# How BJT transistor works (with conventional current notation perspective)

• Suwandy
In summary, a transistor is a device used to control electric current flow by assistance of a base current. The base current is controlled by the emitter current, and the collector current is always beta (β or Hfe) times larger than the base current.
Suwandy
So far the explanation on BJT working principle always explained in electron flow perspective.
I felt it's hard to relate with conventional current direction notation when the explanation explained in electron flow direction notation. For example in NPN transistor, the C-E current flow made me confused because there were depletion layer on collector-base area (especially if we substitute the transistor symbol with two diodes, there should be reverse bias on Collector-Base. But, current still manage to reach Emitter side Ie=Ic+Ib).
Also, i feel off when it said transistor act as "amplifier" (amplifying base current). The highest current value in NPN transistor is on Emitter. Meanwhile, the common usage is to put Load Output on collector. Why collector? Why not emitter if the function is to amplify current which has the highest value for current?
would it be easier to relate BJT transistors as a water faucet?
Please enlighten me on this matter.

Well I prefer a water analogy.
The BJT work very similarly to the tap water valve.
A water valve is always used as a device to control the flow of water. Similarly, always think of a bipolar transistor as a device used to control electric current flow by assistance of a base current. See this picture
http://images.elektroda.net/94_1250754403.png
If base current is flowing the BJT is ON and the collector current is BETA (β or Hfe) times larger than the base current (Ic = β*Ib).
And Ic = β *Ib and Ie = Ib + Ic is a basic principle of a transistor "action".
Of Course this "gain" current comes from power supply not from transistor them self. Transistor can only control the amount of collector current (Ic) that power supply supplies.

The emitter current is always equal to Ib + Ic. But because the beta value is large we can ignore the base current and say that Ie = Ic.
For example if β = 100 and Ib = 10μA we have Ic = 100 * 10μA = 1mA and Ie = Ib + Ic = 1.01mA
So we don't do the big mistake/error if we ignore the Ib current and say that Ie = Ic = 1mA

Suwandy said:
Also, i feel off when it said transistor act as "amplifier" (amplifying base current). The highest current value in NPN transistor is on Emitter. Meanwhile, the common usage is to put Load Output on collector. Why collector? Why not emitter if the function is to amplify current which has the highest value for current?
Sometime we use emitter as a output. But notice that the emitter voltage (output voltage) is always Vbe ≈ 0.6V lower the the base voltage (input voltage). See some examples:

As you can see the current gain is not everything, some times we need a voltage gain also. And in this case we must use collector as a output.
Or if we want to use transistor as a switch it is better to use collector as a output because of a lower voltage drop across transistor.

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Suwandy
Hi Jony130, thank you for sharing your perspective and examples. It was very interesting :D
Of Course this "gain" current comes from power supply not from transistor them self. Transistor can only control the amount of collector current (Ic) that power supply supplies.
This explanation is clear to me and the example pictures also great at explaining the function of Ib as controller for Ic.

As you can see the current gain is not everything, some times we need a voltage gain also. And in this case we must use collector as a output.
Or if we want to use transistor as a switch it is better to use collector as a output because of a lower voltage drop across transistor.
On this part, the example pictures showed that Ve keep getting bigger as Ib increasing, which i think that was a voltage gain on Emitter part. Wouldn't the voltage gain of Ve always bigger than output on Collector? Also, which voltage drop is lower? i still don't get this part

Suwandy said:
On this part, the example pictures showed that Ve keep getting bigger as Ib increasing, which i think that was a voltage gain on Emitter part. Wouldn't the voltage gain of Ve always bigger than output on Collector? Also, which voltage drop is lower? i still don't get this part
But how can we say about the gain if emitter voltage is always Vbe lower then the base voltage ?
In first fig Vb = 2V and Ve = 1.4V; in the middle Vb = 6V and Ve = 5.4V, and last fig Vb = 10.5V and Ve = 9.9V
Why this voltage is lower? Well because base-emitter junction is nothing more than a ordinary diode. And Vbe is a forward voltage drop.
Also notice that in this circuit the emitter voltage follow the base voltage minus Vbe voltage.
And this is why we called this circuit emitter follower or voltage follower
http://electronics.stackexchange.co...-voltage-on-base-limit-the-voltage-on-emitter

Transistor without any resistor is nothing more then a base current controlled collector current source Ic = β * Ib .

