Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT) - What Is It?
Bipolar transistors are so named because they conduct by using both majority and minority carriers. The bipolar junction transistor, the first type of transistor to be mass-produced, is a combination of two junction diodes, and is formed of either a thin layer of p-type semiconductor sandwiched between two n-type semiconductors (an n–p–n transistor), or a thin layer of n-type semiconductor sandwiched between two p-type semiconductors (a p–n–p transistor). This construction produces two p–n junctions: a base–emitter junction and a base–collector junction, separated by a thin region of semiconductor known as the base region (two junction diodes wired together without sharing an intervening semiconducting region will not make a transistor).
BJTs have three terminals, corresponding to the three layers of semiconductor—an emitter, a base, and a collector. They are useful in amplifiers because the currents at the emitter and collector are controllable by a relatively small base current. In an n–p–n transistor operating in the active region, the emitter–base junction is forward biased (electrons and holes recombine at the junction), and the base-collector junction is reverse biased (electrons and holes are formed at, and move away from the junction), and electrons are injected into the base region. Because the base is narrow, most of these electrons will diffuse into the reverse-biased base–collector junction and be swept into the collector; perhaps one-hundredth of the electrons will recombine in the base, which is the dominant mechanism in the base current. As well, as the base is lightly doped (in comparison to the emitter and collector regions), recombination rates are low, permitting more carriers to diffuse across the base region. By controlling the number of electrons that can leave the base, the number of electrons entering the collector can be controlled..Collector current is approximately β (common-emitter current gain) times the base current. It is typically greater than 100 for small-signal transistors but can be smaller in transistors designed for high-power applications.
Unlike the field-effect transistor (see below), the BJT is a low-input-impedance device. Also, as the base–emitter voltage (VBE) is increased the base–emitter current and hence the collector–emitter current (ICE) increase exponentially according to the Shockley diode model and the Ebers-Moll model. Because of this exponential relationship, the BJT has a higher transconductance than the FET.
Bipolar transistors can be made to conduct by exposure to light, because absorption of photons in the base region generates a photocurrent that acts as a base current; the collector current is approximately β times the photocurrent. Devices designed for this purpose have a transparent window in the package and are called phototransistors.