Diffusion Capacitance

Explore the concept of diffusion capacitance in diodes, a crucial factor affecting their performance in high-frequency applications. Learn how this capacitance forms due to charge carrier dynamics under forward bias and its impact on electronic circuits.

In the realm of electronics, understanding the behavior and characteristics of components such as diodes is crucial for designing efficient circuits. One such characteristic, often overlooked, is diffusion capacitance. This article delves into what diffusion capacitance is, how it forms in a diode, and its implications in electronic circuits.

What is Diffusion Capacitance?

Diffusion capacitance is a type of capacitance that arises in semiconductor devices like diodes, primarily under forward-bias conditions. It is associated with the charge storage within the device, specifically due to the non-equilibrium excess carriers (electrons and holes) that diffuse into regions where they are minority carriers. This phenomenon significantly affects the dynamic behavior of the diode, particularly at high frequencies.

Formation of Diffusion Capacitance in Diodes

To understand how diffusion capacitance forms, it’s essential to look at what happens when a diode is forward-biased. A diode, a two-terminal semiconductor device, has a p-n junction, which separates the n-type (electron-rich) and p-type (hole-rich) materials. Under no bias (when the diode is not connected to any external voltage source), there exists a built-in potential across this junction, creating a depletion region—a zone devoid of any free charge carriers.

When the diode is forward-biased (positive voltage applied to the p-side relative to the n-side), the width of the depletion zone decreases. This bias reduces the barrier for charge carriers, allowing electrons and holes to recombine across the junction. However, not all carriers immediately recombine; many diffuse into the opposite layers as minority carriers before eventually recombining.

This diffusion of carriers leads to a temporary storage of charge within the diode. The quantity of this stored charge is proportional to the forward current and the lifetime of the carriers (the average time a carrier remains mobile before recombining). The relationship between the charge storage and the applied voltage can be treated analogously to a capacitor, where the capacitance C is defined by the change in charge Q with respect to the change in voltage C=dQ/dV​.

In the case of a diode, as the forward current increases, more carriers are injected, leading to greater charge storage and hence higher diffusion capacitance.

Implications of Diffusion Capacitance

Diffusion capacitance is significant in high-frequency applications. It influences the speed at which a diode can turn on and off, impacting the overall performance of circuits like radio frequency (RF) amplifiers, mixers, and switches. High diffusion capacitance can lead to slower response times and may introduce undesirable phase shifts and attenuation in signal-processing applications.

Diffusion Capacitance Formula

diffusion capacitance formula

Diffusion Capacitance Formula Derivation

If a charge flow of Q produces a diode current I, the mean lifetime of charge carriers is τ.


The equation for diode current is,


After substituting the value of I from equation (2) into equation (1), we obtain:


The diffusion capacitance of a PN junction of the diode is.


After substituting the value of Q obtained from equation (3) into equation (4), we get:


When a forward bias voltage surpasses a few tenths of a volt, it becomes active.


The diffusion Capacitance of a diode is,


The capacitance of a diode (CD) increases with the forward current due to the injection of majority carriers into the depletion region.

Solved Problem

Calculate the diffusion capacitance of a silicon diode at room temperature (300 K) when it is forward-biased with a voltage that results in a current of 10 mA. Assume the carrier lifetime (τ) is 1 µs.

Given Data:

  • Forward current, I = 10 mA =10×10−3 A
  • Carrier lifetime, τ = 1 µs = 1×10−6 s
  • Thermal voltage at room temperature (300 K), VT​ (approximately 26 mV) = 0.026 V


The diffusion capacitance CD​ of a diode can be calculated using the formula:


The diffusion capacitance CD​ of the diode under the given conditions is approximately 384.6 nF (nanofarads). This represents the capacitance due to the storage of charge carriers in the diode when it is forward-biased, impacting how quickly the diode can respond to changes in voltage at high frequencies. ​


Diffusion capacitance is a critical parameter that helps in understanding and predicting the behavior of diodes under dynamic conditions, particularly under forward bias when used in high-frequency applications. It highlights the importance of considering both static and dynamic characteristics when analyzing semiconductor devices. Understanding diffusion capacitance not only aids in the design of more efficient electronic circuits but also helps in optimizing existing designs for better performance.

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