PIN diode
A PIN diode is a diode
In electronics, a diode is a type of two-terminal electronic component with a nonlinear current–voltage characteristic. A semiconductor diode, the most common type today, is a crystalline piece of semiconductor material connected to two electrical terminals...

 with a wide, lightly doped 'near' intrinsic semiconductor
Intrinsic semiconductor
An intrinsic semiconductor, also called an undoped semiconductor or i-type semiconductor, is a pure semiconductor without any significant dopant species present. The number of charge carriers is therefore determined by the properties of the material itself instead of the amount of impurities...

 region between a p-type semiconductor
P-type semiconductor
A P-type semiconductor is obtained by carrying out a process of doping: that is, adding a certain type of atoms to the semiconductor in order to increase the number of free charge carriers ....

 and an n-type semiconductor
N-type semiconductor
N-type semiconductors are a type of extrinsic semiconductor where the dopant atoms are capable of providing extra conduction electrons to the host material . This creates an excess of negative electron charge carriers....

 region. The p-type and n-type regions are typically heavily doped
Doping (semiconductor)
In semiconductor production, doping intentionally introduces impurities into an extremely pure semiconductor for the purpose of modulating its electrical properties. The impurities are dependent upon the type of semiconductor. Lightly and moderately doped semiconductors are referred to as extrinsic...

 because they are used for ohmic contact
Ohmic contact
An ohmic contact is a region on a semiconductor device that has been prepared so that the current-voltage curve of the device is linear and symmetric. If the I-V characteristic is non-linear and asymmetric, the contact is not ohmic, but is a blocking or Schottky contact...


The wide intrinsic region is in contrast to an ordinary PN diode
P-n junction
A p–n junction is formed at the boundary between a P-type and N-type semiconductor created in a single crystal of semiconductor by doping, for example by ion implantation, diffusion of dopants, or by epitaxy .If two separate pieces of material were used, this would...

. The wide intrinsic region makes the PIN diode an inferior rectifier (one typical function of a diode), but it makes the PIN diode suitable for attenuators, fast switches, photodetectors, and high voltage power electronics applications.


A PIN diode operates under what is known as high-level injection. In other words, the intrinsic "i" region is flooded with charge carriers from the "p" and "n" regions. Its function can be likened to filling up a water bucket with a hole on the side. Once the water reaches the hole's level it will begin to pour out. Similarly, the diode will conduct current once the flooded electrons and holes reach an equilibrium point, where the number of electrons is equal to the number of holes in the intrinsic region. When the diode is forward biased, the injected carrier concentration is typically several orders of magnitude higher than the intrinsic level carrier concentration. Due to this high level injection, which in turn is due to the depletion process, the electric field extends deeply (almost the entire length) into the region. This electric field helps in speeding up of the transport of charge carriers from P to N region, which results in faster operation of the diode, making it a suitable device for high frequency operations.


A PIN diode obeys the standard diode equation for low frequency signals. At higher frequencies, the diode looks like an almost perfect (very linear, even for large signals) resistor. There is a lot of stored charge in the intrinsic region
Intrinsic semiconductor
An intrinsic semiconductor, also called an undoped semiconductor or i-type semiconductor, is a pure semiconductor without any significant dopant species present. The number of charge carriers is therefore determined by the properties of the material itself instead of the amount of impurities...

. At low frequencies, the charge can be removed and the diode turns off. At higher frequencies, there is not enough time to remove the charge, so the diode never turns off. The PIN diode has a poor reverse recovery time.

The high-frequency resistance is inversely proportional to the DC bias current through the diode. A PIN diode, suitably biased, therefore acts as a variable resistor. This high-frequency resistance may vary over a wide range (from 0.1 ohm to 10 kΩ in some cases; the useful range is smaller, though).

The wide intrinsic region also means the diode will have a low capacitance when reverse biased.

In a PIN diode, the depletion region exists almost completely within the intrinsic region. This depletion region is much larger than in a PN diode, and almost constant-size, independent of the reverse bias applied to the diode. This increases the volume where electron-hole pairs can be generated by an incident photon. Some photodetector
Photosensors or photodetectors are sensors of light or other electromagnetic energy. There are several varieties:*Active pixel sensors are image sensors consisting of an integrated circuit that contains an array of pixel sensors, each pixel containing a both a light sensor and an active amplifier...

 devices, such as PIN photodiodes and phototransistors (in which the base-collector junction is a PIN diode), use a PIN junction in their construction.

The diode design has some design tradeoffs. Increasing the dimensions of the intrinsic region (and its stored charge) allows the diode to look like a resistor at lower frequencies. It adversely affects the time needed to turn off the diode and its shunt capacitance. PIN diodes will be tailored for a particular use.


PIN diodes are useful as RF switches, attenuators
Attenuator (electronics)
An attenuator is an electronic device that reduces the amplitude or power of a signal without appreciably distorting its waveform.An attenuator is effectively the opposite of an amplifier, though the two work by different methods...

, and photodetectors.

RF and Microwave Switches

Under zero or reverse bias, a PIN diode has a low capacitance
In electromagnetism and electronics, capacitance is the ability of a capacitor to store energy in an electric field. Capacitance is also a measure of the amount of electric potential energy stored for a given electric potential. A common form of energy storage device is a parallel-plate capacitor...

. The low capacitance will not pass much of an RF signal. Under a forward bias of 1 mA, a typical PIN diode will have an RF resistance of about , making it a good RF conductor. Consequently, the PIN diode makes a good RF switch.

Although RF relays can be used as switches, they switch very slowly (on the order of ). A PIN diode switch can switch much more quickly (e.g.).

