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PNPN Diode or Shockley Diode

April 27, 2015 By Administrator Leave a Comment

Contents [hide]

1 Introduction to Shockley Diode

2 Working of Shockley Diode
3 Shockley Diode Applications
4 Shockley Diode used as Relaxation Oscillator
5 Shockley Diode used as Trigger Switch
6 Related Articles

Even though the shockley diode is not available commercially and it is not particularly useful, the
model technique of shockley diode is very useful in creating other types of thyristors like SCR, DIAC
and TRIAC etc. It is the first member of thyristor family devices and it is named after the inventor
William Bradford Shockley. Once we understand this basic operation of shockley diode, we will easily
understand the next concepts covered in thyristors. Let us know about the shockley diode working and

Introduction to Shockley Diode

The Shockley diode or PNPN diode is a four layer (P-N-P-N), two terminals (namely anode and
cathode) semiconductor switching device. It is also called as four layer diode. The shockley diode
functions like a normal diode without any trigger inputs, in reverse biased condition, no current flows
through it and in forward biased condition current flows through it when the voltage across it is more
than the break over voltage of it. These diodes have only two states, either ON or OFF thats why these
are classified as a thyristors. The basic construction, two transistor analogy and symbol of the shockley
diode are shown in below figure.

The shockley diode is constructed by joining the four layers to form PNPN junction. The equivalent

circuit of this diode using two transistors is shown in above figure where in the collector of a transistor
T1 is connected to the base of T2. The junction J1 is formed at the emitter base junction of T1, J2 is at
common connected base collector junction between T1 and T2, and the J3 is at base emitter junction of
T2. Therefore, as the base emitter junctions, J1 and J3 must be forward biased and as a collector base
junction, J2 must be reverse biased for linear operation.
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Working of Shockley Diode

As discussed above, the shockley diode consists of three junctions J1, J2 and J3. When the voltage is
applied to the shockley diode in such a way that anode is made positive with respect to cathode,
junctions J1 and J3 are forward biased and J2 is reverse biased. Until the voltage across the diode is
less than the break over voltage, as an open switch shockley diode exhibits a very high resistance and
allows no current to flow through it. Once the break over voltage is reached (as the forward voltage is
increased), it exhibits a very low resistance due to the breakdown of junction J2.
Therefore, it acts like a short circuit and allows the current to flow until the current reaches to the
holding current level of the diode. This forward current flow through the diode is depends on the
voltage applied and the external load resistance. The below figure shows the VI characteristics of
shockley diode for conducting and non conducting states where ON-state current flows only when the
voltage is more than the break over voltage VBO.

When the anode is made negative with respect to the cathode, junctions J1 and J3 are reverse biased
and junction J2 is forward biased. If the reverse bias voltage is increased (beyond the breakdown
voltage of the shockley diode), J1 and J3 are reverse biased, then the reverse current will flow through
the diode as shown in above figure. This reverse current produces the heat, further this could ruin the
entire diode. Therefore, shockley diode should never be operated in reverse biased condition with a
voltage equal to the reverse breakdown voltage.
Once the shockley diode is ON it acts like a closed switch offer a very low resistance to the current
flow. To turn OFF the diode (or to act like an open switch), the applied voltage must be reduced to a

value such that current flowing through the diode is less than the holding current IH of the diode. In
this state, junction J2 comes from reverse breakdown state and restores its high resistance value.
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Shockley Diode Applications

Shockley diodes are used mainly for switching applications. The two main important applications of
shockley diode as relaxation oscillator and trigger switch are discussed below.

Shockley Diode used as Relaxation Oscillator

The below figure shows the relaxation oscillator circuit using a shockley diode. In this the diode is
connected across the capacitor power with a power supply battery.

When the battery voltage is applied to the circuit, the capacitor charges through a resistance R. When
the applied voltage or voltage across the capacitor is more than the break over voltage of shockley
diode, it becomes turned ON and acts as a Switch. This causes rapidly to discharge the capacitor
through the diode. And when the current through the diode is less than the holding current of the diode,
the diode becomes turned OFF and capacitor charges again. The voltage across the capacitor is shown
below figure where the voltage at the reference is more than zero volts because the capacitor will not
discharge completely.

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Shockley Diode used as Trigger Switch

Most common applications of shockley diode are switching circuits , to turn ON the SCR. In the below
circuit SCR is triggered by the shockley diode. The Resistive and capacitor RC network is fed with a
DC supply which drives the shockley diode.

When the VDC is applied, shockley is forward biased and also capacitor starts charging through the
resistance. When the charging voltage of the capacitor reaches to the break over voltage of the diode,
diode starts conducting and the capacitor starts discharging through the diode. This conduction of
shockley diode drives the SCR into turn ON state, then the buzzer gives an alarm. Once the SCR is
turned ON it will remain in the latching or ON state until the power is removed or commutation
techniques applied to SCR. So there is no effect of the gate or shockley diode circuit to make SCR
OFF. However the triggering times of SCR is controlled by selecting proper values of capacitor and