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Electronic Devices & Circuits Lab Experiments

V-I Characteristics of p-n-Junction Diode


V-I characteristics of p-n-Junction Diode


  1. To understand the basic concepts of semiconductors.
  2. To study p type and n type semiconductor and potential barrier.
  3. To understand forward and reverse biasing.
  4. Perform the experiment on bread board and the trainer kit and plot the graph of V-I characteristics of PN junction diode.
  5. Components and equipments required:single strand cable, diode, resistors, bread board, multimeter, connecting wires, CRO, voltage source.

    General Instructions:You will plan for Experiment after self study of Theory given below, before entering in the Lab.


    PN Junction DiodeThe effect described in the previous tutorial is achieved without any external voltage being applied to the actual PN junction resulting in the junction being in a state of equilibrium. However, if we were to make electrical connections at the ends of both the N-type and the P-type materials and then connect them to a battery source, an additional energy source now exists to overcome the barrier resulting in free charges being able to cross the depletion region from one side to the other. The behavior of the PN junction with regards to the potential barrier width produces an asymmetrical conducting two terminal device, better known as the Junction Diode.

    A diode is one of the simplest semiconductor devices, which has the characteristic of passing current in one direction only. However, unlike a resistor, a diode does not behave linearly with respect to the applied voltage as the diode has an exponential I-V relationship and therefore we cannot described its operation by simply using an equation such as Ohm's law. If a suitable positive voltage (forward bias) is applied between the two ends of the PN junction, it can supply free electrons and holes with the extra energy they require to cross the junction as the width of the depletion layer around the PN junction is decreased. By applying a negative voltage (reverse bias) results in the free charges being pulled away from the junction resulting in the depletion layer width being increased. This has the effect of increasing or decreasing the effective resistance of the junction itself allowing or blocking current flow through the diode.

    Then the depletion layer widens with an increase in the application of a reverse voltage and narrows with an increase in the application of a forward voltage. This is due to the differences in the electrical properties on the two sides of the PN junction resulting in physical changes taking place. One of the results produces rectification as seen in the PN junction diodes static I-V (current-voltage) characteristics. Rectification is shown by an asymmetrical current flow when the polarity of bias voltage is altered as shown below.


    But before we can use the PN junction as a practical device or as a rectifying device we need to firstly bias the junction, ie connect a voltage potential across it. On the voltage axis above, "Reverse Bias" refers to an external voltage potential which increases the potential barrier. An external voltage which decreases the potential barrier is said to act in the "Forward Bias" direction.

    There are two operating regions and three possible "biasing" conditions for the standard Junction Diode and these are:

    1. Reverse Bias - The voltage potential is connected negative, (-ve) to the P-type material and positive, (+ve) to the N-type material across the diode which has the effect of Increasing the PN-junction width.
    2. Forward Bias - The voltage potential is connected positive, (+ve) to the P-type material and negative, (-ve) to the N-type material across the diode which has the effect of Decreasing the PN-junction width.
    3. Forward Biased Junction DiodeWhen a diode is connected in a Forward Bias condition, a negative voltage is applied to the N-type material and a positive voltage is applied to the P-type material. If this external voltage becomes greater than the value of the potential barrier, approx. 0.7 volts for silicon and 0.3 volts for germanium, the potential barriers opposition will be overcome and current will start to flow. This is because the negative voltage pushes or repels electrons towards the junction giving them the energy to cross over and combine with the holes being pushed in the opposite direction towards the junction by the positive voltage. This results in a characteristics curve of zero current flowing up to this voltage point, called the "knee" on the static curves and then a high current flow through the diode with little increase in the external voltage as shown below.


      The application of a forward biasing voltage on the junction diode results in the depletion layer becoming very thin and narrow which represents a low impedance path through the junction thereby allowing high currents to flow. The point at which this sudden increase in current takes place is represented on the static I-V characteristics curve above as the "knee" point.

      This condition represents the low resistance path through the PN junction allowing very large currents to flow through the diode with only a small increase in bias voltage. The actual potential difference across the junction or diode is kept constant by the action of the depletion layer at approximately 0.3v for germanium and approximately 0.7v for silicon junction diodes. Since the diode can conduct "infinite" current above this knee point as it effectively becomes a short circuit, therefore resistors are used in series with the diode to limit its current flow. Exceeding its maximum forward current specification causes the device to dissipate more power in the form of heat than it was designed for resulting in a very quick failure of the device.

      Reverse Biased Junction DiodeWhen a diode is connected in a Reverse Bias condition, a positive voltage is applied to the N-type material and a negative voltage is applied to the P-type material. The positive voltage applied to the N-type material attracts electrons towards the positive electrode and away from the junction, while the holes in the P-type end are also attracted away from the junction towards the negative electrode. The net result is that the depletion layer grows wider due to a lack of electrons and holes and presents a high impedance path, almost an insulator. The result is that a high potential barrier is created thus preventing current from flowing through the semiconductor material.


        Forward bias:
      1. Make the connections as shown in fig.:
      2. Switch on the power supply.
      3. Now vary in small step the forward bias voltage and current readings on multimeter. Draw the graph between current and voltage.
      4. Reverse bias:
      5. Make the connection as shown in fig:
      6. Switch on the power supply.
      7. Observation:

        Forward biasing


        Observation Table

        S.No. V f I f (mA)

        Reverse biasing


        Observation Table

        S.No. V r I r (µA)

        Do and Don’ts to be strictly observed during experiment:

        Do (also go through the General Instructions):

        1. Before making the connection, identify the components leads, terminal or pins before making the connections.
        2. Before connecting the power supply to the circuit, measure voltage by voltmeter/multimeter.
        3. Use sufficiently long connecting wires, rather than joining two or three small ones.
        4. The circuit should be switched off before changing any connection.
        5. Don’ts:
        6. Avoid loose connections and short circuits on the bread board.
        7. Do not exceed the voltage while taking the readings.
        8. Any live terminal shouldn't be touched while supply is on.
        9. Outputs:Submit the graph as per observation table.