Tunnel junction

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Schematic representation of an electron tunneling through a barrier

In electronics, a tunnel junction is a barrier, such as a thin insulating layer or electric potential, between two electrically conducting materials. Electrons (or quasiparticles) pass through the barrier by the process of quantum tunneling. Classically, the electron has zero probability of passing through the barrier. However, according to quantum mechanics, the electron has a non-zero wave amplitude in the barrier, and hence it has some probability of passing through the barrier. Tunnel junctions serve a variety of different purposes.

  • In magnetic tunnel junctions, electrons tunnel through a thin insulating barrier from one magnetic material to another. This can serve as a basis for a magnetic detector.
  • In tunnel diodes, a diode allows the tunneling of electrons for certain voltages. This allows them to be used for generating high-frequency signals.