Diodes are the fourth basic discrete component listed in These and transistors are both nonlinear devices. Nonlinear
devices are necessary for electrical communications.
There are four types of diodes used in the NorCal 40A:
1. Silicon – used for rectification, electronic switching.
2. Schottky – used for reversed power supply voltage protection
and in the AGC.
3. Zener – used for overload voltage protection of the power
4. Varactor – used to control the transceiver frequency (VFO).
Most of these diodes are formed from a junction of doped
semiconductors, which we will discuss next. pn Junction
The basic operation of the pn junction should be familiar to you:
The diode has four characteristic regions
A typical pn junction is formed as
(1) n-type is silicon doped with pentavalent impurity elements
such as phosphorus. These atoms displace silicon atoms
(having four electrons) with phosphorous atoms (having
five electrons). Consequently, one extra electron is
available to move through the lattice.
(2) p-type is silicon doped with trivalent impurity elements
such as boron. Consequently, the regular silicon lattice has
“holes,” or locations in the lattice that can accept a free
electron. This “hole” can also move through the lattice.
Nevertheless, the entire n-type and p-type regions remain charge
neutral at all times! The dopant atoms are also charge neutral.
At room temperature, thermal ionization breaks some covalent
bonds. In n-type materials we then have free electrons while in
p-type materials we have free holes. Depletion Region
When the p- and n-type materials are placed in contact (forming
a junction), two things happen in the contact region:
(1) Holes diffuse across the junction (diffuse because the hole
concentration is higher in p type) into the n-type region and
recombine with majority electrons.
With this electron now “gone,” we have “uncovered” a
positive charge from the dopant atom in the n-type region.
This forms a positively charged region.
(2) Similarly, the majority carriers in the n-type region
(electrons) diffuse across the junction and recombine with
majority holes in the p-type region. This uncovers negative
This contact region between the p and n regions now has a
bound volume charge density. It is called the depletion region.
This may seem an unexpected name since only in this region is
there a net volume charge density (aka space charge)! Reverse and Forward Biased Junction
There are two important states for a pn junction, the reversed
biased and forward biased states:
(1) Reversed biased state:
The electric field produced by the battery Ebattery adds to the
electric field of the space charge E in the depletion region.
This increases the width of the depletion region.
Little current flows (only the drift current Is) unless the
junction breaks down. This occurs when Ebattery is strong
enough to strip electrons from the covalent bonds of the
atoms, which are then swept across the junction.
(2) Forward biased state:
When V is large enough so that Ebattery > E, then (i) holes
are swept from the p to n regions, and (ii) electrons are
swept from the n to p regions. We now have current! Overview of the Four Diode Types
1. Silicon – small signal diode. Typical of those used in the EE
labs. You’ll be using a 1N4148 in the NorCal 40A. (Note:
the “1N” refers to diodes, while “2N” refers to transistors.)
2. Schottky – made from a contact of metal and doped silicon:
There are two main differences between Schottky and silicon
a. The forward bias voltage drop ? 0.2 V, which is lower
than the 0.6 to 0.7 V for silicon diodes.
b. There is no time delay associated with minority carrier
accumulation at the junction. Schottky operation is based
on majority charge carriers injected into the metal from
3. Zener – These transistors are operated in the reverse
breakdown region to keep the voltage from exceeding a
prescribed value. In the NorCal 40A, a 1N4753A, 36-V Zener (D12) appears across the output of the power amplifier transistor Q7:
From the Q7 datasheet (p. 371), the maximum output
voltage VCEO = 40 V. Consequently, when reversed biased
D12 keeps Q7 from exceeding 36 V (and hence VCEO) and
4. Varactor – when reversed biased, the capacitance of these
diodes can be predictably varied by changing the reverse
bias voltage. In other words, these are voltage-controlled
The NorCal 40A uses a varactor in the VFO to control the
operating frequency of the transceiver:
From the data sheet for the MVAM108 on p. 363, CT varies
from 500 pF to 40 pF as V varies from –1 to –9 V,
respectively. (Breakdown occurs at –15 V, which would not
be a desirable mode of operation for a varactor.) Modulation/Demodulation
As we’ve just seen, there are many applications for diodes in
electronics. Another common application for silicon diodes is
the demodulation of AM (amplitude modulated) signals.
An AM signal can be mathematically expressed as
An example plot of such a waveform is shown in
Modulation is the process of varying the radio frequency (RF)
carrier in some manner as a means of conveying information.
Here the information is conveyed in the amplitude of the carrier,
which is why this is called amplitude modulation.
In the NorCal 40A, the carrier frequency f ? 7 MHz.
In order for us to hear the information that is being conveyed by
the RF signal, we must demodulate the signal.
A simple detector (an example of a demodulator) is shown in
Actually, this is a nice example of a direct conversion receiver
as discussed in A detector is one “stage” or section in a receiver in which themodulation is recovered or extracted from the RF signal. (Note that the NorCal 40A is a superhet receiver so the
demodulation is a more complicated circuit than this simple
diode detector.) We begin with the modulated waveform in Fig. 1 fed to adetector as Vin. If ? = RC is much less than Tm and much greater than Tc
T c<?? <?Tm
then Vout will appear as