SCR Semiconductor

August 24, 2016
Thyristor Thyristor (SCR
Invented Gordon Hall and Frank W. "Bill" Gutzwiller
First production General Electric, 1957
Pin configuration

A or semiconductor-controlled rectifier is a four-layer solid-state current-controlling device. The name "silicon controlled rectifier" is General Electric's trade name for a type of thyristor. The SCR was developed by a team of power engineers led by Gordon Hall and commercialized by Frank W. "Bill" Gutzwiller in 1957.

Some sources define silicon controlled rectifiers and thyristors as synonymous, other sources define silicon controlled rectifiers as a proper subset of the set of thyristors, those being devices with at least four layers of alternating n- and p-type material. According to Bill Gutzwiller, the terms "SCR" and "controlled rectifier" were earlier, and "thyristor" was applied later, as usage of the device spread internationally.

SCRs are unidirectional devices (i.e. can conduct current only in one direction) as opposed to TRIACs, which are bidirectional (i.e. current can flow through them in either direction). SCRs can be triggered normally only by currents going into the gate as opposed to TRIACs, which can be triggered normally by either a positive or a negative current applied to its gate electrode.


The silicon control rectifier (SCR) consists of four layers of semiconductors, which form NPNP or PNPN structures have three P-N junctions labeled J1, J2 and J3, and three terminals. The anode terminal of an SCR is connected to the p-type material of a PNPN structure, and the cathode terminal is connected to the n-type layer, while the gate of the SCR is connected to the p-type material nearest to the cathode.

An SCR consists of four layers of alternating p- and n-type semiconductor materials. Silicon is used as the intrinsic semiconductor, to which the proper dopants are added. The junctions are either diffused or alloyed (alloy is a mixed semiconductor or a mixed metal). The planar construction is used for low-power SCRs (and all the junctions are diffused). The mesa-type construction is used for high-power SCRs. In this case, junction J2 is obtained by the diffusion method, and then the outer two layers are alloyed to it, since the PNPN pellet is required to handle large currents. It is properly braced with tungsten or molybdenum plates to provide greater mechanical strength. One of these plates is hard-soldered to a copper stud, which is threaded for attachment of heat sink. The doping of PNPN depends on the application of SCR, since its characteristics are similar to those of the thyratron. Today, the term "thyristor" applies to the larger family of multilayer devices that exhibit bistable state-change behaviour, that is, switching either on or off.

The operation of an SCR and other thyristors can be understood in terms of a pair of tightly coupled bipolar junction transistors, arranged to cause the self-latching action:

Modes of operation[edit]

There are three modes of operation for an SCR depending upon the biasing given to it:

  1. Forward blocking mode (off state)
  2. Forward conduction mode (on state)
  3. Reverse blocking mode (off state)
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