IMPact Avalanche Transit Time diode is a high power radio frequency (RF) generator operating from 3 to 100 gHz. IMPATT diodes are fabricated from silicon, gallium arsenide, or silicon carbide.
An IMPATT diode is reverse biased above the breakdown voltage. The high doping levels produce a thin depletion region. The resulting high electric field rapidly accelerates carriers which free other carriers in collisions with the crystal lattice. Holes are swept into the P+ region. Electrons drift toward the N regions. The cascading effect creates an avalanche current which increases even as voltage across the junction decreases. The pulses of current lag the voltage peak across the junction. A “negative resistance” effect in conjunction with a resonant circuit produces oscillations at high power levels (high for semiconductors).
The resonant circuit in the schematic diagram of Figure above is the lumped circuit equivalent of a waveguide section, where the IMPATT diode is mounted. DC reverse bias is applied through a choke which keeps RF from being lost in the bias supply. This may be a section of waveguide known as a bias Tee. Low power RADAR transmitters may use an IMPATT diode as a power source. They are too noisy for use in the receiver.
Article Extracted from Tony R. Kuphaldt Lessons In Electric Circuits — Volume III Chapter 2 under the terms and conditions of the CC BY License.