriers between two terminals of a device, for example, the diffusion of carriers from anode to cathode in forward bias mode of a diode or from emitter to baseforward-biased junction for a transistor. In a semiconductor device with a current flowing through it at a particular moment there is necessarily some charge in the process of transit through the device. If the applied voltage changes to a different value and the current changes to a different value, a different amount of charge will be in transit in the new circumstances. The change in the amount of transiting charge divided by the change in the voltage causing it is the diffusion capacitance. The adjective "diffusion" is used because the original use of this term was for junction diodes, where the charge transport was via the diffusion mechanism. See Fick's laws of diffusion.

The saturation current, more accurately, the reverse saturation current, is that part of the reverse current in a semiconductor diode caused by diffusion of minority carriers from the neutral regions to the depletion region. This current is almost independent of the reverse voltage.

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.

A noise-figure meter is an instrument for measuring the noise figure of an amplifier, mixer, or similar device. An example instrument is the 1983-era Agilent 8970A.

Noise generator circuit that produces electrical noise

A noise generator is a circuit that produces electrical noise. Noise generators are used to test signals for measuring noise figure, frequency response, and other parameters. Noise generators are also used for generating random numbers.

Zener effect type of electrical breakdown

In electronics, the Zener effect is a type of electrical breakdown, discovered by Clarence Melvin Zener. It occurs in a reverse biased p-n diode when the electric field enables tunneling of electrons from the valence to the conduction band of a semiconductor, leading to numerous free minority carriers which suddenly increase the reverse current.

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

References

The following two books contain a comprehensive analysis of the theory of non-equilibrium charge transport in semiconductor diodes, and give also an overview of applications (at least up to the end of the seventies).

The following application notes deals extensively with practical circuits and applications using SRDs.

  1. "Microsemi | Semiconductor & System Solutions | Power Matters".
  2. "Designing a Step-Recovery-Diode-Based Comb Generator". 2017-03-08.
  3. http://hpmemoryproject.org/an/pdf/an_913.pdf
  4. "Designing a Step-Recovery-Diode-Based Comb Generator". 2017-03-08.
  5. "IMST GmbH" (PDF).
  6. "Sampling phase detector".