Understanding the Diode Ideality Factor: A Comprehensive Guide

The diode ideality factor, often denoted as n, is a crucial parameter in the study of semiconductor devices. It reflects the deviation of a real diode’s behavior from that of an ideal diode. This article provides an in-depth look at the diode ideality factor, accompanied by an illustrative image, and explores its implications through numerical problems.

What is the Diode Ideality Factor?

The ideality factor n is a dimensionless number typically ranging between 1 and 2, which quantifies the quality and efficiency of a diode’s junction. It appears in the diode equation, modifying the ideal behavior predicted by the Shockley diode equation:


Factors Affecting the Diode Ideality Factor

  1. Recombination and Generation: In real diodes, the recombination of carriers within the depletion region can lead to higher ideality factors.
  2. Material Quality: Defects and impurities in the semiconductor material can increase the ideality factor by facilitating alternative current paths.
  3. Operational Conditions: Temperature and current levels can also influence the value of n.

Numerical Example 1: Calculating Diode Current


  • I0=10-12 (Reverse saturation current),
  • V=0.7 V (Voltage across the diode),
  • n=2 (Ideality factor),
  • VT​=26 mV (Thermal voltage).

Calculate the diode current I:

Using the diode equation:

solved-example-1-diode-ideality factor

Numerical Example 2: Effect of Changing Ideality Factor


  • I0=10−12 A,
  • V=0.7 V,
  • n=1 and n=1.5,
  • VT​=26 mV.

Task: Calculate the diode current for both ideality factors and compare.

We’ll use the same diode equation, changing only the value of n to see the effect on the current I.

Let’s proceed with the calculations for both numerical problems.

Results of Numerical Problems

  1. For the first example with n=2:
    • The calculated diode current I is approximately 7.02×10−7 A.
  2. For the second example, comparing different ideality factors:
    • With n=1, the diode current I is significantly higher, approximately 0.493 A.
    • With n=1.5, the diode current I is about 6.24×10−5 A.

These results illustrate the impact of the ideality factor on the current flowing through a diode. A lower ideality factor (closer to 1) results in a much larger current for the same voltage, demonstrating more ideal diode behavior. Conversely, a higher ideality factor indicates greater non-ideal behavior, reducing the current flow under the same conditions.


The diode ideality factor is a fundamental parameter in semiconductor physics, influencing how a diode’s current-voltage characteristics deviate from the ideal model. Understanding and calculating the effects of different ideality factors can help effectively design and diagnose electronic circuits. ​

  1. Forward Biasing of PN Junction
  2. Zener Diode
  3. Varactor Diode

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