Figure 3-31. - Photodiode.
A second optoelectronic device that conducts current when exposed to light is the PHOTOTRANSISTOR. A phototransistor, however, is much more sensitive to light and produces more output current for a given light intensity that does a photodiode. Figure 3-32 shows one type of phototransistor, which is made by placing a photodiode in the base circuit of an NPN transistor. Light falling on the photodiode changes the base current of the transistor, causing the collector current to be amplified. Phototransistors may also be of the PNP type, with the photodiode placed in the base-collector circuit.
Figure 3-32. - Phototransistor.
Figure 3-33 illustrates the schematic symbols for the various types of phototransistors. Phototransistors may be of the two-terminal type, in which the light intensity on the photodiode alone determines the amount of conduction. They may also be of the three-terminal type, which have an added base lead that allows an electrical bias to be applied to the base. The bias allows an optimum transistor conduction level, and thus compensates for ambient (normal room) light intensity.
Figure 3-33. - 2-terminal and 3-terminal phototransistors.
An older device that uses light in a way similar to the photodiode is the photoconductive cell, or PHOTOCELL, shown with its schematic symbol in figure 3-34. Like the photodiode, the photocell is a light-controlled variable resistor. However, a typical light-to-dark resistance ratio for a photocell is 1:1000. This means that its resistance could range from 1000 ohms in the light to 1000 kilohms in the dark, or from 2000 ohms in the light to 2000 kilohms in the dark, and so forth. Of course, other ratios are also available. Photocells are used in various types of control and timing circuits as, for example, the automatic street light controllers in most cities.
Figure 3-34. - Photocell.
The photovoltaic cell, or solar cell, is a device which converts light energy into electrical energy. An example of a solar cell and its schematic symbol are shown in figure 3-35. The symbol is similar to that of a battery. The device itself acts much like a battery when exposed to light and produces about .45 volt across its terminals, with current capacity determined by its size. As with batteries, solar cells may be connected in series or parallel to produce higher voltages and currents. The device is finding widespread application in communications satellites and solar-powered homes.
Figure 3-35. - Solar cell.
When it is necessary to block the voltage between one electronic circuit and another, and transfer the signal at the same time, an amplifier coupling capacitor is often used as shown in figure 3-36. Although this method of coupling does block dc between the circuits, voltage isolation is not complete. A newer method, making use of optoelectronic devices to achieve electrical isolation, is the optical coupler, shown in figure 3-37. The coupler is composed of an LED and a photodiode contained in a light-conducting medium. As the polarity signs in figure 3-37 show, the LED is forward biased, while the photodiode is reverse biased. When the input signal causes current through the LED to increase, the light produce by the LED increases. This increased light intensity causes current flow through the photodiode to increase. In this way, changes in input current produce proportional changes in the output, even though the two circuits are electrically isolated.
Figure 3-36. - Dc blocking with a coupling capacitor.
Figure 3-37. - Optical coupler.
The optical coupler is suitable for frequencies in the low megahertz range. The photodiode type shown above can handle only small currents; however, other types of couplers, combining phototransistors with the SCR, can be used where more output is required. Optical couplers are replacing transformers in low-voltage and low-current applications. Sensitive digital circuits can use the coupler to control large current and voltages with low-voltage logic levels.
Q.19 What type of bias is required to cause an LED to produce light?
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