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SIDAC, Silicon Diode Alternating Current bi-directional switch is widely used with TRIACs
to improve operation of alternating current power switching systems. It is bi-directional voltage
triggered switch very similar to the DIAC, and it belongs to the thyristor family of devices.
The SIDAC generally has greater power handling capabilities than a standard DIAC, but
nevertheless it operates in essentially the same manner.
The SIDAC is less common than the DIAC, but is essentially the same, the name indicating
more the manufacturer. The device may also be referred to as a SYDAC - Silicon
thYristor Diode for Alternating Current.
SIDAC basics
The SIDAC is very similar to the ordinary DIAC. Its operation can be considered to be very
nearly identical. However it is always a five-layer device and it has a low-voltage drop in latched
conducting state. This makes it more like a voltage triggered TRIAC but without a gate.
Another difference between the two devices is that typically a SIDAC will have higher break-
over voltage than a DIAC. Generally one will also have a higher current handling capacity level.
This means that they can be directly used for switching and not just for triggering of another
switching device such as a TRIAC.
The operation of the SIDAC or SYDAC is very similar to that of the DIAC. It remains in a non-
conducting state until the voltage across the device rises to a level above the break-over voltage.
At this point the device starts to conduct and enters a negative resistance area of the I-V
The device will continue to conduct until the voltage falls below its rated holding current, at
which point the device will return to its non-conducting state. It will then only start to conduct
again once the break-over voltage is again exceeded.
There are a number of ways in which SIDACs can be used:
With a TRIAC: One of the most popular ways in which devices like DIACs and SIDACs can be
used is with other switching devices such as TRIACs that do not have a good firing characteristic
- they are asymmetrical leading to a rather undefined firing characteristic. Here SIDACs enable
the overall circuit to function with more defined switching limits.
Relaxation oscillators: In applications where cost is premium and component count must be
kept low, SIDACs can be used as the major element in a simple relaxation oscillator. Here the
switching characteristics can be used to good effect.
Although not widely seen in the industry, SIDACs can be used to good effect, and indeed they
can be obtained from a number of sources.
DIAC, Diode AC bi-directional switch is widely used with TRIACs to improve operation of
alternating current power switching systems.
The DIAC is a full-wave or bi-directional semiconductor switch that can be turned on in both
forward and reverse polarities.
The DIAC gains its name from the contraction of the words DIode Alternating Current.
The DIAC is widely used to assist even triggering of a TRIAC when used in AC switches.
DIACs are mainly used in dimmer applications and also in starter circuits for florescent lamps.
Circuit symbol
The DIAC circuit symbol is generated from the two triangles held between two lines as
shown below. In some way this demonstrates the structure of the device which can be considered
also as two junctions.

Circuit symbol for the DIAC

The two terminals of the device are normally designated either Anode 1 and Anode 2 or
Main Terminals 1 and 2, i.e. MT1 and MT2.
The DIAC is essentially a diode that conducts after a 'break-over' voltage, designated
VBO, and is exceeded.
When the device exceeds this break-over voltage, it enters the region of negative dynamic
resistance. This results in a decrease in the voltage drop across the diode with increasing voltage.
Accordingly there is a sharp increase in the level of current that is conducted by the device.
The diode remains in its conduction state until the current through it drops below what is
termed the holding current, which is normally designated by the letters IH.
Below the holding current, the DIAC reverts to its high-resistance (non-conducting) state.
Its behavior is bi-directional and therefore its operation occurs on both halves of an
alternating cycle.
DIAC applications
Typically the DIAC is placed in series with the gate of a TRIAC. DIACs are often used in
conjunction with TRIACs because these devices do not fire symmetrically as a result of slight
differences between the two halves of the device. This results in harmonics being generated, and
the less symmetrical the device fires, the greater the level of harmonics produced. It is generally
undesirable to have high levels of harmonics in a power system.

