A Tunnel Diode, also known as Esaki diode, is a semiconductor device that operates based on a phenomenon called tunneling. It exhibits a region of negative differential resistance (NDR) in its current-voltage (I-V) characteristics, making it unique among other diodes. The negative resistance behavior of a Tunnel Diode is what enables it to function as a negative resistance device.
Here's a simplified explanation of how it works:
Tunneling Effect: In a regular diode, electrons flow from the N-type region to the P-type region due to the presence of a forward bias voltage. In a Tunnel Diode, the doping levels are such that a small number of electrons can tunnel through the thin energy barrier in the opposite direction, from the P-type region to the N-type region, even in the absence of any voltage (or under reverse bias). This tunneling effect allows a small reverse current to flow even at low reverse voltages.
Negative Differential Resistance (NDR): As the reverse voltage is increased, the tunneling effect becomes more pronounced. The reverse current increases rapidly with a small increase in the reverse voltage. At a certain point, the diode enters the NDR region, where an increase in voltage leads to a decrease in current. This is the opposite behavior of regular diodes, which have a positive resistance and exhibit an increase in current with an increase in voltage.
Stable and Unstable Regions: The NDR region has two parts: a stable region and an unstable region. In the stable region, the voltage-current relationship is negative resistance, meaning the diode behaves as a negative resistance device. If connected in a circuit with a load, this negative resistance can cause an increase in the overall current through the circuit, leading to a phenomenon known as negative resistance amplification.
Limitations: However, in the unstable region, the diode's negative resistance property can lead to instability and hysteresis, making it unsuitable for some applications.
Due to their unique characteristics, Tunnel Diodes have found applications in specific electronic circuits, such as oscillators, amplifiers, and fast-switching circuits. However, their usage has become less prevalent over time due to the advancements in semiconductor technology and the introduction of more efficient and versatile devices.