The capacitance of an off discrete PIN diode might be . At , the reactance of is about . In a system, the off state attenuation would be about -- which may not be enough attenuation. In applications that need higher isolation, switches are cascaded to improve the isolation. Cascading three of the above switches would give of attenuation.

PIN diode switches are used not only for signal selection, but they are also used for component selection. For example, some low phase noise oscillators use PIN diodes to range switch inductors.

RF and Microwave Variable Attenuators

By changing the bias current through a PIN diode, it's possible to quickly change the RF resistance.

At high frequencies, the PIN diode appears as a resistor whose resistance is an inverse function of its forward current. Consequently, PIN diode can be used in some variable attenuator designs as amplitude modulators or output leveling circuits.

PIN diodes might be used, for example, as the bridge and shunt resistors in a bridged-T attenuator.


PIN diodes are sometimes used as input protection devices for high frequency test probes. If the input signal is within range, the PIN diode has little impact as a small capacitance. If the signal is large, then the PIN diode starts to conduct and becomes a resistor that shunts most of the signal to ground.

Photodetector and photovoltaic cell

The PIN photodiode was invented by Jun-ichi Nishizawa
Jun-Ichi Nishizawa
is a Japanese engineer known for his invention of optical communication systems , PIN diode and SIT/SITh . He is currently the president of Tokyo Metropolitan University.-Biography:...

 and his colleagues in 1950.

PIN photodiodes are used in fibre optic network cards and switches. As a photodetector, the PIN diode is reverse biased. Under reverse bias, the diode ordinarily does not conduct (save a small dark current or Is leakage). A photon entering the intrinsic region frees a carrier. The reverse bias field sweeps the carrier out of the region and creates a current. Some detectors can use avalanche multiplication
Avalanche photodiode
An avalanche photodiode is a highly sensitive semiconductor electronic device that exploits the photoelectric effect to convert light to electricity. APDs can be thought of as photodetectors that provide a built-in first stage of gain through avalanche multiplication. From a functional standpoint,...


The PIN photovoltaic cell works in the same mechanism. In this case, the advantage of using a PIN structure over conventional semiconductor junction is the better long wavelength response of the former. In case of long wavelength irradiation, photons penetrate deep into the cell. But only those electron-hole pairs generated in and near the depletion region contribute to current generation. The depletion region of a PIN structure extends across the intrinsic region, deep into the device. This wider depletion width enables electron-hole pair generation deep within the device. This increases the quantum efficiency
Quantum efficiency
Quantum efficiency is a quantity defined for a photosensitive device such as photographic film or a charge-coupled device as the percentage of photons hitting the photoreactive surface that will produce an electron–hole pair. It is an accurate measurement of the device's electrical sensitivity to...

 of the cell.

Typically, amorphous silicon
Amorphous silicon
Amorphous silicon is the non-crystalline allotropic form of silicon. It can be deposited in thin films at low temperatures onto a variety of substrates, offering some unique capabilities for a variety of electronics.-Description:...

 thin-film cells use PIN structures. On the other hand, CdTe cells use NIP structure, a variation of the PIN structure. In a NIP structure, an intrinsic CdTe layer is sandwiched by n-doped CdS and p-doped ZnTe. The photons are incident on the n-doped layer unlike a PIN diode.

A PIN photodiode can also detect X-ray and gamma ray photons.

Example Diodes

SFH203 or BPW43 are cheap general purpose PIN diodes in 5 mm clear plastic case with bandwidth over
100 MHz. They are used in RONJA
RONJA is a Free Space Optics device originating in the Czech Republic. It transmits data wirelessly using beams of light. Ronja can be used to create a 10 Mbit/s full duplex Ethernet point-to-point link....

 telecommunication systems and other circuitry applications.

See also

  • Microwave diode
  • Step recovery diode
    Step recovery diode
    In electronics, a step recovery diode is a semiconductor junction diode having the ability to generate extremely short pulses. It is also called snap-off diode or charge-storage diode or memory varactor, and has a variety of uses in microwave electronics as pulse generator or parametric...

  • Optical interconnect
    Optical interconnect
    Optical interconnect is a way of communication by optical cables. Compared to traditional cables, optical wires are capable of a much higher bandwidth, from 10 Gb/s up to 100 Gb/s....

  • Light Peak
    Light Peak
    Thunderbolt is an interface for connecting peripheral devices to a computer via an expansion bus. Thunderbolt was developed by Intel and brought to market with technical collaboration from Apple Inc. It was introduced commercially on Apple's updated MacBook Pro lineup on February 24, 2011, using...

  • Interconnect bottleneck
    Interconnect bottleneck
    The interconnect bottleneck, the point at which integrated circuits reach their capacity, is expected sometime around 2010.Improved performance of computer systems has been achieved, in large part, by downscaling the IC minimum feature size. This allows the basic IC building block, the transistor,...

  • Optical fiber cable
    Optical fiber cable
    An optical fiber cable is a cable containing one or more optical fibers. The optical fiber elements are typically individually coated with plastic layers and contained in a protective tube suitable for the environment where the cable will be deployed....

  • Optical communication
    Optical communication
    Optical communication is any form of telecommunication that uses light as the transmission medium.An optical communication system consists of a transmitter, which encodes a message into an optical signal, a channel, which carries the signal to its destination, and a receiver, which reproduces the...

  • Parallel optical interface
    Parallel optical interface
    A parallel optical interface is a form of fiber optic technology aimed primarily at communications and networking over relatively short distances , and at high bandwidths....

External links

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