What is a Schottky Barrier?

M. McGee
M. McGee

The Schottky barrier is a transmission barrier that can occur within certain metal-semiconductor diodes. This barrier's transmission properties differ vastly from standard ohmic contact, but they can be easy to mimic in the right circumstances. When compared to a normal diode connection, a Schottky diode moves power more easily with less overall depletion. This effect makes these diodes ideal for applications where the power needs to move in one direction with little overall modification.

Diodes are constructed using two contacts connected by semiconductive material. Voltage enters one end of the diode, passes through the semiconductor and goes out the other end. A standard diode is one-way; voltage may only enter one terminal and may only leave through the other. The semiconductive material is made up of a positive and negative region connected by a very small neutral barrier.

Most semiconductors are made of doped silicon. Doping is the process that turns normal silicon into a semiconductor. The silicon is infused with a specific metal that gives the mineral a positive or negative charge; a different metal is used for either end. This facilitates moving the voltage through and out of the diode.

Diodes that utilize a Schottky barrier are made a little differently than a standard diode. The biggest change is in the construction and management of the semiconducting portion. In a Schottky diode, the semiconductor comes in direct contact with a metallic connector. This metallic portion acts as one of the two standard regions of the semiconductor and creates the actual Schottky barrier.

This difference in connection has two immediate benefits. The metallic part of the semiconductor moves voltage more easily than a standard semiconductor. This allows voltage to pass through the diode with very little loss and is the basis for many of the diode’s applications.

In addition to easier voltage transmission, a Schottky diode costs less to produce. Since the semiconductive material only needs one dopant, it requires less fabrication time and steps. While this cost savings is minor in one diode, it amounts to a significant amount over an entire production run.

The primary purpose of diodes using a Schottky barrier is preventing voltage from moving backward in a system. While most diodes perform this same task, a Schottky diode does it with little power loss. That property makes these diodes ideal for power-generation systems or any situation where voltage moves into a storage medium and doesn’t come back out. The Schottky barrier limits inefficiency by reducing power loss.

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