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REG. NO.- 10804665

1. Introduction of gunn diode

2. Microscopic view
3. Gunn diode construction
4. Operation of the gunn diode
5. Gunn diode tuning
6. Gunn effect operation
7. X- band microwave gunn oscillator
8. Gunn oscillator
9. Gunn oscillator application
10. Conclusion
11. Bibliography

A Gunn diode, also known as a transferred electron device (TED), is a form

of diode used in high-frequency electronics. It is somewhat unusual in that it
consists only of N-doped semiconductor material, whereas most diodes
consist of both P and N-doped regions. In the Gunn diode, three regions
exist: two of them are heavily N-doped on each terminal, with a thin layer of
lightly doped material in between. When a voltage is applied to the device,
the electrical gradient will be largest across the thin middle layer.
Conduction will take place as in any conductive material with current being
proportional to the applied voltage. Eventually, at higher field values, the
conductive properties of the middle layer will be altered, increasing its
resistivity and reducing the gradient across it, preventing further conduction
and current actually starts to fall down. In practice, this means a Gunn diode
has a region of negative differential resistance.
The negative differential resistance, combined with the timing properties of
the intermediate layer, allows construction of an RF relaxation oscillator
simply by applying a suitable direct current through the device. In effect, the
negative differential resistance created by the diode will negate the real and
positive resistance of an actual load and thus create a "zero" resistance
circuit which will sustain oscillations indefinitely. The oscillation frequency
is determined partly by the properties of the thin middle layer, but can be
tuned by external factors. Gunn diodes are therefore used to build oscillators
in the 10 GHz and higher (THz) frequency range, where a resonator is
usually added to control frequency. This resonator can be take the form of a
waveguide, microwave cavity or YIG sphere. Tuning is done mechanically,
by adjusting the parameters of the resonator, or in case of YIG spheres by
changing the magnetic field.
Gallium arsenide Gunn diodes are made for frequencies up to 200 GHz,
gallium nitride materials can reach up to 3 terahertz.
The Gunn diode is named for the physicist J.B. Gunn who, in 1963,
produced the first device based upon the theoretical calculations of Cyril
GaAs has a third band above the conduction band. The gap is indirect, so a
photon is needed or created to deliver the impulse for the transition. The
energy stems from the kinetic energy of ballistic electrons. They either start
out in a high-energy Fermi-Dirac region and are ensured a sufficiently long
mean free path by applying a strong electric field, or they are injected by a
cathode with the right energy. For the latter, the cathode material has to be
chosen carefully; chemical reactions at the interface need to be controlled
during fabrication and additional monoatomic layers of other materials
inserted. In either case, with forward voltage applied, the Fermi level in the
cathode is the same as the third band, and reflections of ballistic electrons
starting around the Fermi level are minimized by matching the density of
states and using the additional interface layers to let the reflected waves
interfere destructively. In GaAs the drift velocity in the third band is lower
than in the usual conduction band, so with a small increase in the forward
voltage, more and more electrons can reach the third band and current
decreases. This creates a region of negative incremental resistance in the
voltage/current relationship.

Multiple Gunn diodes in a series circuit are unstable, because if one diode
has a slightly higher voltage drop across it, it will conduct less current, and
the voltage drop will rise further. In fact, even a single diode is internally
unstable, and will develop small slices of low conductivity and high field
strength which move from the cathode to the anode. It is not possible to
balance the population in both bands, so there will always be thin slices of
high field strength in a general background of low field strength. So in
practice, with a small increase in forward voltage, a slice is created at the
cathode, resistance increases, the slice takes off, and when it reaches the
anode a new slice is created at the cathode to keep the total voltage constant.
If the voltage is lowered, any existing slice is quenched and resistance
decreases again.
Gunn diodes are fabricated from a single piece of n-type silicon. Within the
device there are three main areas, which can be roughly termed the top,
middle and bottom areas.

The top and bottom areas of the device are heavily doped to give N+
material. This provides the required high conductivity areas that are needed
for the connections to the device. The device is mounted on a conducting
base to which a wire connection is made. It also acts as a heat-sink for the
heat which is generated. The connection to the other terminal of the diode is
made via a gold connection deposited onto the top surface. Gold is required
because of its relative stability and high conductivity.

The centre area of the device is the active region. It normally around ten
microns thick its thickness will vary because this is one of the major
frequency determining elements. This region is also less heavily doped and
this means that virtually all the voltage placed across the device appears
across this region.

In view of the fact that the device consists only of n type material there is no
p-n junction and in fact it is not a true diode, and it operates on totally
different principles


The operation of the Gunn diode can be explained in basic terms. When a
voltage is placed across the device, most of the voltage appears across the
inner active region. As this is particularly thin this means that the voltage
gradient that exists in this region is exceedingly high.

