A gunn diode is solely composed of N-type semiconductor. As such, it is not a true diode. Figure below shows a lightly doped N– layer surrounded by heavily doped N+ layers. A voltage applied across the N-type gallium arsenide gunn diode creates a strong electric field across the lightly doped N– layer.
As voltage is increased, conduction increases due to electrons in a low energy conduction band. As voltage is increased beyond the threshold of approximately 1 V, electrons move from the lower conduction band to the higher energy conduction band where they no longer contribute to conduction. In other words, as voltage increases, current decreases, a negative resistance condition. The oscillation frequency is determined by the transit time of the conduction electrons, which is inversely related to the thickness of the N– layer.
The frequency may be controlled to some extent by embedding the gunn diode into a resonant circuit. The lumped circuit equivalent shown in Figure above is actually a coaxial transmission line or waveguide. Gallium arsenide gunn diodes are available for operation from 10 to 200 gHz at 5 to 65 mw power. Gunn diodes may also serve as amplifiers.
Article Extracted from Tony R. Kuphaldt Lessons In Electric Circuits — Volume III Chapter 2 under the terms and conditions of the CC BY License.