PNP Transistor: How Does it Work? (Symbol & Working Principle)

What is a PNP Transistor

What is a PNP Transistor

A PNP transistor is a bipolar junction transistor constructed by sandwiching an N-type semiconductor between two P-type semiconductors. A PNP transistor has three terminals – a Collector (C), Emitter (E) and Base (B). The PNP transistor behaves like two PN junctions diodes connected back to back.

These back to back PN junction diodes are known as the collector-base junction and base-emitter junction.

Regarding the three terminals of the PNP transistor, the Emitter is a region is used to supply charge carriers to the Collector via the Base region. The Collector region collects most of all charge carriers emitted from the Emitter. The Base region triggers and controls the amount of current flows through the Emitter to Collector.

The equivalent circuit of a PNP transistor is as shown in the figure below.

Equivalent Circuit of PNP Transistor
Equivalent Circuit of an PNP Transistor

PNP Transistor Symbol and Construction

The construction of a PNP transistor is very similar to the construction of NPN transistor. In an NPN transistor, one P-type semiconductor sandwiched by two P-type semiconductors. And in PNP transistor, one N-type semiconductor sandwiched by two P-type semiconductor.

The construction of the PNP Transistor is as shown in the below figure.

Basic Structure of PNP Transistor
PNP Transistor Basic Diagram
Construction of PNP Transistor
Construction of PNP Transistor

In P-type semiconductors, the majority charge carriers are holes. Therefore, in the PNP transistor, the formation of the current is due to the movement of holes.

The middle layer (N-type layer) is called the Base terminal (B). The left P-type layer works as an Emitter terminal (E) and the right P-type layer works as a Collector terminal (C).

The Emitter and Collector (P-type) layers are heavily doped compared to the Base (N-type) layer. Therefore, the depletion region at both junctions is more penetrate towards the Base layer. The area of the Emitter and Collector layer is more compared to the Base layer.

In N-type semiconductors, a large number of free electrons are available. But, the width of the middle layer is very small and it is lightly doped. So significantly less free electrons are present in the Base region.

The symbol of the PNP transistor is as shown in the below figure. The arrowhead shows that the current will flow through Emitter to Collector.

Symbol of PNP Transistor
Symbol of PNP Transistor

How Does a PNP Transistor Work

The positive terminal of a voltage source (VEB) is connected with Emitter (P-type) and the negative terminal is connected with the Base terminal (N-type). Therefore, the Emitter-Base junction is connected in forward bias.

And the positive terminal of a voltage source (VCB) is connected with the Base terminal (N-type) and the negative terminal is connected with the Collector terminal (P-type). Hence, the Collector-Base junction is connected in reverse bias.

Working of PNP Transistor
Working of PNP Transistor

Due to this type of bias, the depletion region at Emitter-Base junction is narrow, because it is connected in forward bias. While the Collector-Base junction is in reverse bias and hence the depletion region at Collector-Base junction is wide.

The Emitter-base junction is in forward bias. Therefore, a very large number of holes from emitter cross the depletion region and enter the Base. Simultaneously, very few electrons enter in Emitter from the base and recombine with the holes.

The loss of holes in the emitter is equal to the number of electrons present in the Base layer. But The number of electrons in the Base is very small because it is a very lightly doped and thin region. Therefore, almost all holes of Emitter will cross the depletion region and enter into the Base layer.

Because of the movement of holes, the current will flow through the Emitter-Base junction. This current is known as Emitter current (IE). The holes are majority charge carriers to flow the Emitter current.

The remaining holes which do not recombine with electrons in Base, that holes will further travel to the Collector. The Collector current (IC) flows through the Collector-Base region due to holes.

PNP Transistor Circuit

The circuit of the PNP transistor is as shown in the below figure.

Circuit of PNP Transistor
Circuit of PNP Transistor

If we compare the circuit of PNP transistor with NPN transistor, then here the polarity and direction of current are reversed.

If a PNP transistor is connected with voltage sources as shown in the above figure, the base current will flow through the transistor. The small amount of base current controls the flow of a large amount of current through emitter to collector provided that the Base voltage is more negative than the Emitter voltage.

If the Base voltage is not more negative than the Emitter voltage, the current cannot flow through the device. So, it is necessary to give a voltage source in reverse bias more than 0.7 V.

Two resistors RL and RB connected in the circuit to limit the maximum amount of current through the transistor.

If you apply a Kirchhoff’s current law (KCL), the emitter current is a summation of the base current and collector current.

    \[ I_E = I_B + I_C \]


    \[ I_C = I_E - I_B \]

PNP Transistor Switch

In general, when the switch is OFF, the current cannot flow and behaves as an open circuit. similarly, when the switch is ON, the current will flow through the circuit and act as a close circuit.

The transistor is nothing but a power electronics switch that can work like normal switches. Now the question is how can we use PNP transistor as a switch?

As we have seen in the working of the PNP transistor, if the Base voltage is not more negative then Emitter voltage, the current cannot flow through the device. So, Base voltage is a minimum of 0.7 V in reverse bias to conduct the transistor.

It means that, if the Base voltage is zero or less than 0.7 V, the current cannot flow and it acts as an open circuit.

PNP Transistor as Open Switch
PNP Transistor as Open Switch

To turn ON the transistor, the Base voltage must more than 0.7 V. In this condition, the transistor acts as a close switch.

PNP Transistor as Closed Switch
PNP Transistor as Closed Switch

PNP vs NPN Transistor

The main differences when comparing PNP transistors vs NPN transistors have been summarized in the table below:

PNP Transistor NPN Transistor
StructureIt has one N-type and two P-type semiconductors.It has two N-type and one P-type semiconductor.
Direction of currentThe current will flow through the emitter to the collector.The current will flow through the collector to the emitter.
Majority charge carrierHolesElectron
Minority charge carrierElectronsHoles
Switching time SlowerFaster
Junction biasingEmitter-base junction is in reverse bias and collector-base junction is in forward bias.Emitter-base junction is in forward bias and collector-base junction is in reverse bias.
Symbol   PNP Transistor Symbol   NPN Transistor Symbol
Collector-emitter voltageNegativePositive
Emitter arrowPointed inPointed out
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