Unipolar transistor – Mosfet, Fet, Jfet Tutorial


Unipolar transistor

unipolar transistor

Unipolar Transistor (also known as Field-Effect Transistor – FET) –tri-ended (tri-electrode), semiconductor electronic component that has the ability of amplifying the electrical signal. They transfer only one type of carriers: majority carriers (hence the name – unipolar), while the control of output current is done with use of electric field (field effect transistors). Depending on the operating laws, we can distinguish two main types of field effect transistors: Junction FET (JFET) and Insulated Gate FET (IGFET). The latter are divided into Metal-Oxide Semiconductor FET (MOSFET) and Thin-Film Transistors (TFT).

The division of field effect transistors:

division of field effect transistors

Division of field effect transistors


Construction and operation principles of FETs:

Unipolar Transistors have three electrodes: D – drain, G – gate, and S – source; these are equivalents to the electrodes in bipolar transistors. Two of them: Drain and Source are connected to the properly doped semiconductor crystal. Between these ends, channel is created through which the current flows. Third end is placed along the channel: Gate, thanks to which we can control the flow of the current. In case of connecting multiple MOS transistors in an integrated circuit, fourth electrode is often used: B – Body (or Bulk) in order to bias the substrate. But in general this end is connected with/to the source.


Operating modes of FETs:

There are three operating modes of the transistors:

  • Cut-off mode: |UGS| > |UT| at any |UDS|,
  • Active mode (also known as the linear or unsaturated): |UGS| < |UT| and |UDS| <= |UDSsat|,
  • Saturation mode: |UGS| < |UT| and |UDS| => |UDSsat|.

Note: In many countries Voltage unit and symbol is called “V” instead of “U” like in this article. 

FET symbols:

JFET (normally on):

Jfet symbols

Jfet symbols

Jfet inner structure

Inner structure of JFET with “N” channel type

In JFET transistors the gate is insulated from the channel by the reverse-bias junction (with very high input resistance). There are two variants of this junction:

  • P-N junction (PNFET)
  • M-S junction (Metal-Semiconductor)

The channel through which the current will flow is located between the drain and source. One can control the width of the channel (its resistance) by changing the gate-source voltage (UGS). Increasing UGS voltage (which reverse-bias the junction) causes narrowing of the channel until its completely “closed” – the current won’t flow. To the UGS voltage, the voltage drop between a specific point of channel and the source (UDS) is added. Increasing the value of UDS voltage will ultimately connect depletion layers and block the channel by saturating the transistor. The value of Drain current ID ceases to grow regardless of further increasing the UDS voltage, and transistor becomes a very good transconductance component.



  • Depletion type – D MOS (normally on):
Mosfet symbols

D MOS symbols

  • Enhancement type – E MOS (normally off):
Mosfet symbols

E Mos symbols

Mosfet structure

Inner structure of E MOSFET with “N” type channel

In this type of transistors the gate is insulated from the channel with dielectric layer. The area marked “N+” is heavily doped “N” type semiconductor. In case of E MOS transistors with voltage of UGS = 0, channel is blocked (its resistance takes the value of MΩ and the ID current doesn’t flow). By increasing the UGS voltage channel increases its conductivity and after reaching a certain value called UT threshold voltage, the flow of the ID drain current was possible through the channel.

The minimum resistance value of the channel specified by the manufacturer can be found in datasheets as rdson(it’s dependent from the maximum voltage of the UDS transistor. The value of ID current that will flow through the created channel is dependent from the UDS voltage, but it isn’t a linear relation. It’s described by the formula:

βcurrent amplifier ratio
This current affects on the gate bias state by changing it, which results in a narrowing of the channel near the drain. In case of further increasing the gate-source UGS voltage, the cut-off of UGSoff voltage will be exceeded at some point causing the loss of created channel (UGS= UDS)

Basic parameters of FETs:

  • UDSmax – the maximum drain-source voltage,
  • IDmax– the maximum drain current,
  • UGSmax– the maximum gate-source current,
  • Ptotmax– permissible power loss,
  • UP– the threshold voltage at which current begins to flow,
  • IDSS(UGS=0) – the saturation current at determined UDS current,
  • gm [S-Siemens] – transconductance ratio,
  • rds(on)– the minimum resistance value of the channel of transistor operating in the unsaturation mode,
  • IGmax– the maximum allowable gate current,
  • ID(OFF)– the drain current in cut-off mode – at a voltage | UGS| > | UGS(OFF)|.


Current-voltage characteristics of FETs:

Transfer characteristics – it describes the relation of ID drain current from the gate-source UGS voltage with determined drain-source UDS voltage.


Jfet characteristic

D MOS “N”:

Mosfet characteristic

E MOS “N”:

Mosfet characteristics

Drain characteristics (for “N” type unipolar transistors) – it describes the relation of drain Icurrent from the drain-source UDS voltage with determined gate-source UGS voltage. The characteristics area was divided into two parts: the active and saturated scope.

Unipolar characteristics






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I'm Michael. Me and my friend John are students of electronics. We are creating this site to help students and any interested people understand electronics.

2 thoughts on “Unipolar transistor – Mosfet, Fet, Jfet Tutorial

  1. Thank you.
    There’s so much confusing resources about *FET that finding your page has been a gift from Google.
    As a non-formally trained person it’s hard to get to understand all of this as resources are scarce.
    I’d suggest you also add the info about Ugs being equivalent to Vgs (U == V) since it seems to change based on conventions.

    keep it up 🙂
    ubi de feo

    1. Hello, thank you for your comment. In my country we use U as a Voltage symbol. That’s why I used it here and forgot to mention that it’s different in other countries. Thank you for your feedback.

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