Question
Sat December 03, 2011 By: Sarthak Kumar

Please explain in detail use of transistor as a switch. I have read from multiple sources but am not able to understand

Expert Reply
Sun December 04, 2011
The secret to making a transistor switch work properly is to get the transistor in a saturation state.

For the sake of illustration, let's insert a transistor in place of the switch to show how it can control the flow of electrons through the lamp. Remember that the controlled current through a transistor must go between collector and emitter. Since it is the current through the lamp that we want to control, we must position the collector and emitter of our transistor where the two contacts of the switch were. We must also make sure that the lamp's current will move against the direction of the emitter arrow symbol to ensure that the transistor's junction bias will be correct as in Figure below(b).

(a) mechanical switch, (b) NPN transistor switch, (c) PNP transistor switch.

Going back to the NPN transistor in our example circuit, we are faced with the need to add something more so that we can have base current. Without a connection to the base wire of the transistor, base current will be zero, and the transistor cannot turn on, resulting in a lamp that is always off. Remember that for an NPN transistor, base current must consist of electrons flowing from emitter to base (against the emitter arrow symbol, just like the lamp current). Perhaps the simplest thing to do would be to connect a switch between the base and collector wires of the transistor as in Figure below (a)

If the switch is open as in (Figure above (a), the base wire of the transistor will be left “floating” (not connected to anything) and there will be no current through it. In this state, the transistor is said to be cutoff. If the switch is closed as in (Figure above (b), however, electrons will be able to flow from the emitter through to the base of the transistor, through the switch and up to the left side of the lamp, back to the positive side of the battery. This base current will enable a much larger flow of electrons from the emitter through to the collector, thus lighting up the lamp. In this state of maximum circuit current, the transistor is said to be saturated.

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