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What is a JFET?

Linear Systems

May 30, 2024

JFETs are three-terminal semiconductor devices that can be used as electronically controlled switches or resistors, or to build amplifiers.

Linear Systems JFET (Junction Field-Effect Transistor) amplifiers are known for their exceptional performance in low-noise, high-input impedance applications. These amplifiers are particularly valued in audio, instrumentation, and signal processing systems due to their ability to amplify weak signals without adding significant noise. Dual JFET amplifiers incorporate two JFETs in a single package, which offers matched characteristics and improved thermal stability. This configuration enhances the performance and reliability of circuits that require closely matched transistors, simplifying the design and reducing component count. Such amplifiers find extensive use in differential amplifiers and other precision analog circuits, making them indispensable in high-fidelity audio equipment and sensitive measurement devices.

JFET Basics

JFETs are three-terminal semiconductor devices with a gate, source, and drain. They belong to the family of field-effect transistors (FETs), where the flow of current is controlled by an electric field applied to the device's gate terminal. In contrast to bipolar junction transistors (BJTs), which use a current-controlled base to control the collector-emitter current, JFETs utilize a voltage-controlled gate to regulate the source-drain current. This fundamental difference is what makes JFETs superior in high-impedance applications as they draw very little gate current, resulting in minimal loading and noise contributions.

Common Source Amplifier

The most widely used configuration for amplifying signals using a JFET is the common source (CS) amplifier. As the name suggests, the input signal is applied at the device's gate terminal and amplified output is obtained at its drain. The source terminal is common to both input and output circuits, hence the name. The CS amplifier offers high voltage gain, excellent linearity and good frequency response over a wide range. It also provides high input impedance and low output impedance, making it suitable for driving loads with varying impedances.

Advantages of JFETs

  1. High Input Impedance: Because the gate is isolated from the source-drain path by a reverse-biased PN junction, JFETs have very high input impedance compared to BJTs or MOSFETs. This allows them to be used in high-impedance circuits without causing significant loading effects.

  2. Low Noise: Due to their low gate current and minimal internal resistance, JFETs exhibit very low noise performance, making them ideal for use in sensitive audio equipment and measurement devices.

  3. Good Linearity: The transconductance (gm) of a JFET is relatively constant over a wide range of input voltages, resulting in good linearity and low distortion compared to BJTs or MOSFETs.

  4. Simple Biasing: Unlike BJTs which require precise base biasing and MOSFETs which need complex circuitry for gate biasing, JFETs can be easily biased using a simple resistor or potentiometer.

  5. Reverse Bias Protection: The reverse-biased PN junction in the JFET acts as a natural diode, providing reverse bias protection and preventing damage to the device if the input voltage exceeds the specified limit.

Applications of JFETs

JFETs find applications in various electronic circuits such as:

  • Low-Noise Amplifiers: Due to their low noise performance, JFETs are commonly used in audio amplifiers, radio receivers, and other sensitive applications where noise can be a major issue.

  • Switching Circuits: JFETs can be used as simple on-off switches by connecting the gate to ground (for N-channel) or to the supply voltage (for P-channel) to control the flow of current between source and drain.

  • Voltage-controlled Resistors: By varying the gate voltage, a JFET can be used as a variable resistor in circuits such as oscillators and filters.

  • Sample-and-Hold Circuits: The high input impedance of JFETs makes them suitable for use in sample-and-hold circuits where the input voltage needs to be held constant for a short period of time.

  • Constant Current Sources: JFETs can also be used as simple constant current sources, where the output current remains nearly constant despite changes in input voltage or load resistance.

Other applications include use in high-frequency circuits, chopper amplifiers, and instrumentation equipment. With advancements in technology, JFETs are being increasingly replaced by other types of transistors such as MOSFETs. However, they still hold importance in certain specialized applications due to their unique characteristics and simplicity in biasing and operation.


JFETs are versatile electronic devices with numerous advantages over other types of transistors. These include high input impedance, low noise performance, and simplicity in biasing. They find widespread use in various applications such as amplifiers, switching circuits, voltage-controlled resistors, sample-and-hold circuits, and constant current sources. Despite being gradually replaced by other transistor types, JFETs still hold importance in certain specialized applications and continue to be an essential component in the field of electronics. With ongoing research and development, we can expect to see further advancements and improvements in JFET technology. These small but powerful devices will continue to play a significant role in shaping the electronic industry. So, it is important for any electronics enthusiast or professional to have a thorough understanding of the working principles and applications of JFETs in order to utilize them effectively in their circuit designs. With their versatile characteristics and unique advantages, JFETs have undoubtedly played a crucial role in the development of modern electronic systems and will continue to do so in the future. So next time you come across a JFET, remember their importance and versatility in the world of electronics.

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