Typical DIAC / TRIAC circuit configuration

To help in overcoming this problem, a DIAC is often placed in series with the gate. This device
helps make the switching more even for both halves of the cycle. This results from the fact that
its switching characteristic is far more even than that of the TRIAC. Since the DIAC prevents
any gate current flowing until the trigger voltage has reached a certain voltage in either direction,
this makes the firing point of the TRIAC more even in both directions.
The DIAC can be fabricated as either a two layer or a five layer structure. In the three layer
structure the switching occurs when the junction that is reverse biased experiences reverse
breakdown. The three layer version of the device is the more common and can have a break-over
voltage of around 30 V. Operation is almost symmetrical owing to the symmetry of the device.
A five layer DIAC structure is also available. This does not act in quite the same manner,
although it produces an I-V curve that is very similar to the three layer version. It can be
considered as two break-over diodes connected back to back.

The structure of a DIAC

For most applications a three layer version of the DIAC is used. It provides sufficient
improvement in switching characteristics. For some applications the five layer device may be
The TRIAC is a three terminal semiconductor device for controlling current. It gains its
name from the term TRIode for Alternating Current.
It is effectively a development of the SCR or thyristor, but unlike the thyristor which is only able
to conduct in one direction, the TRIAC is a bidirectional device.
TRIAC / thyristor comparison
The TRIAC is an ideal device to use for AC switching applications because it can control
the current flow over both halves of an alternating cycle. A thyristor is only able to control them
over one half of a cycle. During the remaining half no conduction occurs and accordingly only
half the waveform can be utilized.

Typical / idealized TRIAC & thyristor switching waveforms

The fact that the TRIAC can be used to control current switching on both halves of an
alternating waveform allows much better power utilization. However the TRIAC is not always as
convenient for some high power applications where its switching is more difficult.
TRIAC symbol
The circuit symbol recognizes the way in which the TRIAC operates. Seen from the outside it
may be viewed as two back to back thyristors and this is what the circuit symbol indicates.

TRIAC symbol for circuit diagrams

On the TRIAC symbol there are three terminals. These are the Gate and two other
terminals are often referred to as an "Anode" or "Main Terminal". As the TRIAC has two of
these they are labelled either Anode 1 and Anode 2 or Main Terminal, MT1 and MT2.
TRIAC basics
The TRIAC is a component that is effectively based on the thyristor. It provides AC switching
for electrical systems. Like the thyristor, the TRIACs are used in many electrical switching
applications. They find particular use for circuits in light dimmers, etc., where they enable both
halves of the AC cycle to be used. This makes them more efficient in terms of the usage of the
power available. While it is possible to use two thyristors back to back, this is not always cost
effective for low cost and relatively low power applications.
It is possible to view the operation of a TRIAC in terms of two thyristors placed back to
TRIAC equivalent as two thyristors
One of the drawbacks of the TRIAC is that it does not switch symmetrically. It will often
have an offset, switching at different gate voltages for each half of the cycle. This creates
additional harmonics which is not good for EMC performance and also provides an imbalance in
the system
In order to improve the switching of the current waveform and ensure it is more
symmetrical is to use a device external to the TRIAC to time the triggering pulse. A DIAC placed
in series with the gate is the normal method of achieving this.

DIAC and TRIAC connected together

Advantages and disadvantages
When requiring to switch both halves of an AC waveform there are two options that are
normally considered. One is to use a TRIAC, and the other is to use two thyristors connected
back to back - one thyristor is used to switch one half of the cycle and the second connected in
the reverse direction operates on the other half cycle.
As there are two options the advantages and disadvantages of using a TRIAC must be
weighed up.


Can switch both halves of an A TRIAC does not fire symmetrically on both
AC waveform sides of the waveform
Single component can be used Switching gives rise to high level of
for full AC switching harmonics due to non-symmetrical switching
More susceptible to EMI problems as a result

of the non-symmetrical switching

Care must be taken to ensure the TRIAC turns
off fully when used with inductive loads