As you can see we have a "current gain", but with no voltage gain.
What we can do about that ? Let as try to add Rc resistor and see what we get.
Now we give Rc resistor very important task. His job will be to covert Ic current into voltage.
Rc will act just like a current to voltage converter thanks to Ohms law Vrc = Ic*Rc

Finally we have a voltage gain. Our amplified voltage is of-course taken between collector and emitter (Vce).
Also notice that we can change voltage gain by changing Rc resistor value.
The larger the Rc resistor value the larger the voltage gain. Why you may ask? Well because now we need smaller change in Ic current to get the same change in Vce. For example for Rc = 1k we need change in Ic current from 0A to 10mA to change Vce voltage from 10V to 0V. But now if we increase Rc resistor value from 1k to 2kΩ we need ΔIc = 5mA to get the same change in Vce.
So we need smaller change in input voltage to get the same output voltage. So this means that our amplifier has larger voltage gain. I hope you understand this and the important role which lies on Rc resistor.

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Suwandy
Oh! sorry. I didn't see clearly on the picture that Ve=Vb-Vbe. My bad, sorry. Thank you for pointing this out :D

Thank you very much for your explanation + pictures. They are very clear and easy to follow, especially the pictures :D. Now i prefer to look BJT transistors as electric current faucet rather than amplifier. So far the conclusion i manage to make are:
1. BJT Transistors controls how much current drawn from Vcc.
2. The Vce is the so-called transistor's output which looked like how much voltage drawn from Vcc (Vc=Vcc-Vrc).
3. Emitter is only current residue (Ie=Ib+Ic) therefore, using Collector as output would be ideal since it is the original value of current (Ic) drawn from Vcc. I call it residue because Ie already mixed with Ib. Plus, Emitter's Voltage doesn't come from Vcc.
And i agree with your main concept about water tap analogy. It is very much easier to relate BJT transistors that way :D
Do i get it right? please correct me if I'm wrong

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Suwandy said:
1. BJT Transistors controls how much current drawn from Vcc.
Yes, but we usually treat BJT as a current controlled device (current controlled current source Ib = hfe * Ic) or as a voltage controlled device, a voltage controlled (Vbe in this case) current source (Collector current).
The Vce is the so-called transistor's output which looked like how much voltage drawn from Vcc (Vc=Vcc-Vrc).
The word "drawn" is not proper here, because voltage do not flow, only current can flow not the voltage.
Vce = Voltage between collector and emitter is equal to:
Vce = Vcc - VRc = Vcc - Ic*Rc (Rc resistor convert collector current into voltage)

Emitter is only current residue (Ie=Ib+Ic) therefore, using Collector as output would be ideal since it is the original value of current (Ic) drawn from Vcc. I call it residue because Ie already mixed with Ib. Plus, Emitter's Voltage doesn't come from Vcc.
Do not disregard the emitter as a output. Because emitter follower is a very useful circuit.

Jony130 said:
Yes, but we usually treat BJT as a current controlled device
I prefer calling it current controlled device rather than voltage controlled device, since Vbe will stay the same (0,6V). Meanwhile Ic or Ie will change with regard of change in Ib.
Jony130 said:
The word "drawn" is not proper here, because voltage do not flow, only current can flow not the voltage.
Yea, voltage doesn't flows. But, Vce value will never get bigger than Vcc value. Therefore, it "look like" Vce value generated with Vcc as reference. The value is controlled by Ic and Rc but it can't get bigger than Vcc (I'm imagining Vcc as a water tank). Still, i agree that fundamentally Voltage doesn't flow. Sorry for my bad wordings.
Jony130 said:
Do not disregard the emitter as a output. Because emitter follower is a very useful circuit.
Does Ve always Vb-Vbe? then do you mean Ve always follow Vb value?
Could you give me example of emitter follower usefulness?

Suwandy said:
Does Ve always Vb-Vbe?
Yes, always, because the base-emitter junctions form p-n junctions and p-n junction form a simple diode.

Suwandy said:
then do you mean Ve always follow Vb value?
Emitter voltage follows the base voltage (Ve = Vb - Vbe )

Suwandy said:
Could you give me example of emitter follower usefulness?
Emitter follower is a very simply circuit. The output voltage is always 0.6V lower the the input voltage.
See some examples
Once again look at this examples

Notice that the base current is (β+1) smaller then emitter current (load current).
So our base current source B1 see our load ( Re resistor) not as 100Ω resistor. But B1 see (β+1)*Re load.
Here you have anther example.

Spouse we have a 1K resistors voltage divider supply from 10V battery.
Without any load connect to the output terminal, voltage divider output voltage is equal 5V. Now if we connected a load resistor (100Ω) across the output terminal, our voltage divider output voltage drops from 5V to 0.83V. So we ruin our circuit.
To fix this issue we add a buffer (emitter follower)

That's some nice collection of example pictures you got there :D
On the buffer circuit picture, how can we know the value of Vb=4.79V ??
which one got determined first? Ve or Vb??

I use a circuit theory and solve the circuit.

