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Transistors are classified as either NPN or PNP according to the arrangement of their N and P materials. Their basic construction and chemical treatment is implied by their names, "NPN" or "PNP." That is, an NPN transistor is formed by introducing a thin region of P-type material between two regions of N-type material. On the other hand, a PNP transistor is formed by introducing a thin region of N-type material between two regions of P-type material. Transistors constructed in this manner have two PN junctions, as shown in the figure below. One PN junction is between the emitter and the base; the other PN junction is between the collector and the base. The two junctions share one section of semiconductor material so that the transistor actually consists of three elements.

Transistor block diagrams
Transistor block diagrams.

Since the majority and minority current carriers are different for N and P materials, then it stands to reason that the internal operation of the NPN and PNP transistors will also be different. The theory of operation of the NPN and PNP transistors will be discussed separately in the next few paragraphs. Any additional information about the PN junction will be given as the theory of transistor operation is developed.

Transistor representations
Transistor representations.

To prepare you for the forthcoming information, the two basic types of transistors along with their circuit symbols are shown in the figure above. It should be noted that the two symbols are different. The horizontal line represents the base, the angular line with the arrow on it represents the emitter, and the other angular line represents the collector. The direction of the arrow on the emitter distinguishes the NPN from the PNP transistor. If the arrow points in, (Points iN) the transistor is a PNP. On the other hand if the arrow points out, the transistor is an NPN (Not Pointing iN).


Another point you should keep in mind is that the arrow always points in the direction of hole flow, or from the P to N sections, no matter whether the P section is the emitter or base. On the other hand, electron flow is always toward or against the arrow, just like in the junction diode.

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