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Explain the formation of depletion region and potential barrier in a pn junction diode.
Asked Sunder Bisht
The depletion region (also called depletion layer, depletion zone, junction region, space charge region or space charge layer) is an insulating region within a conductive, doped semiconductor material where the mobile charge carriers have been diffused away, or have been forced away by an electric field. The only elements left in the depletion region are ionized donor or acceptor impurities.
When the N-type semiconductor and P-type semiconductor materials are first joined together, a very large density gradient exists between both sides of the PN junction. The result is that some of the free electrons from the donor impurity atoms begin to migrate across this newly formed junction to fill up the holes in the P-type material producing negative ions.
A depletion region forms instantaneously across a p–n junction. It is most easily described when the junction is in thermal equilibrium or in a steady state: in both of these cases the properties of the system do not vary in time; they have been called dynamic equilibrium.
Electrons and holes diffuse into regions with lower concentrations of electrons and holes, much as ink diffuses into water until it is uniformly distributed. By definition, N-type semiconductor has an excess of free electrons compared to the P-type region, and P-type has an excess of holes compared to the N-type region. Therefore, when N-doped and P-doped pieces of semiconductor are placed together to form a junction, electrons migrate into the P-side and holes migrate into the N-side. Departure of an electron from the N-side to the P-side leaves a positive donor ion behind on the N-side, and likewise the hole leaves a negative acceptor ion on the P-side.
Following transfer, the diffused electrons come into contact with holes on the P-side and are eliminated by recombination. Likewise for the diffused holes on the N-side. The net result is the diffused electrons and holes are gone, leaving behind the charged ions adjacent to the interface in a region with no mobile carriers (called the depletion region). The uncompensated ions are positive on the N side and negative on the P side. This creates an electric field that provides a force opposing the continued exchange of charge carriers. When the electric field is sufficient to arrest further transfer of holes and electrons, the depletion region has reached its equilibrium dimensions. Integrating the electric field across the depletion region determines what is called the built-in voltage (also called the junction voltage or barrier voltage or contact potential).