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Biasing Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJTs)

We now consider a BJT amplifier circuit that is especially useful because it maintains the operating (quiescent) point selected by the designer pretty much independent of the transistor parameters. This characteristic of the circuit is important in manufacturing because the values of parameters for individual transistors of a specified type can differ dramatically from the values typical of that type. The parameters even for a particular transistor can change substantially as the temperature changes. This **** miracle circuit is actually very simple:

The voltage Vcc is the power supply voltage. The capacitors Cb and Cc are coupling (or d-c blocking) capacitors. They are chosen large enough to have a very low (more on how-low-is-low later) impedance for all signal frequencies. They therefore permit the signals to flow into and then out of the amplifier (and perhaps into subsequent amplifier stages for more amplification) practically unimpeded while blocking the passage of any bias (d-c) currents. The operating point under quiescent conditions (no input signal) is therefore determined solely by the circuit between Cb and Cc : that is, solely by Vcc , Rb1 , Rb 2 , Rc and Re . (In

principle, the operating point depends also on various parameters of the transistor, Q1 , but that they do not have much influence is a special feature of this miracle circuit. More on this later.) How does this circuit work? The key point is that the voltage divider formed by
Rb1 and Rb 2 sets a reference voltage that (ideally) maintains the base voltage of

the transistor, Vb , at a constant value. Now let's consider what happens in this circuit if the operating point tries to change. Suppose the current through the transistor, I c , tries to increase (because of a change in temperature, for example). This increase increases the voltage across the emitter resistor, VRe But since the base voltage of the transistor is fixed by the voltage divider, an increase in VRe causes the base-to-emitter voltage, Vbe , to decrease. But, according to the characteristic curves for a BJT, a decrease in Vbe leads to a decrease in the base current, I b , that in turn leads to a decrease in the collector current, I c . The circuit therefore automatically acts to counteract any increase in the transistor current at the operating point. In fact, it is easy to see from a similar argument that the circuit also counteracts any decrease in the collector current. In summary, then, the circuit automatically tries to keep the operating current through the transistor at a constant value. (This effect is a particular example of negative feedback, a process that we will consider in more detail later. A thermostat is another example of negative feedback.) Because, all other things being equal, any change in collector-to-emitter voltage for the transistor, Vce , produces a corresponding change in collector current, the circuit also attempts to maintain a constant operating voltage, Vce , across the transistor. In short, the circuit tries very hard to maintain the operating point for the transistor that the designer intended. We now outline a procedure for choosing values of Vcc , Rb1 , Rb 2 , Rc and Re that will set the operating point of the transistor where we want it, or at least near there. Although we will write down equations to document the procedure and to

refer to during later analysis, your objective should be to learn to carry out the procedure without memorizing a single equation.

1. For present purposes, assume that I b (the small control current in a BJT) is negligible and that Vbe 0.7 V . ( Vbe depends mainly on what material the transistor is made of, not on the size or geometry of the transistor. For silicon transistors, the most common type, Vbe 0.7 V .) 2. Choose Vceq (or Vcc ) and I cq ( I eq by KCL since I b is negligible) to specify the quiescent operating point you want. (If you choose the operating voltage and current too large, the transistor can burn up. The data sheet for the transistor may contain a limit for the power dissipated by the transistor, PD Vceq I cq . The product of Vceq and I cq must be less than this value.) 3. Choose VRe 2 V . (Later, we'll see that we need to choose VRe 3 Vbe for good bias stability. For silicon transistors, therefore, we can achieve good bias stability without using up too much power supply voltage by choosing VRe 2 V .) 4. From the quiescent operating point, we can determine Re from Ohm's law:
Re VRe 2 I Re I cq

5. Choose Rc . For maximum symmetric swing (operating point at the center of the load line under quiescent conditions), choose
VRc Vceq

Thus, under quiescent conditions, we can determine Rc from Ohm's law:

Rc Vceq VRc I Rc I cq

(Later, we'll see that the value of Rc can be chosen to set the gain of the amplifier, at the cost of sacrificing maximum symmetric swing. For small signals, maximum symmetric swing may be unimportant. Maximum symmetric swing is most important for large signals, such as those in power amplifiers.) 6. Calculate Vcc from KVL:
Vcc VRe Vceq VRc

Vcc 2 Vceq Rc I cq

7. We have determined Re , Rc and Vcc at this point. We still must choose Rb1 and
Rb 2 . We now develop two simultaneous equations to determine them. As a

preliminary event, we calculate the base reference voltage:

Vb VRe Vbe Vb 2 0.7 Vb 2.7 V

8. To get the first equation for Rb1 and Rb 2 , we impose the condition that Vcc be divided down to Vb .
Rb1 Vcc Vb 2.7 V Rb1 Rb 2

9. To get the second equation, set the current in the base voltage divider to 10% of I cq . (This choice, as we'll see later, gives good bias stability yet increases the current drain on the power supply by only 10%.)
Vcc 0.1 I cq Rb1 Rb 2

(This calculation neglects I b , which we know is small. Later, we'll justify this assumption in more detail.) 10. We can solve for Rb1 and Rb1 by substituting the second equation into the first:
Rb1 (0.1 I cq ) Vb 2.7 V


10 Vb 27 I cq I cq

11. Now that we know Rb1 , we can solve for Rb 2 .

Rb 2 Vcc - Vb V - 2.7 cc I Rb 2 0.1 I cq
10 Vcc - 27 I cq

Rb 2

The design of the amplifier is now complete: Re , Rc , Vcc , Rb1 and Rb1 are all determined. Remember that we have chosen Rc for maximum symmetric swing. Later, we'll see how to choose Rc to obtain a specified voltage gain from the amplifier.

Example: Choose a quiescent point for a transistor in the circuit above and use
the 2N2222 NPN BJT model in PSpice to see how close the quiescent point in the simulation is to your design values. For the desired operating point, we choose, arbitrarily:
Vceq 10 V

Icq 20 mA 20 x 10



2 100 I cq

For maximum symmetric swing, choose

VRe Vceq

so that
Rc Vceq I cq 10 V 500 20 x 10-3 A

Vcc VRe Vceq VRc

Vcc 22V

Now we must choose Rb1 and Rb 2 . Set the current through the divider to 10% of
I cq , or 2 mA. Thus,


VRb1 I Rb1

2.7 V 1350 20 x 10-3 A


Rb 2

VRb 2 22 V - 2.7 V 9650 I Rb 2 20 x 10-3 A