jfet amplifier

Common Source JFET Amplifier

So far we have looked at the bipolar type transistor amplifier and especially the common emitter amplifier, but small signal amplifiers can also be made using Field Effect Transistors or FET’s for short.

These devices have the advantage over bipolar transistors of having an extremely high input impedance along with a low noise output making them ideal for use in amplifier circuits that have very small input signals.

The design of an amplifier circuit based around a junction field effect transistor or “JFET”, (N-channel FET for this tutorial) or even a metal oxide silicon FET or “MOSFET” is exactly the same principle as that for the bipolar transistor circuit used for a Class A amplifier circuit we looked at in the previous tutorial.

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Firstly, a suitable quiescent point or “Q-point” needs to be found for the correct biasing of the JFET amplifier circuit with single amplifier configurations of Common-source (CS), Common-drain (CD) or Source-follower (SF) and the Common-gate (CG) available for most FET devices.

These three JFET amplifier configurations correspond to the common-emitter, emitter-follower and the common-base configurations using bipolar transistors. In this tutorial about FET amplifiers we will look at the popular Common Source JFET Amplifier as this is the most widely used JFET amplifier design.

Consider the Common Source JFET Amplifier circuit configuration below.

Common Source JFET Amplifier

common source jfet amplifier

The amplifier circuit consists of an N-channel JFET, but the device could also be an equivalent N-channel depletion-mode MOSFET as the circuit diagram would be the same just a change in the FET, connected in a common source configuration. The JFET gate voltage Vg is biased through the potential divider network set up by resistors R1 and R2 and is biased to operate within its saturation region which is equivalent to the active region of the bipolar junction transistor.

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Unlike a bipolar transistor circuit, the junction FET takes virtually no input gate current allowing the gate to be treated as an open circuit. Then no input characteristics curves are required. We can compare the JFET to the bipolar junction transistor (BJT) in the following table.

JFET to BJT Comparison

Junction FET Bipolar Transistor
Gate, ( G ) Base, ( B )
Drain, ( D ) Collector, ( C )
Source, ( S ) Emitter, ( E )
Gate Supply, ( VG ) Base Supply, ( VB )
Drain Supply, ( VDD ) Collector Supply, ( VCC )
Drain Current, ( ID ) Collector Current, ( IC )

Since the N-Channel JFET is a depletion mode device and is normally “ON”, a negative gate voltage with respect to the source is required to modulate or control the drain current. This negative voltage can be provided by biasing from a separate power supply voltage or by a self biasing arrangement as long as a steady current flows through the JFET even when there is no input signal present and Vg maintains a reverse bias of the gate-source pn junction.

In our simple example, the biasing is provided from a potential divider network allowing the input signal to produce a voltage fall at the gate as well as voltage rise at the gate with a sinusoidal signal. Any suitable pair of resistor values in the correct proportions would produce the correct biasing voltage so the DC gate biasing voltage Vg is given as:

source follower gate biasing

Note that this equation only determines the ratio of the resistors R1 and R2, but in order to take advantage of the very high input impedance of the JFET as well as reducing the power dissipation within the circuit, we need to make these resistor values as high as possible, with values in the order of 1 to 10MΩ being common.

The input signal, (Vin) of the common source JFET amplifier is applied between the Gate terminal and the zero volts rail, (0v). With a constant value of gate voltage Vg applied the JFET operates within its “Ohmic region” acting like a linear resistive device. The drain circuit contains the load resistor, Rd. The output voltage, Vout is developed across this load resistance.

The efficiency of the common source JFET amplifier can be improved by the addition of a resistor, Rs included in the source lead with the same drain current flowing through this resistor. Resistor, Rs is also used to set the JFET amplifiers “Q-point”.

When the JFET is switched fully “ON” a voltage drop equal to Rs x Id is developed across this resistor raising the potential of the source terminal above 0v or ground level. This voltage drop across Rs due to the drain current provides the necessary reverse biasing condition across the gate resistor, R2 effectively generating negative feedback.

So in order to keep the gate-source junction reverse biased, the source voltage, Vs needs to be higher than the gate voltage, Vg. This source voltage is therefore given as:

source voltage

Then the Drain current, Id is also equal to the Source current, Is as “No Current” enters the Gate terminal and this can be given as:

drain current

This potential divider biasing circuit improves the stability of the common source JFET amplifier circuit when being fed from a single DC supply compared to that of a fixed voltage biasing circuit. Both resistor, Rs and the source by-pass capacitor, Cs serve basically the same function as the emitter resistor and capacitor in the common emitter bipolar transistor amplifier circuit, namely to provide good stability and prevent a reduction in the loss of the voltage gain. However, the price paid for a stabilized quiescent gate voltage is that more of the supply voltage is dropped across Rs.

The the value in farads of the source by-pass capacitor is generally fairly high above 100uF and will be polarized. This gives the capacitor an impedance value much smaller, less than 10% of the transconductance, gm (the transfer coefficient representing gain) value of the device. At high frequencies the by-pass capacitor acts essentially as a short-circuit and the source will be effectively connected directly to ground.

The basic circuit and characteristics of a Common Source JFET Amplifier are very similar to that of the common emitter amplifier. A DC load line is constructed by joining the two points relating to the drain current, Id and the supply voltage, Vdd remembering that when Id = 0: ( Vdd = Vds ) and when Vds = 0: ( Id = Vdd/RL ). The load line is therefore the intersection of the curves at the Q-point as follows.

Common Source JFET Amplifier Characteristics Curves

common source jfet amplifier curves

As with the common emitter bipolar circuit, the DC load line for the common source JFET amplifier produces a straight line equation whose gradient is given as: -1/(Rd + Rs) and that it crosses the vertical Id axis at point A equal to Vdd/(Rd + Rs). The other end of the load line crosses the horizontal axis at point B which is equal to the supply voltage, Vdd.

The actual position of the Q-point on the DC load line is generally positioned at the mid center point of the load line (for class-A operation) and is determined by the mean value of Vg which is biased negatively as the JFET is a depletion-mode device. Like the bipolar common emitter amplifier the output of the Common Source JFET Amplifier is 180o out of phase with the input signal.

One of the main disadvantages of using Depletion-mode JFET is that they need to be negatively biased. Should this bias fail for any reason the gate-source voltage may rise and become positive causing an increase in drain current resulting in failure of the drain voltage, Vd.

Also the high channel resistance, Rds(on) of the junction FET, coupled with high quiescent steady state drain current makes these devices run hot so additional heatsink is required. However, most of the problems associated with using JFET’s can be greatly reduced by using enhancement-mode MOSFET devices instead.

MOSFETs or Metal Oxide Semiconductor FET’s have much higher input impedance’s and low channel resistances compared to the equivalent JFET. Also the biasing arrangements for MOSFETs are different and unless we bias them positively for N-channel devices and negatively for P-channel devices no drain current will flow, then we have in effect a fail safe transistor.

JFET Amplifier Current and Power Gains

We said previously that the input current, Ig of a common source JFET amplifier is very small because of the extremely high gate impedance, Rg. A common source JFET amplifier therefore has a very good ratio between its input and output impedances and for any amount of output current, Io the JFET amplifier will have very high current gain Ai.

Because of this common source JFET amplifiers are extremely valuable as impedance matching circuits or are used as voltage amplifiers. Likewise, because power = current × voltage, and output voltages are usually several millivolts or even volts, the power gain, Ap is also very high.

In the next tutorial we will look at how the incorrect biasing of the transistor amplifier can cause Distortion to the output signal in the form of amplitude distortion due to clipping and as well as the effect of phase and frequency distortion.


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