The diode with a wide, undoped intrinsic semiconductor region between a p-type semiconductor and an n-type semiconductor region. The p-type and n-type regions are typically heavily doped because they are used for ohmic contacts. The wide intrinsic region is in contrast to an ordinary p–n diode.This is known as PIN diode


The 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. 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 Ω 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 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 trade-offs. 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. It is therefore necessary to select a device with the appropriate properties for a particular use.


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 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 the P to the N region, which results in faster operation of the diode, making it a suitable device for high frequency operations.


SFH203 and BPW43 are cheap general purpose PIN diodes in 5 mm clear plastic cases with bandwidths over 100 MHz. RONJA telecommunication systems are an example application.

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