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(/) MITx: 6.

002x Circuits and Electronics

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A curve tracer is a test instrument that plots the v-i characteristic of a device. In this lab you'll build a curve tracer and
use it to explore the v-i characteristics of a mosfet.

The schematic below shows a simple circuit that will plot the v-i characteristic of a resistor when a transient analysis is
run. Please observe that

1. The Vtest voltage source generates a triangle waveform that ramps from 0V to 3V then back again over a period
of 1ms. The stop time of the transient analysis is chosen to be 0.5ms so that the voltage on node vtest will be
just the rising ramp from 0V to 3V.

2. The voltage probe on the vtest node has its "Plot color" set to "x-axis", which asks the tool to use the values
sampled by the probe as the x-coordinate when plotting. So the horizontal axis of the plot showing the transient
results will be the voltage vtest instead of time.

3. A current probe -- a short wire segment with a colored chevron showing the reference direction -- is used to plot
the current flowing into the resistor. As with a voltage probe, one can double-click a current probe to select the
plot color that will be used when plotting the current.

4. You can use the label component (looks like a short straight line in the parts bin) to add names to circuit nodes.
Nodes with the same name are considered to be electrically connected.

The combined effect of this circuitry is that running a transient analysis will produce a plot of current through the
resistor as a function of vtest, the voltage across the resistor. Click on TRAN in the diagram below to see the resulting

Figure 1. Curve Tracer for a resistor

Not surprisingly, the v-i characteristic is a straight line passing through the origin, i.e., the resistor is linear device. As a
sanity check, use your mouse to make a measurement on the plot of the current I at a particular voltage V. For
example at V = 1.005, the measurement for I is 304.545uA. Now compute R = V/I = 1.005/.000304505 = 3300.4 ohms. (The
small numerical discrepency comes from the rounding that occurs when printing numerical values in the plot window.)

Now it's your turn! Constructing a similar test setup in the schematic diagram below, plot the v-i characteristic of a
mosfet. You may find it useful to first review Section 7.3 in the text.

The behavior of the mosfet is determined by two voltages: vDS , the potential difference between the drain and source
terminals and vGS , the potential difference between the gate and source terminals. As the test device use a mosfet
with a W/L parameter of 1. Use a DC voltage source to supply vGS : you'll want to try a range of values -- 0V, 0.5V, 1.0V,
1.5V, 2.0V, 2.5V and 3V -- varying from ground up to the power supply voltage.

You can try the various vGS values one at a time, but it's more instructive to see them plotted together to get a sense
of how varying the vGS changes the current through the mosfet switch. To get multiple v-i curves at the same time,
simply replicate the mosfet test setup (i.e., the current probe, mosfet and gate voltage source), chosing different values
for gate voltage source and changing the plot color for the current probe. With a little effort, after clicking on TRAN you
can get a plot like that shown in Figure 2 below. Compare your results to Figure 7.11 in the text. It's easy to see the the
mosfet is a non-linear device!

Figure 2. Mosfet v-i charactertistic for different vGS values

Please answer the following questions using measurements taken from the v-i plots you created.

1. Compute the effective RON in the triode region of the v-i characteritic when vGS = 3V , i.e., measure the
current through the mosfet switch when, say, vDS = 1V and report iDS
as your answer below. Remember this
should be for a device whose W/L is 1.

23833.8 Answer: 23834

2. The current through a mosfet switch operating in the saturation region is given by Equation 7.8 of the textbook:

K( v GS − VT )
iDS =
We can compute an estimate for the threshold voltage VT of the mosfet switch from the ratio of two iDS
measurements in the saturation region for different vGS values.

iDS (v GS 1 − VT )

2 (v GS − VT )

At vDS ≈ 3V , well into the saturation region, measure iDS twice, once when vGS = 3V and once when
vGS = 2.5 . Plug the measurements and the appropriate values for vGS into the equation above, solve for VT

and report your result below.

0.5 Answer: 0.5

3. Finally, using your measurements and calculated value for VT , compute the value for the constant K in
equation 7.8 (see above) and report the results.

0.000023 Answer: 23e-6

Moral: by using a curve tracer, it's possible to make measurements from an actual device and derive estimates for the
fundamental mosfet properties, K and VT , that designers need to model how the devices will work in situ.

Food for thought: you might try using your curve tracer to plot the v-i characteristics of a diode, another non-linear


The goal of this lab is to determine a MOSFET's parameters (\R_{ON}\), (\V_T\) and K using graphs of the MOSFET's
v-i curves measured from the MOSFET itself.

1. We want to compute RON of a MOSFET in the triode region of its v-i characteristic with when
= 1
vGS = 3V . To do this, we set vDS = 1V and report iDS
A circuit to do this could look like this:
Here we have two voltage sources hooked up to the MOSFET. The source Vgs controls the gate-to-source
voltage of the MOSFET, and the source Vds controls the drain-to-source voltage of the MOSFET. We
measure iDS as a function of vDS using our current and voltage probes with the voltage probe set to the x-
axis. Notice that we sweep vDS from 0.5V to 1.5V to capture a voltage range around vDS = 1V so that
we can see the MOSFET's behavior in that range. Running a transient analysis for 0.5ms, we get the
following curve:
Using our cursor, we find iDS = 42μA at vDS = 1V , which tells us that RON =
≊ 23830Ω .

2. Now we want to determine VT of the MOSFET. We can do this by measuring iDS of the MOSFET at two
different values of vGS and using the equation for the drain-to-source current of the MOSFET in the
saturation region:

K ⋅ ( vGS − VT )
iDS = (1)

We use vDS = 3V , vGS 1

= 2.5V , and vGS 2
= 3V and solve the following equation for VT after
determining iDS and iDS at vGS and vGS , respectively:
1 2 1 2

iDS 1 (vGS 1 − VT )
= (2)
iD S
2 (vGS 2 − VT )

You could use a circuit like this to measure iDS vs vGS

Here we use our probes to measure iDS vs. vGS where vGS ranges from 2V to 4V . Running a transient
analysis for 0.5ms, we get the following curve:
Using the cursor to measure iDS at vGS
= 2.5V and iDS at vGS
2 2
= 3V , we get iDS 1
= 46μA and
iDS 2 = 71.876μA . We can now solve for VT , which yields two values: 0.5V and 2.72V . For the MOSFET to
be in the saturation region, vGS must be at least VT . If the MOSFET is in saturation when vGS = 2.5V ,
then the correct value for VT must be 0.5V .

3. Now we want to determine the K parameter of the MOSFET. We can use the equation for the MOSFET's
drain-to-source current in saturation to determine K:

K ⋅ ( vGS − VT )
iDS = (3)

Using the values iDS = 46μA , vGS = 2.5V , and VT = 0.5V determined earlier, we get that
−5 −1
K = 2.3 × 10 Ω

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