Diffusion Current

What is Diffusion Current?

The term ‘diffusion’ signifies a process in which there is a motion of molecules of substance from a region of higher concentration to a lower concentration. Diffusion Current is the current produced as a result of the motion of charged carriers due to the difference in concentration between two regions.

In simplest terms, we can say the movement of charged particles due to their non-uniform concentration in the two regions results in the current known as diffusion current.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Where do we notice diffusion current?
  3. Current Generation
  4. Concentration Gradient
  5. Current Density


We know the current is associated with the motion of charged carriers.

Previously we have discussed drift current in a semiconductor material is generated when an external electric field is applied to the material. As there, the charged carriers undergo motion due to the presence of external electric potential.

However, unlike drift current, in diffusion current, there is no requirement for an external electric field for the motion of the charged carriers. As here the charges undergo motion to balance their concentration in the two regions.

Must Read: Electric Field Intensity

Where do we notice diffusion current?

Generally, we notice this current in non-uniformly doped semiconductor materials. In such semiconductors, the charges move to get uniformly distributed. Hence, their motion results in the current through the material.

You must note here that conductors never possess diffusion current. However, drift current is noticed in semiconductors as well as conductors.

Generation of Diffusion Current

Suppose we have a semiconductor bar which is non-uniformly doped with a pentavalent impurity, thereby forming n-type semiconductor material. The non-uniform doping causes the concentration of charged carriers to be different at the two ends of the material.

We know that the type of majority-charged carriers present in the semiconductor depends on the type of impurity with which the material is doped. So, the carriers undergoing diffusion can be either electrons or holes according to the type of semiconductor material.

But as here we have considered an n-type of semiconductor material. Thus the majority of carriers will be the electrons.process of diffusion resulting in diffusion current

Diffusion current is mainly due to the majority of charged carriers. Thus, in the above figure, we have represented only electrons as the charged carriers to understand the process of diffusion.

So, as the charged carriers are of the same type (i.e., electrons) thus, there exists a repulsive force between them. Due to this, in the non-uniform substrate, the carriers (electrons) gradually move and get diffused from a region where the concentration is high to the region where the concentration is low. Thereby resulting in the process of diffusion taking place.

Due to diffusion, the charged carriers, when moving, generates current referred to as diffusion current.

You must note a point over here that the diffusion of charged carriers continues till the time the carriers get uniformly distributed. Also, a non-uniform semiconductor is necessary for the flow of this current.

If the non-uniform doping generates a p-type semiconductor material, then by the same process, diffusion of holes takes place from a higher concentration region to a lower one. Resultantly generating diffusion current.

Concentration Gradient

The figure given below will help you to understand the non-uniform distribution of electrons:representation of non-uniform concentration

Here x represents the length of the material. It is clear that, with the increase in x, the doping concentration shows a reduction. Suppose n represents the concentration of electrons, and because of non-uniform doping, it varies w.r.t x. This is shown in the graph below:slope of concentration of electrons

From the above two figures, it is clear that the concentration of electrons in the material changes with x. This means the above-given slope corresponds to the ratio of change in concentration of carriers with a change in the distance.

This rate of change of concentration with distance is what we call a concentration gradient.

Hence is represented as:concentration gradient due to electrons

Similarly, for p-type non-uniformly doped semiconductors,concentration gradient due to holes

Diffusion Current Density

The diffusion current density for either n or p-type of semiconductor material is proportional to its respective concentration gradient.

electron current density

: Jn is the diffusion current density due to electrons

Further, on removing the sign of proportionality,electron current density-1

: Dn represents the constant of diffusion for electrons

Similarly,hole current density

: Jp is the diffusion current density due to holes

So, on removing the sign of proportionalityhole current density-1

: Dp represents the diffusion constant for holes

Here, as we can see that we have a negative slope for the concentration gradient. The electrons are already of negative polarity, but as holes are of positive polarity.  Thus, to represent the negative slope for the concentration gradient of holes, there is a use of a negative sign in the above equation.

Total Current Density

The overall current density in a semiconductor is due to both diffusions as well as drift currents.

Previously, we have seen the drift current due to electrons, and holes is given as:

drift current density

Also, recently we have derived the diffusion current density for electrons and holes as:diffusion current density

Hence, the total current density due to electrons will be:total current density due to electron

Moreover, the total current density due to holes:total current density due to hole

Thus, J represents the overall current density in a semiconductor material due to electrons and holes given as:total current density due to electron and hole

So, coming to the end of this discussion, we can say that the diffusion current is the result of the movement of carriers in a non-uniform semiconductor material and is majorly related to the majority of charged carriers.

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