From the II Kirchhoff's law we can write

Vcc = I1*R1 + I2*R2 (1)

I1 = Ib + I2 (2)

I2*R2 = Vbe + Ie*Re (3)

And Ib = Ie/(β+1) (4)

And we can solve this for Ib.

$$Ib = \frac{R2 Vcc - Vbe(R1+R2)}{(\beta+1) Re (R1+R2) +(R1*R2)}=419.047619\mu A$$

I assume β = 99 and Vbe = 0.6V

Knowing Ib we can easy solve for Ie, Ve and Vb

But there is also a simpler way to solve this circuit by using thevenin's theorem.
We can replace the voltage divider (this gray rectangle) with his Thevenin's equivalent circuit

Vth = Vcc * R2/(R1+R2)

Rth = R1||R2 = (R1*R2)/(R1+R2)

And now we can solve for Ib

Vth - Ib*Rth - Vbe - Ie*Re = 0

And we also know that

Ie = Ib*(β +1)

Or

Ib = Ie/(β +1)

so we end up with

Vth - Ie/(β +1)*Rth - Vbe - Ie*Re = 0

$$\Large Ie = \frac{Vth - Vbe}{\frac{Rth}{\beta +1} +Re}$$

And this is the end.

PS. Notice that Ie current is 41.9mA not 4.19mA
Ve = 4.19V ----> Ie = 4.19V/100ohm = 41.9mA
Sorry for stupid mistake

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Suwandy
Joney gave a great run down on this. Remember this is about the BJT being in the Active mode.

BJT can be in Cutoff or Saturated as well as other modes. As you move forward, make sure you use proper model for mode it is in.

Jony130 said:
I use a circuit theory and solve the circuit.
Vth - Ie/(β +1)*Rth - Vbe - Ie*Re = 0

$$\Large Ie = \frac{Vth - Vbe}{\frac{Rth}{\beta +1} +Re}$$

This part kinda get me confused. This was my steps on breaking down this function:
1. Vth - Ie/(β +1)*Rth - Vbe = Ie*Re
2. (Vth - Vbe - Ie/(β +1)*Rth) / Re = Ie
3. Vth/Re - Vbe/Re - (Ie/(β +1)*Rth*Re) = Ie
4. (Vth - Vbe)/Re = Ie - Ie/(β +1)*Rth*Re

and i stuck at this point. . . . can someone please point out my mistake?

Hi, you made a error in step 3. But why you solving this equation is such a strange way ?

Vth - Ie/(β +1)*Rth - Vbe - Ie*Re = 0

Vth = Ie * Rth/(β +1) + Vbe + Ie*Re

collect Ie terms

Vth = Ie * (Rth/(β +1) + Re) + Vbe

subtract Vbe

Vth - Vbe = Ie * (Rth/(β +1) + Re)

divide by (Rth/(β +1) + Re)

(Vth - Vbe)/ (Rth/(β +1) + Re) = Ie

And we done.

Suwandy
Here is a pop quiz answer key by Dr. Ruben Kelly.

Note you can get all of your equations by Inspection. This works on more difficult circuits as well including feedback. Old material, but still works well.

Dr. Kelly was pretty picky on us kids using our calculators properly. Rounding numbers would make you fail class.

Last time I looked his lecture notes were available on Amazon.

Suwandy
Thank you so much Jony130 for explaining this in a very clear manner :D
Linghunt said:
Old material, but still works well.
This picture is interesting, the Ibq function is same as previous equation explained by Jony130.
Does it mean this Ibq function is a common knowledge that can be applied anywhere (w/o feedback)?

Suwandy said:
Does it mean this Ibq function is a common knowledge that can be applied anywhere (w/o feedback)?
Yes, for all BJT circuit which contain a voltage divider and Re resistor.

For Vcc = 10V ; Rb =10K; Rc = 1K; Re = 100Ω ; and Vbe = 0.6V and Hfe = 100

Suwandy
Ve = Vcc - Vbe
Ve = 10V - 0.6V
Ve = 9.4V

Ie = Ve / Re
Ie = 9.4V / 100Ω
Ie = 94mA

Ib = Ie / (Hfe+1)
Ib = 94mA / (100+1)
Ib = 0.93mA

Ic = Ib * Hfe
Ic = 0.93mA * 100
Ic = 93mA

Vc = Ic * Rc
Vc = 93mA * 1KΩ
Vc = 10V ?? (93V bigger than Vcc)

Vce = Vc - Ve
Vce = 10V - 9.4V
Vce = 0.6V

Suwandy said:
Ve = Vcc - Vbe
Ve = 10V - 0.6V
Ve = 9.4V
How can this be true ? Do you forget about base current and voltage drop across Rb resistor ?