Despite what may seem like a number of disadvantages, it is still the best option for many
circumstances. However when using a TRIAC, it is necessary to be aware of its limitations so
that these can be satisfactorily addressed and overcome should they affect the operation of the
overall circuit in any significant way.
TRIACs are used in a number of applications. However they tend not to be used in high
power switching applications - one of the reasons for this is the non-symmetrical switching
characteristics. For high power applications this creates a number of difficulties, especially with
electromagnetic interference.
However TRIACs are still used for many electrical switching applications:
a. Domestic light dimmers
b. Electric fan speed controls
c. Small motor controls
d. Control of small AC powered domestic appliances
The TRIAC is easy to use and provides cost advantages over the use of two thyristors for
many low power applications. Where higher powers are needed, two thyristors placed in "anti-
parallel" are almost always used.
The TRIAC is an electronic component that is widely used in many circuit applications,
ranging from light dimmers through to various forms of AC control. It is generally only used for
lower power applications, thyristors generally being used for the high power switching circuits.
Unijunction transistors have three terminals called the emitter, base 1, and base 2. The
emitter material is p-type semiconductor and the base material is n-type. In complementary UJTs,
base material is p-type and emitter n-type.
A signal applied to the UJT emitter terminal controls resistance between the base
terminals. With no emitter signal, resistance between base 1 and base 2 is high and very little
current flows. As the emitter voltage increases, the resistance between the base terminals remains
high until emitter voltage reaches a point called the peak voltage Vp. At this point, resistance
between the base terminals starts to decrease as current flowing into the emitter terminal
increases. Emitter voltage decreases as emitter current increases until a voltage valley point Vv.
After the valley point, increasing emitter currents cause an increase in emitter voltage.
Unijunction transistors can be used as negative resistors when operated
between Vp and Vv. This characteristic and a low firing current make them useful in oscillator
and timing circuits, and in triggering SCRs.
A gate turn-off switch, also known as a gate-controlled switch (GCS) or gate turn-off
thyristor (GTO), is similar to an SCR but can be turned off by a negative signal on the gate
terminal. GTOs generally handle much lower currents than SCRs.
GTOs have many characteristics of SCRs and transistors, and in some ways are superior
to both for power-switching applications. GTOs switch dc current without the auxiliary
components that SCRs require, resulting in reduced cost and lower electrical and electromagnetic
noise. Also, GTOs latch on or off with a single pulse.
Despite their advantages, GTOs are not as widely used as once seemed possible. Their
low use is probably because peak current that could be reliably turned off in early GTOs is
limited to relatively low values. The limit is imposed by current filaments that produce localized
hot spots during turn-off.
Newer GTOs, however, turn off much higher current than previous models. Higher peak-
controllable ratings are obtained with new shorted-anode structures, precise doping, and finely
interdigitated geometry. The new GTOs, moreover, switch faster than previous versions, exhibit
higher ratios of peak-to-average current, and greater on-state gain. Also, peak voltage ratings are
higher than those for bipolar and Darlingtons.
GTOs generally cannot be turned off successfully when conducting current in the range
between the maximum turn-off rating and the maximum surge rating. However, properly selected
fuses may protect new devices from damage due to current in this range.
GTOs are similar to SCRs in that both are four-layer devices. However, the average
current rating of GTOs, due to an interdigitated construction, is appreciably lower than that for
SCRs of corresponding size.
Average current ratings for GTOs generally are quite close to those for Darlingtons of
identical dimensions because similar inter digitation techniques are used for both. But GTOs
generally are capable of turning off higher current because Darlingtons go out of saturation at
high levels of current
A Static Induction Thyristor or SI-thyristor is a self-controlled GTO-like on-off device
commercially introduced in Japan in 1988. Similar device, known as field-controlled thyristors
(FCT) or field-controlled diode (FCD), were developed in USA. The device symbol is shown in
Fig. 11.10.
It is essentially a 13+ NN+ diode. Similar to SIT, SITH is a normally on device with the N-
region saturated with minority carrier. The turn-off behavior of SITH is similar to that of GTO. It
is a self-controlled GTO-like high power device (1200 V, 800A). Its general comparison with
GTO is given below.
Unlike GTO, SITH is a normally on device-asymmetric blocking.
a. The conduction drop is higher (4.0 V)
b. The turn-off current gain is lower (1 to 3)
c. The switching frequency is higher (tON = 2 s,tOFF = 9 s) and has lower switching losses.
d. The dv/dt and di/dt ratings are higher. (2 kV/s, 900A/s.
e. The SOA is improved and Tj is limited.
Out of many semiconductor controlled devices, MCT is considered to be the latest. The
device is basically a thyristor with two MOSFETs built into the gate structure. A MOSFET is
used for turning ON the MCT and another one is used for turning it OFF. The device is mostly
used for switching applications and has other characteristics like high frequency, high power, and
low conduction drop and so on. An MCT combines the feature of both conventional four
layer thyristor having regenerative action and MOS- gate structure. In this device, all the gate
signals are applied with respect to anode, which is kept as the reference. In a normally used SCR,
cathode is kept as the reference terminal for gate signals.
The basic structure of an MCT cell is shown in the figure below.
MOS Controlled Thyristor (MCT) Structure
In practice, a MCT will include thousands of these basic cells connected in parallel, just
like a PMOSFET. This helps in obtaining a high current carrying capacity for the device.
The equivalent circuit of the MCT is shown in the figure below.

