MOSFET

Photomicrograph of two metal-gate MOSFETs in a test pattern. Probe pads for two gates and three source/drain nodes are labeled.

This structure with p-type body is the basis of the n-type MOSFET, which requires the addition of n-type source and drain regions.

The MOS capacitor structure is the heart of the MOSFET. Consider a MOS capacitor where the silicon base is of p-type. If a positive voltage is applied at the gate, holes which are at the surface of the p-type substrate will be repelled by the electric field generated by the voltage applied. At first, the holes will simply be repelled and what will remain on the surface will be immobile (negative) atoms of the acceptor type, which creates a depletion region on the surface. Remember that a hole is created by an acceptor atom, e.g. Boron, which has one less electron than Silicon. One might ask how can holes be repelled if they are actually non-entities? The answer is that what really happens is not that a hole is repelled, but electrons are attracted by the positive field, and fill these holes, creating a depletion region where no charge carriers exist because the electron is now fixed onto the atom and immobile.

As the voltage at the gate increases, there will be a point at which the surface above the depletion region will be converted from p-type into n-type, as electrons from the bulk area will start to get attracted by the larger electric field. This is known as inversion. The threshold voltage at which this conversion happens is one of the most important parameters in a MOSFET.

In the case of a p-type bulk, inversion happens when the intrinsic energy level at the surface becomes smaller than the Fermi level at the surface. One can see this from a band diagram. Remember that the Fermi level defines the type of semiconductor in discussion. If the Fermi level is equal to the Intrinsic level, the semiconductor is of intrinsic, or pure type. If the Fermi level lies closer to the conduction band (valence band) then the semiconductor type will be of n-type (p-type). Therefore, when the gate voltage is increased in a positive sense (for the given example), this will "bend" the intrinsic energy level band so that it will curve downwards towards the valence band. If the Fermi level lies closer to the valence band (for p-type), there will be a point when the Intrinsic level will start to cross the Fermi level and when the voltage reaches the threshold voltage, the intrinsic level does cross the Fermi level, and that is what is known as inversion. At that point, the surface of the semiconductor is inverted from p-type into n-type. Remember that as said above, if the Fermi level lies above the Intrinsic level, the semiconductor is of n-type, therefore at Inversion, when the Intrinsic level reaches and crosses the Fermi level (which lies closer to the valence band), the semiconductor type changes at the surface as dictated by the relative positions of the Fermi and Intrinsic energy levels.

C–V profile for a bulk MOSFET with different oxide thickness. The leftmost part of the curve corresponds to accumulation. The valley in the middle corresponds to depletion. The curve on the right corresponds to inversion

The occupancy of the energy bands in a semiconductor is set by the position of the Fermi level relative to the semiconductor energy-band edges.

With sufficient gate voltage, the valence band edge is driven far from the Fermi level, and holes from the body are driven away from the gate.

Source tied to the body to ensure no body bias: subthreshold (top left), ohmic mode (top right), active mode at onset of pinch-off (bottom left), and active mode well into pinch-off (bottom right). Channel length modulation is evident.

For an enhancement-mode, n-channel MOSFET, the three operational modes are:

According to the basic threshold model, the transistor is turned off, and there is no conduction between drain and source. A more accurate model considers the effect of thermal energy on the Fermi–Dirac distribution of electron energies which allow some of the more energetic electrons at the source to enter the channel and flow to the drain. This results in a subthreshold current that is an exponential function of gate–source voltage. While the current between drain and source should ideally be zero when the transistor is being used as a turned-off switch, there is a weak-inversion current, sometimes called subthreshold leakage.

Cross section of a MOSFET operating in the linear (ohmic) region; strong inversion region present even near drain

The transistor is turned on, and a channel has been created which allows current between the drain and the source. The MOSFET operates like a resistor, controlled by the gate voltage relative to both the source and drain voltages. The current from drain to source is modeled as:

The switch is turned on, and a channel has been created, which allows current between the drain and source. Since the drain voltage is higher than the source voltage, the electrons spread out, and conduction is not through a narrow channel but through a broader, two- or three-dimensional current distribution extending away from the interface and deeper in the substrate. The onset of this region is also known as pinch-off to indicate the lack of channel region near the drain. Although the channel does not extend the full length of the device, the electric field between the drain and the channel is very high, and conduction continues. The drain current is now weakly dependent upon drain voltage and controlled primarily by the gate–source voltage, and modeled approximately as:

If λ is taken as zero, the resulting infinite output resistance can simplify circuit analysis, however this may lead to unrealistic circuit predictions, particularly in analog circuits.

The occupancy of the energy bands in a semiconductor is set by the position of the Fermi level relative to the semiconductor energy-band edges. Application of a source-to-substrate reverse bias of the source-body pn-junction introduces a split between the Fermi levels for electrons and holes, moving the Fermi level for the channel further from the band edge, lowering the occupancy of the channel. The effect is to increase the gate voltage necessary to establish the channel, as seen in the figure. This change in channel strength by application of reverse bias is called the 'body effect'.

The body effect upon the channel can be described using a modification of the threshold voltage, approximated by the following equation:

While polysilicon gates have been the de facto standard for the last twenty years, they do have some disadvantages which have led to their likely future replacement by metal gates. These disadvantages include:

The insulator in a MOSFET is a dielectric which can in any event be silicon oxide, formed by LOCOS but many other dielectric materials are employed. The generic term for the dielectric is gate dielectric since the dielectric lies directly below the gate electrode and above the channel of the MOSFET.

MOSFET showing shallow junction extensions, raised source and drain and halo implant. Raised source and drain separated from gate by oxide spacers

These various features of junction design are shown (with artistic license) in the figure.

Modern ICs are computer-simulated with the goal of obtaining working circuits from the very first manufactured lot. As devices are miniaturized, the complexity of the processing makes it difficult to predict exactly what the final devices look like, and modeling of physical processes becomes more challenging as well. In addition, microscopic variations in structure due simply to the probabilistic nature of atomic processes require statistical (not just deterministic) predictions. These factors combine to make adequate simulation and "right the first time" manufacture difficult.