And the KVL for this circuit look like this

Vcc = VRb + Vbe + VRe

Vcc = Ib*Rb + Vbe + Ie*Re

WHOOPS! what a mistake
sorry for being amateur.
When doing KVL with lot of resistors i don't have any problem but, when it comes to applying KVL/KCL with a real circuit, my mind goes blank. . . .

Vcc = Ib*Rb + Vbe + Ie*Re
10V = Ib*10KΩ + 0.6V + Ie*100Ω
9.4V = Ib*10KΩ + Ib*(β+1)*100Ω
9.4V = 10KΩ*Ib + 10.1KΩ*Ib
9.4V / 20.1KΩ = Ib
Ib = 0.467mA
Ic =
β*Ib = 100 * 0.467mA = 46.7mA
Ie =
Ic + Ib = 46.7mA + 0.46mA = 47.16mA

Vb = Vcc - Ib*Rb
Vb = 10V - 0.467mA*10KΩ
Vb = 10V - 4.67V
Vb = 5.33V

Vc = Vcc - Ic.Rc
Vc = 10V - 46.7mA*1KΩ
Vc = 10V - 46.7V ?
Vc = -36.7V??

Ve = Vb - Vbe
Ve = 5.33V - 0.6V
Ve = 4.73V
or
Ve = Ie*Re
Ve = 47.16mA*100Ω
Ve = 4.72V (close enough :w)

Vce = Vc - Ve
Vce = -36.7V?? - 4.72V
Vce = -41.42V?

damn, i still having tough time doing this simple problem.
do i get it right this time?

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Believe it or not but your solution is correct.
Because what we have done first is that we assumed that the BJT works in active region, which is not always the case.
And this is why this strange results (Vce = -41V) give as one important hint.
Our BJT is saturated and Ic = Hfe*Ib don't hold anymore.
Because if Ic = Hfe*Ib = 46.7mA is larger than Ic_max = Vcc/(Rc+RE) =10V/1.1K = 9mA transistor is in saturation region.
So to solve this circuit we need to assume Vce_sat voltage and use this equation
Ie = Ib + Ic.
Let as assume Vce_sat = 0.1V and Vbe = 0.7V.
Ie = Ve/Re (1)
Ib = (Vcc - Vbe - Ve)/RB (2)
Ic = (Vcc - Vce_sat - Ve)/Rc (3)
And now if we solve this for VE we have this
$$\Large Ve = (\frac{Vcc - Vbe}{RB} + \frac{Vcc - Vce_{sat}}{RC}) * RB||RC||RE = 0.975676V$$
So
Ve = 0.975676V
Vb = Ve + Vbe = 0.975676V + 0.7V = 1.675676V
Vc = Ve + Vce_sat = 1.075676V
And the currents
Ie = Ve/Re = 9.75676mA
Ic = (Vcc - Vc)/Rc = 8.924324mA
Ib = (Vcc - Vb)/RB = 0.8324324mA

## 1. How does a BJT transistor work?

A BJT (Bipolar Junction Transistor) is a semiconductor device that can amplify or switch electrical signals. It consists of three layers of doped material, typically two layers of p-type semiconductor sandwiching a layer of n-type semiconductor. The flow of current through these layers is controlled by a small current at one of the layers, called the base. This allows the BJT to act as an amplifier or switch, depending on the arrangement of the layers and the input current.

## 2. What is the difference between p-type and n-type semiconductor in a BJT transistor?

P-type and n-type semiconductors have different levels of electron and hole concentrations. In a BJT transistor, the p-type layer has a higher concentration of holes (positive charge carriers) while the n-type layer has a higher concentration of electrons (negative charge carriers). This difference in charge carriers allows the transistor to function as a switch or amplifier.

## 3. What is the role of the base in a BJT transistor?

The base is a thin layer of material between the p-type and n-type layers in a BJT transistor. It is responsible for controlling the flow of current through the transistor. By applying a small current to the base, the concentration of charge carriers in the base layer changes, which in turn affects the flow of current through the other layers of the transistor.

## 4. How does conventional current notation differ from electron flow notation in understanding BJT transistors?

In conventional current notation, current is described as the flow of positive charge. This is opposite to the actual flow of electrons in a circuit. In electron flow notation, current is described as the flow of negative charge, which aligns with the actual flow of electrons. In understanding BJT transistors, conventional current notation is used to describe the flow of current through the p-type and n-type layers, while electron flow notation is used to describe the flow of current through the base layer.

## 5. Can a BJT transistor amplify both AC and DC signals?

Yes, a BJT transistor can amplify both AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current) signals. This is because the transistor can be configured in different ways to amplify different types of signals. For example, a common emitter configuration is used to amplify AC signals, while a common collector configuration is used to amplify DC signals. In both cases, the transistor is able to amplify the input signal through the control of the base current and the resulting changes in the concentration of charge carriers in the other layers of the transistor.

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