MOS Controlled Thyristor (MCT) Equivalent Circuit

It consists of an ON-FET, an OFF-FET and two transistors. The MOS structure of the
MCT is represented in the equivalent circuit. It consists of one ON-FET, a p-channel MOSFET,
and an OFF-FET. Both n-p-n and p-n-p transistors are joined together to represent the n-p-n-p
structure of MCT. An n-channel MOSFET is represented by drawing the arrow towards the gate
terminal. A p-channel MOSFET is indicated by drawing the arrow away from the gate terminal.
The two transistors in the equivalent circuit indicate that there is regenerative feedback in the
MCT just as it is an ordinary thyristor. The circuit symbol of MCT is shown below.

MOS-Controlled Thyristor (MCT) Circuit Symbol

Turning ON Process
The device is turned ON by a negative voltage pulse at the gate with respect to the anode.
For turning ON MCT, gate is made negative with respect to anode by the voltage pulse
between gate and anode. So, MCT must be initially forward biased, and then only a
negative voltage be applied. With the application of this negative voltage pulse, ON-FET
gets turned ON whereas OFF-FET is already OFF. With ON-FET ON, current begins to
flow from anode A, through ON-FET and then as the base current and emitter of n-p-n
transistor and then to cathode K. This turns on n-p-n transistor. This causes the collector
current to flow in n-p-n transistor. As OFF FET is OFF, this collector current of npn
transistor acts as the base current of p-n-p transistor. Subsequently, p-n-p transistor is also
turned ON. If both the transistors are ON, regenerative action of the connection scheme
takes place and the MCT is turned ON.
Turning OFF process
The device is turned OFF by applying a positive voltage pulse at the gate. The positive
voltage pulse causes the OFF-FET to turn ON and ON-FET to turn OFF. After OFF-FET is
turned ON, emitter based terminals of p-n-p transistor are short circuited by OFF-FET. So, now
anode current begins to flow through OFF-FET and thus base current of p-n-p transistor begins
to decrease. The device has the disadvantage of reverse voltage blocking capability.
Advantages of MCT
a. Low forward conduction drop
b. Fast TURN-ON and then OFF times
c. Low switching losses
d. High gate input impedance
A gate turn-off thyristor, comprising a substrate formed of n-type silicon carbide; a
growth buffer formed of n-type silicon carbide and positioned to overlie said substrate; a field
buffer region formed of p-type silicon carbide and positioned to overlie said growth buffer; a
drift region formed of p-type silicon carbide and positioned to overlie said field buffer region; a
gated base region formed of n-type silicon carbide and positioned to overlie said drift region; a
modified anode region formed of first, second and third layers of silicon carbide and arranged in
a stacked array positioned to overlie said gated base region, said first layer comprising p-type
silicon carbide and overlying said gated base region, said second layer comprising n-type silicon
carbide and overlying said first layer, and said third layer comprising p-type silicon carbide and
overlying said second layer; an anode contact disposed on said third layer of said modified anode
region; a cathode contact disposed on said substrate; and a gate contact disposed on said gated
base region.


A gateless thyristor TRIGGERED by an avalanche current used in protection operation