PIN diode structure

- a summary of the PIN diode structure explaining how its structure defines its properties.

The PIN diode consists of a semiconductor diode with three layers. The usual P and N regions are present, but between them is a layer of intrinsic material a very low level of doping. This may be either N-type or P-type, but with a concentration of the order of 13^13 cm^-3 which gives it a resistivity of the order of one k-ohm cm.

The thickness of the intrinsic layer is normally very narrow, typically ranging from 10 to 200 microns. The outer P and N-type regions are then heavily doped.

There are two ways in which the PIN diode can be realised. One is to fabricate the p-i-n diode in a planar structure, and the other is to use a mesa structure. When the planar structure is fabricated an epitaxial film is grown onto the substrate material and the P+ region is introduced either by diffusion or ion implantation. The mesa structure has layers grown onto the substrate. These layers have the dopants incorporated. In this way it is possible to control the thickness of the layers and the level of dopants more accurately and a very thin intrinsic layer can be fabricated if required. This is ideal for high frequency operation. A further advantage of the mesa structure is that it provides a reduced level of fringing capacitance and inductance as well as an improved level of surface breakdown.

PIN diode with a planar structure

PIN diode with a planar construction

PIN diodes are widely made of silicon, and this was the semiconductor material that was used exclusively until the 1980s when gallium arsenide was introduced.

By Ian Poole

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