It is found that when the voltage across the active region reaches a certain
point a current is initiated and travels across the active region. During the
time when the current pulse is moving across the active region the potential
gradient falls preventing any further pulses from forming. Only when the
pulse has reached the far side of the active region will the potential gradient
rise, allowing the next pulse to be created.

It can be seen that the time taken for the current pulse to traverse the active
region largely determines the rate at which current pulses are generated, and
hence it determines the frequency of operation.

A clue to the reason for this unusual action can be seen if the voltage and
current curves are plotted for a normal diode and a Gunn diode. For a normal
diode the current increases with voltage, although the relationship is not
linear. On the other hand the current for a Gunn diode starts to increase, and
once a certain voltage has been reached, it starts to fall before rising again.
The region where it falls is known as a negative resistance region, and this is
the reason why it oscillates.


The frequency of the signal generated by a Gunn diode is chiefly set by the
thickness of the active region. However it is possible to alter it somewhat.
Often Gunn diodes are mounted in a waveguide and the whole assembly
forms a resonant circuit. As a result there are a number of ways in which the
resonat frequency of the assembly can be altered. Mechanical adjustments
can be made by placing an adjusting screw into the waveguide cavity and
these are used to give a crude measure of tuning.

However some form of electrical tuning is normally required as well. It is

possible to couple a varactor diode into the Gunn oscillator circuit, but
changing the voltage on the varactor, and hence its capacitance, the
frequency of the Gunn assembly can be trimmed.

A more effective tuning scheme can be implemented using what is termed a

YIG. It gains its name from the fact that it contains a ferromagnetic material
called Yttrium Iron Garnet. The Gunn diode is placed into the cavity along
with the YIG which has the effect of reducing the effective size of the
cavity. This is achieved by placing a coil outside the waveguide. When a
current is passed through the coil it has the effect of increasing the magnetic
volume of the YIG and hence reducing the electrical size of the cavity. In
turn this increases the frequency of operation. This form of tuning, although
more expensive, produces much lower levels of phase noise, and the
frequency can be varied by a much greater degree.


The “Gunn Effect” has been widely known since the discovery of
microwave current instabilities in bulk N – type GaAs by J. Gunn in 1963.
This transferred electron device or TED produces oscillations using the
negative resistance property of bulk Ga As. This "negative resistance"
phenomenon results when the electrons in N type Ga As traverse from a high
mobility to a lower mobility valley thus producing a lower net electron
velocity. A Gunn diode has a unique characteristic current vs. voltage
response. The current tracks the voltage from the application of 0 volts until
a point called the voltage threshold or VTH is reached. At this point the
current reaches a maximum value which is known as the threshold current or
ITH. This point is also noted by an electric field of 3.2 kV/cm. Any further
increase in bias voltage results in the current decreasing as a result of the
“Gunn effect” This "negative resistance" phenomena will continue until the
breakdown voltage or VBR is reached and operation beyond this point will
cause diode failure. Typical operating voltage (VOP) ranges 2.5 - 3.5 times
the VTH values for cw operation. There are other considerations in the
operation of a Gunn oscillator. The oscillator will not operate in the proper
mode until the VOP point is reached. No output is seen when bias is first
applied and noise and unwanted lower frequencies of a magnitude which can
harm the diode are produced. Bias suppression elements are used especially
shunt capacitance to suppress these unwanted signals and prevent turn on
damage to the diode. The bias is increased until VOP is reached which is 0.5
- 1.0 V above turn-on or VTO. The “power peak” or VPP is the voltage
where maximum RF power is generated. An oscillator is usually operated at
a VOP which is 15% below VPP at 250C. The bias properties discussed so
far all change with temperature: the VTH and the VPP decrease with
increasing temperature while the VBR increases with increasing
temperature. At lower temperatures, the turn on and the power peak voltages
are higher than at room temperature. The selection of the operating voltage
at an optimum point to cover a temperature range is critical if a wide
operating temperature range is required. The voltage must be high enough to
turn on the diode at low temperatures but not exceed VPP at the higher
temperature. shows the temperature characteristics of VTO, VPP, and VBR
of a Gunn oscillator.
Since the end of the1940s, solid–state devices have replaced tubes in most
microwave amplifier and oscillator applications. This class of devices are
preferred because their performance and low cost. In the 1960s and 1970s,
avalanche and Gunn diodes were extensively used for the generation of
microwave power and more recently, junction and field-effect transistors
have been increasingly used in microwave amplifiers and oscillators. GaAs
FETs, and Heterojunction devices have replaced other solid-state devices in
many microwave applications; however Gunn and IMPATT diodes are still
commonly used at frequencies up to Ka band frequencies (26-40 GHz) and
beyond. Given the usually limited resources of universities to endow the
basic instrumentation required in educational microwave laboratories, a low
cost, high performance Gunn X Band oscillator for educational and research
purposes has been developed. The cavity has been manufactured on standard
waveguide WR90, with UBR100 flange, in order to make it compatible with
the rest of waveguide circuitry available in a basic microwave laboratory.
The oscillator may also be used as a microwave source in a wide type of
experiments. For these reasons, and taking into account the fragility of Gunn
diodes regarding their biasing , we have designed an external protection
circuit for the device. This robust circuit allows to bias the Gunn diode in a
wide range of conditions, so that if the user inverts the biasing polarities or
exceeds the maximum working voltage, the Gunn diode will not be

