Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Transistor abuse: using the avalanching effect of a BJT transistor to generate short pulses

I recently came across an EEVBlog video on a little circuit made popular by Jim Williams in Linear Technology Application Note 47.  This is a simple pulse generator using the breakdown avalanching effect of a BJT transistor which can be used to calculate the bandwidth response of an oscilloscope among other things. Rise times in the order of 300ps are easily achieved this way. The idea of making transistors do things they were not really intended to do is intriguing and I couldn't resist giving it a shot  myself.

The device used in the app note is a Motorola 2N2369, which breaks down at about Vce = 90V. I don't have a PSU that reaches 90V, so I just ordered some low cost, low Vceo transistors.

The circuit used is almost identical to that in App Note 47. I used a larger capacitor (39pF vs 2pF in AN47).

The results have so far been quite pleasing. The following are traces from pulses generated from 3 different BJT devices (see captions under images).  Time base is 20ns / division. My setup is not optimum: the circuit above was implemented on a bread board and the pulses were not coupled to the oscilloscope via 50Ω transmission line. Also my scope is rated at 100MHz bandwidth.

DUT is NXP BFG424F. Avalanching observed when Vce is 15.8V.

DUT is NXP BFG425W. Avalanching observed when Vce is 16.4V.

DUT is NXP BFT25A. Avalanching observed when Vce is 11.8V.