Best, clearest explanation I’ve found for how the classic bipolar transistor works. No math.
When I went into engineering school, I found it extremely odd that there were still no good explanations of bipolar transistors. Sure, there were detailed mathematical treatments. Just multiply the Base current by “hfe” to obtain the Collector current. Or, treat the transistor as a two-port network with a system of equations inside. Ebers-Moll and all that. But these were similar to black-box circuits, and none of them said HOW a transistor works, how can a small current have any effect on a larger one???? And nobody else seemed curious. Everyone else in the class seemed to think that to memorize the equations was the same as learning concepts and gaining understanding of the device. (R. Feynman calls this the Euclidean or “Greek viewpoint;” the love of mathematics, as opposed to the physicists’ ” Babylonian viewpoint” where concepts are far more important than equations.) I’m a total Babylonian. For me, math is useless at the start, equations are like those black box Spice programs which might work great, but they don’t tell you any details of what’s happening inside a device in the real world.
Right On! And Oh Goody!
First of all, you must abandon the idea that current travels in transistors or flows inside of wires. Yes, you heard me right. Current does not flow. Electric current never flows, since an electric current is not a stuff. Electric current is a flow of something else. (Ask yourself this: what’s the stuff that flows in a river, is it called “current?” Or is it called “water?”)
Since a current is a flow of charge, the common expression “flow of current” should be avoided, since literally it means “flow of flow of charge.” – MODERN COLLEGE PHYSICS, Richards, Sears, Wehr, Zemanski
So what flows inside of wires?
The stuff that moves within wires is not named Electric Current. Intead it is called Electric Charge. It’s the charge that flows, never the current. And in rivers or in plumbing, it’s the water that flows, not the “current.” We cannot understand plumbing until we stop believing in a magical stuff called “current.” We must learn that “water” flows inside of pipes. The same is true with circuits. Wires are not full of current, they are full of charges that can move. Electric charge is real stuff; it can move around with a real velocity and a real direction. But electric current is not stuff. If we decide to ignore “current,” and then examine the behavior of moving charges in great detail, we can burn off the clouds of fog that block our understanding of electronics.
Second: the charges found within conductors do not push themselves along, but instead they’re pushed by potential difference; they’re pushed by the voltage-fields within the conductive material. Charges are not squirted out of the power supply as if the power supply was some sort of water tank. If you imagine that the charges leave through the positive or negative terminal of the power supply; and if you think that the charges then spread throughout the hollow pipes of the circuit, then you’ve made a fundamental mistake. Wires do not act like “empty electron-pipes.” A power supply does not supply any electrons. Power supplies certainly create currents, or they cause currents, but remember, we’re removing that word “current.” To create a flow of charges, a power supply does not inject any charges into the wires. The power supply is only a pump. A pump can supply a pumping pressure. Pumps never supply the water being pumped.
Third: have you discovered the big ‘secret’ of visualizing electric circuits?
ALL CONDUCTORS ARE ALREADY FULL OF CHARGE
Wires and silicon …both behave like pre-filled water pipes or water tanks. Electric circuits are based on full pipes. This simple idea is usually obscured by the phrase “power supplies create current,” or “current flows in wires.” We end up thinking that wires are like hollow pipes. We end up thinking that a mysterious substance called Current is flowing through them. Nope. (Once we get rid of that word “current,” we can discover fairly stunning insights into simple circuits, eh?)
If circuits are like plumbing, then none of the “pipes” of a circuit are ever empty.
I was taught to visualize a wire as a tube full of ping-pong balls. You push a ball in at one end, and another ball pops out at the other end. The actual speed at which individual balls (or in the case of electric current, electrons) move through the pipe is very much slower than how fast the impulse moves. (For electrons, this is called the drift rate, and is usually a few inches per second. The impulse is the speed of light. For ping pong balls, the impulse speed is the speed of sound.)
This is not empty nit-picking. This absolutely correct, and I’m pleased to finally grasp the distinction between “current” and “what flows”.
Now, get thee hence, and learn how one of the fundamental miracles of the age works.