Transistors – Basics, Types & Baising Modes

Introduction to Transistor:

Earlier, the critical and important component of an electronic device was a vacuum tube; it is an electron tube used to control electric current. The vacuum tubes worked but they are bulky, require higher operating voltages, high power consumption, yield lower efficiency and cathode electron-emitting materials are used up in operation. So, that ended up as heat which shortened the life of the tube itself. To overcome these problems, John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley were invented a transistor at Bell Labs in the year of 1947. This new device was a much more elegant solution to overcome many of the fundamental limitations of vacuum tubes.

Transistor is a semiconductor device that can both conduct and insulate. A transistor can act as a switch and an amplifier. It converts audio waves into electronic waves and resistor, controlling electronic current. Transistors have very long life, smaller in size, can operate on lower voltage supplies for greater safety and required no filament current. The first transistor was fabricated with germanium. A transistor performs the same function as a vacuum tube triode, but using semiconductor junctions instead of heated electrodes in a vacuum chamber. It is the fundamental building block of modern electronic devices and found everywhere in modern electronic systems.

Transistor Basics:

A transistor is a three terminal device. Namely,

  • Base: This is responsible for activating the transistor.
  • Collector: This is the positive lead.
  • Emitter: This is the negative lead.

The basic idea behind a transistor is that it lets you control the flow of current through one channel by varying the intensity of a much smaller current that’s flowing through a second channel.

Types of Transistors:

There are two types of transistors in present; they are bipolar junction transistor (BJT), field effect transistors (FET). A small current is flowing between the base and the emitter; base terminal can control a larger current flow between the collector and the emitter terminals. For a field-effect transistor, it also has the three terminals, they are gate, source, and drain, and a voltage at the gate can control a current between source and drain. The simple diagrams of BJT and FET are shown in figure below:

Bipolar Junction Transistor(BJT)
Bipolar Junction Transistor(BJT)
Field Effect Transistors(FET)
Field Effect Transistors(FET)


As you can see, transistors come in a variety of different sizes and shapes. One thing all of these transistors have in common is that they each have three leads.

  • Bipolar Junction Transistor:

A Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT) has three terminals connected to three doped semiconductor regions. It comes with two types, P-N-P and N-P-N.

P-N-P transistor, consisting of a layer of N-doped semiconductor between two layers of P-doped material. The base current entering in the collector is amplified at its output.

That is when PNP transistor is ON when its base is pulled low relative to the emitter. The arrows of PNP transistor symbol the direction of current flow when the device is in forward active mode.

PNP working diagram

N-P-N transistor consisting a layer of P-doped semiconductor between two layers of N-doped material. By amplifying current the base we get the high collector and emitter current.

That is when NPN transistor is ON when its base is pulled low relative to the emitter. When the transistor is in ON state, current flow is in between the collector and emitter of the transistor. Based on minority carriers in P-type region the electrons moving from emitter to collector. It allows the greater current and faster operation; because of this reason most bipolar transistors used today are NPN.

NPN working diagram

  • Field Effect Transistor (FET):

The field-effect transistor is a unipolar transistor, N-channel FET or P-channel FET are used for conduction. The three terminals of FET are source, gate and drain. The basic n-channel and p-channel FET’s are shown above. For an n-channel FET, the device is constructed from n-type material. Between the source and drain then-type material acts as a resistor.

This transistor controls the positive and negative carriers with respect to holes or electrons. FET channel is formed by moving of positive and negative charge carriers. The channel of FET which is made by silicon.

There are many types of FET’s, MOSFET, JFET and etc. The applications of FET’s are in low noise amplifier, buffer amplifier and analog switch.

Bipolar Junction Transistor Biasing


Transistors are the most important semiconductor active devices essential for almost all circuits. They are used as electronic switches, amplifiers etc in circuits. Transistors may be NPN, PNP, FET, JFET etc which have different functions in electronic circuits. For the proper working of the circuit, it is necessary to bias the transistor using resistor networks. Operating point is the point on the output characteristics that shows the Collector-Emitter voltage and the Collector current with no input signal. The Operating point is also known as the Bias point or Q-Point (Quiescent point).

Biasing is referred to provide resistors, capacitors or supply voltage etc to provide proper operating characteristics of the transistors. DC biasing is used to obtain DC collector current at a particular collector voltage. The value of this voltage and current are expressed in terms of the Q-Point. In a transistor amplifier configuration, the IC (max) is the maximum current that can flow through the transistor and VCE (max) is the maximum voltage applied across the device. To work the transistor as an amplifier, a load resistor RC must be connected to the collector. Biasing set the DC operating voltage and current to the correct level so that the AC input signal can be properly amplified by the transistor. The correct biasing point is somewhere between the fully ON or fully OFF states of the transistor. This central point is the Q-Point and if the transistor is properly biased, the Q-point will be the central operating point of the transistor. This helps the output current to increase and decrease as the input signal swings through the complete cycle.

For setting the correct Q-Point of the transistor, a collector resistor is used to set the collector current to a constant and steady value without any signal in its base. This steady DC operating point is set by the value of the supply voltage and the value of the base biasing resistor. Base bias resistors are used in all the three transistor configurations like common base, common collector and Common emitter configurations.


Modes of biasing:

Following are the different modes of transistor base biasing:

1. Current biasing:

As shown in the Fig.1, two resistors RC and RB are used to set the base bias. These resistors establish the initial operating region of the transistor with a fixed current bias.

The transistor forward biases with a positive base bias voltage through RB.  The forward base-Emitter voltage drop is 0.7 volts. Therefore the current through RB is IB = (Vcc – VBE ) / IB

2. Feedback biasing:

Fig.2 shows the transistor biasing by the use of a feedback resistor. The base bias is obtained from the collector voltage. The collector feedback ensures that the transistor is always biased in the active region. When the collector current increases, the voltage at the collector drops. This reduces the base drive which in turn reduces the collector current. This feedback configuration is ideal for transistor amplifier designs.

3. Double Feedback Biasing:

Fig.3 shows how the biasing is achieved using double feedback resistors.

By using two resistors RB1 and RB2 increases the stability with respect to the variations in Beta by increasing the current flow through the base bias resistors. In this configuration, the current in RB1 is equal to 10 % of the collector current.

4. Voltage Dividing Biasing:

Fig.4 shows the Voltage divider biasing in which two resistors RB1 and RB2 are connected to the base of the transistor forming a voltage divider network. The transistor gets biases by the voltage drop across RB2. This kind of biasing configuration is used widely in amplifier circuits.

5. Double Base Biasing:

Fig.5 shows a double feedback for stabilization. It uses both Emitter and Collector base feedback to improve the stabilization through controlling the collector current. Resistor values should be selected so as to set the voltage drop across the Emitter resistor 10% of the supply voltage and the current through RB1, 10% of the collector current.

Advantages of Transistor:

  1. Smaller mechanical sensitivity.
  2. Lower cost and smaller in size, especially in small-signal circuits.
  3. Low operating voltages for greater safety, lower costs and tighter clearances.
  4. Extremely long life.
  5. No power consumption by a cathode heater.
  6. Fast switching.

It can support the design of complementary-symmetry circuits, something not possible with vacuum tubes. If you have any queries on this topic or on the electrical and electronic projects leave the comments below.

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