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A photodiode is a p-n junction or pin

semiconductor device that converts light into an
electrical current.
Photodiode is very sensitive to
light so when light or photons
falls on the photodiode it easily
converts light into electric current.
Photodiodes are specially designed to operate in
reverse bias condition.
Photodiodes usually have a slower response
time as their surface area increases.
Solar cell is also known as large area
photodiode because it converts solar energy
into an electric energy.
It is referred as photo-detector , photo-sensor
or light detector.
Photodiode is a PN junction diode , which is
formed by the junction P-type semiconductor
material such as boron and N-type semiconductor
material such as phosporous.
The area between the P-type impurity and N-type
impurity is called depletion layer.
The contact pads deployed at N-type area cathode
and P-type area are anode.
Some portion of the front area are called active
area which is coated with anti-reflection
material to reduce the reflection of light and
rest of the area is called non-active area which
is coated with silicon dioxide.
The responsivity and speed of photodiode to
convert the light to current can be controlled
by controlling the thickness area of non-active
When a photon of sufficient energy strikes the
diode, it creates an electron-hole pair.
Based on Photoelectric effect.
VI characteristics
Lesser the capacitance larger is the frequency
Use of this is in its applications.
Photovoltaic mode
Photoconductive mode
Avalanche breakdown
When used in zero bias it is said to be
in photovoltaic mode.

The flow of photocurrent out of the device is

restricted and a voltage builds up.

This mode exploits the photovoltaic effect, which

is the basis for solar cells a traditional solar cell is
just a large area photodiode.
In this mode the diode is often reverse biased.

This reduces the response time because the

additional reverse bias increases the width of
the depletion layer, which decreases the
junction's capacitance.
Avalanche photodiodes are photodiodes with
structure optimized for operating with high
reverse bias, approaching the reverse breakdown

This allows each photo-generated carrier to be

multiplied by avalanche breakdown, resulting in
internal gain within the photodiode, which
increases the effective responsivity of the device
Photodiode should be always operated in reverse
bias condition.
Applied reverse bias voltage should be low.
Generate low noise.
High gain.
High response speed.
High sensitivity to light.
Low sensitivity to temperature.
Long lifetime.
Low cost and small size.

The different types of photodiodes:

PN junction photodiode
PIN photodiode
Avalanche photodiode
Schottky photodiode.
Among all the four photodiode , PN junction
and PIN photodiodes are most widely used.
PN junction photodiode are the first form of photo
When external light energy is supplied to the
p-n junction diode , the valence
electrons in the depletion region
gains energy.
If the light energy applied to the photodiode is greater
than the band gap of semiconductor material ,the
valence electrons gain enough energy and break
bonding with the parent atom.

PIN photodiodes are developed from the PN

junction photodiode.
The PIN photodiode is
developed to increase the
minority carrier current and
response speed.
PIN photodiodes generate more electric current
than the PN junction photodiodes with the same
amount of light energy.

Avalanche photodiode is similar to that of PN

junction and PIN photodiode except that a high
reverse bias voltage is applied in case of
avalanche photodiode to achieve avalanche
By applying high reverse bias voltage o
avalanche photodiode will not directly increase
the generation of charge carriers.

It has a low forward voltage drop and a high

frequency switching.
This type of diode has high speed capability.
It offers lower capacitance and high bandwidth
of communication system.
Photodiodes are used in many different types of circuits and
applications. Here are a few examples of where photodiodes have
been used.
Light Meters
Automatic Shutter Control
Photographic Flash Control
CAT Scanners - X ray Detection
Pulse Oximeters
Blood Particle Analyzers
Safety Equipment
Smoke Detectors
Flame Monitors
Security Inspection Equipment - Airport X ray
Intruder Alert - Security System
Headlight Dimmer
Twilight Detectors
Climate Control - Sunlight Detector
Fiber Optic Links
Optical Communications
Optical Remote Control
Bar Code Scanners
Light Pens
Brightness Controls
Position Sensors
Surveying Instruments
Copiers - Density of Toner

Phototransistors are used for a wide variety of
applications. In fact, phototransistors can be used
in any electronic device that senses light.
For example, phototransistors are often used in
smoke detectors, infrared receivers, and CD
players. Phototransistors can also be used in
astronomy, night vision, and laser range-finding.
Phototransistors are ideal photodetectors and can be
used in a host of different applications. Phototransistor
circuits are normally relatively straightforward, especially
of the detector is only required to detect the presence of
absence of a particular light source.
Opto-isolators - here the phototransistor is used as the
light sensor, the light emitter being relatively close, but at
a different potential. The physical gap between the light
emitter and detector provides a considerable degree of
electrical isolation.
Optical switch: An object is detected when it
enters the gap of the optical switch and block the
light between the emitter and detector.
Retro sensor: The retro sensor detects the
presence of an object by generating light and
then looking for its reflectance off the object to
be sensed.
Position sensing - in this application the optoisolator can be used to
detect the position of a moving element, often the moving element
has a light or interrupts a beam of light which the phototransistor
Security systems - phototransistor can be used in many ways in
security systems, often detecting whether a beam of light is present
or has been broken by an intruder.
Coin counters - phototransistor can be used in coin and other
counting applications. A beam of light is interrupted each time a
coin or other item passes a given point. The number of times the
beam is interrupted equals the number of coins or objects to be
Phototransistors can be used to detect light in a number of
Detection in security systems
Measuring speed and direction in encoders
Monitoring paper position and margin control in printers and
Remote meter reading for residential electric meters
Counting coins or other items
Remote controls for audio/visual equipment and appliances
Shutter control for cameras
Detection for safety shields and other protection systems
Difference between photodiode and
Basis for Photodiode Phototransistor

It is a type of PN- It is a type of transistor

junction diode which which converts the light
generates electric energy into an electrical
Definition current when light or energy.
photon is incident on
their surface.


Generates Current Current and voltage

Frequency response Much faster Faster
(in nano seconds ) (in microseconds)
Output response Slow Very fast

Gain Require an amplifier to Have a higher gain

Sensitivity Less More

Both forward and Forward biasing

reversed biasing. (emitter is more
Biasing negative as compared
to the collector).

For generating solar Smoke detector,

power, for detecting compact disc players,
Uses ultraviolet or infrared invisible light receiver,
rays, for measuring in laser etc.
light etc.,