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1 Light Emitting Diode

Light Emitting Diode (LED) is just like a forward biased diode made up of special material.
When the diode is forward biased current flows through it and electrons and holes recombine in
the vicinity of P-N junction. During recombination process electrons emit extra energy in the
form of photons of light h.

Fig 3.8: Biasing an LED

The optical power generated in an LED is directly related to the current i flowing through the
device by the equation.


Where, i represents the internal efficiency of LED, h is the photon energy and (i/e) are the total
number of electrons entering junction per unit time.
For wavelengths in the range (0.8 < < 1.5 m) that are used for fiber optic communications, the
quantity h/e evaluates to ~ 1 W/A, hence the optical power in mW is roughly equal to the
current in mA multiplied by internal efficiency i. The optical power of an LED can also be
related to the electrical power Pelec by a simple equation.

Table 3.1 shows some of the commonly used material in manufacturing of LEDs along with their
associated band gap energies and possible wavelength ranges [17].

Table 3.1: Material, Band Gap energies and wavelength ranges Time and Frequency Responses

In some applications we require frequent switching (on/off) of an LED to transmit data reliably.
This is a very much desirous property of devices especially in optical communication. Two
factors affect the time response of an LED. Firstly the p-n junction capacitance C in
combination with the circuit resistance R determines the response time RC. As the circuit
resistance is not very large, so impact of RC is not very significant. The 2 nd important factor is
the electron life time in the conduction band, . The exact response is calculated using the
electron rate equation. However, we neglect its mathematics here and conclude that when the
circuit current is switched on and off frequently, the light emitted by the LED cannot follow
exactly rather it exhibits exponential response [18]. This is shown in fig 3.9.

Fig 3.9: LED Time Response

LEDs frequency response is calculated in a similar way. The frequency response can be
described as the bandwidth above which an attenuated replica of input sinusoid is generated at
the output.

Fig 3.10: LED Frequency/ bandwidth Response

Bandwidth of an LED can be defined in two ways. The 3 dB electrical bandwidth is defined as
The frequency at which the electrical power is reduced by a factor of two [18]. Since the
power in an electrical circuit is proportional to V2 or i2, the 3 dB bandwidth occurs at the
frequency at which i2 is reduced by a factor of two.


Similarly, 3dB optical bandwidth is defined as The point at which the optical power is reduced
by a factor of two [18].


3.3.2 Laser Diode

Contrary to electron-hole recombination, light in a laser diode (LD) is produced by a different
process known as Stimulated Emission.
An electron within an atom or a molecule or an ion is normally in a low energy stable state also
called the ground state. When energy supplied from an external source (pumping), it is
absorbed by the atomic structure upon which the electron shifts to an excited (higher energy)
state. When a photon with an energy level close to that of excited electron is bombarded from
outside, it causes resonance within the excited atom. As a result the excited electron jumps to a
lower energy state which is more stable giving up its extra energy in the form of a photon. Newly
emitted photon has identical wavelength, phase and direction as that of the exciting photon [17].

Fig 3.11: Stimulated Emission

When process of stimulated emission is encapsulated in a cavity by using reflective end mirrors,
structure is transformed to a Laser. As light traverses between the reflective end mirrors multiple
times, it gets increasingly amplified and a highly coherent and highly directional beam of light is
produced called the laser light. Threshold
Lasing does not occur below a certain level called threshold level. Although laser diode does
transmit a weaker light signal below threshold (spontaneous emission) but high powered laser
seed is produced only after threshold level [18].

Laser Output




Fig 3.12: Laser Response Directionality
Light emitted by a laser source is highly directional in nature. For a source like an LED angular
distribution of the emitted light signal follows the Lamberts Law.
For laser sources the above equation can be modified and re-written as [18]:

Fig 3.13: Angular distribution pattern of LED and LD

3.4.1 P-I-N Diodes

A p-i-n diode is a simple p-n junction in which thin depletion region is made thick by adding an
un-doped or lightly doped semiconductor material between the p-n junctions. This thick
depletion region is termed as intrinsic zone hence named p-i-n diode. A pin photodiode used
for optical communication system uses InGaAs for the middle layer and InP for the surrounding
p-type and n-type layers. Fig 3.18 shows the structure of a typical p-i-n diode.

Fig 3.18: Schematic of P-I-N Diode

Working principle of a p-i-n diode is the reverse that of an LED. Light is absorbed at the p-n
junction rather than emitted. A P-I-N Diode operates in reverse bias. Energy of a striking photon
is absorbed at the reverse biased junction and causing an electron to jump from valence band to

conduction band leaving a hole behind (alternately creating ions in the depletion region). This
ionization process also widens the depletion region. Free electrons and holes created by the
absorption of photons are attracted towards their oppositely charged ends and current flows.
Table 3.2 lists the operating characteristics of three common types of pin photo-diodes [15].

Table 3.2: X-tics of 3 common types of p-i-n diodes Efficiency parameters of P-I-N Diodes

Efficiency of p-i-n diodes is expressed either in terms of Quantum Efficiency or Responsivity.
Quantum efficiency is simply the ratio of number of electrons produced at the junction by the
number of incident photons. In ideal case one incident photon produces one electron resulting in
100% quantum efficiency. Practically quantum efficiency can be made almost 100% by
thickening InGaAs layer 45 m [15].
Quantum efficiency does not take into the account the energy level of incident photons.
Responsivity (A/W) instead takes account of the photon energies and is defined as The output
photocurrent of the device (in amperes) divided by the input optical power (in Watts) [17].