Gunn oscillator properties depend on the internal negative resistance due to
carrier motion in the semiconductor at high electric fields. When the Gunn
diode is biased above the critical threshold field, a negative dielectric
relaxation time is exhibited, which results in amplification of any carrier
concentration fluctuations, causing a deviation from space-charge neutrality.
The resultant domain drifts toward the anode and is extinguished, and a new
domain is formed at the cathode. The current through the device consists of
a series of narrow spikes with a period equal to the transit time of the
domain. When, in a given period of time an RF voltage is superimposed to
DC bias, the terminal voltage can be below that of both the threshold voltage
and the domain-sustaining voltage. The frequency of oscillation is
determined by the resonant circuit, including the impedance of the device.
Experimental results and computer simulation have shown that the device
can be tuned over more than an octave bandwidth by an external cavity. A
Gunn diode type MA49156 was chosen for this purpose, because of its
availability, good performance and low cost . The bias voltage is applied to
the cavity interior via a BNC connector directly attached to the external part,
as shown in Figure . Inside the resonant cavity, and in order to optimize its
operation, the oscillator includes a sliding short circuit, an iris which acts as
a filter, and tuning screws which act as reactive elements, . It can also be
appreciated in the figure that a threaded drum machined in plastic is
included in order to move the short circuit, so the oscillating frequency can
be accurately varied. completely mounted and ready for use. To assess the
correct operation of the diode inside the resonant cavity, three types of
measurements have been performed: output power, frequency spectrum and
phase noise of the oscillator. Previously, the matching of the cavity-diode
assembly is verified by measuring the scattering parameters of the oscillator
without biasing the diode. The matching was found better that 20 dB in the
whole band.
To assess the correct operation of the diode inside the resonant cavity, three
types of measurements have been performed: output power, frequency
spectrum, and phase noise of the oscillator. Previously, the matching of the
cavity-diode assembly is verified by measuring the scattering parameters of
the oscillator without biasing the diode. The matching was found better that
20 dB in the whole band. it the mechanical tuning characteristics of the
Gunn oscillator at in the whole X band. This measure has been performed
during the characterization of one of the ten devices manufactured for our
RF and microwave laboratory. the spectrum of the oscillator at 9.98 GHz As
can be observed in the figure, the power exceeds 1.5 mW, which is sufficient
for most of the laboratory experiments. Also, it can be appreciated there are
no in-band spurious, except one, 55 dB below the output power level at the
oscillating frequency.


In the protection circuit allows the biasing of the Gunn diode in a wide range
of conditions. If the biasing polarity is reversed, the power diode D1N4007
does not conduct and the output voltage is zero. The programmable linear
regulator LM317 is set to the best bias voltage (14V) for the Gunn diode, by
varying the value of the potentiometer POT1. If the input bias range exceeds
the maximum operation voltage of the Gunn diode, the linear regulator fixes
the output voltage at 14 volts (or the maximum voltage set by POT1). Even
if the DC supply voltage is increased to up to 40V, the maximum
permissible voltage at the input of the LM317, the Gunn diode will not be


Gunn diodes have been commercially successful as microwave oscillators

since the late 1960's. They are employed wherever a stable low cost
microwave source is needed. Gunn oscillators have found many slots
throughout the industry including communications: as mixer local
oscillators, pumps for parametric amplifiers, TX and RX oscillators for radio
communications, radar sources - including police radar, commercial, and
military, wireless LANs and also as detectors: commercial sensors for
detecting: velocity, direction, proximity, or level sensing alarms. They have
now found new markets in vehicular collision avoidance and intelligent
cruise control.


A very low-cost and good performance X-Band Gunn cavity oscillator for
use with waveguide WR- 90 has been developed and tested. This oscillator
is capable to sweep all the X-Band (8-12 GHz) with constant output power
and low phase noise. Additionally, an external protection circuitry has been
designed, to protect the oscillator against polarity inversion or excess voltage
when biasing the Gunn diode. Future lines of work contemplate the
extension of this cavity for higher power diodes.