Negative Resistance

RF/Photonics Lab
November 2019
Jared Alves

Negative Resistance

Arguably the most fundamental equation in electrical engineering is Ohm’s Law (V = I*R) which states that voltage is proportional to the product of current and resistance. From this equation, it is apparent that increasing a voltage across an element will increase the current through that element assuming the resistance is fixed. With a resistor, electrical energy is dissipated in the form of thermal energy (heat) due to the voltage drop between the terminals of the device. This is in direct contrast to the concept of negative resistance, which causes electrical power to be produced instead of dissipated.

Generally, negative resistance refers to negative differential resistance, as negative static resistance is not typically used.  Static resistance is the standard V/I ratio while differential resistance takes the derivative dV/dI. The following image shows an I-V curve with several slopes. The inverse of B yields a static resistance, and the inverse of line C is differential resistance (both evaluated at the point A). If the differential curve has a negative slope, this indicates negative differential resistance.


Even when differential resistance is negative, static resistance remains positive. This is because only the AC component of the current flows in the reverse direction. A device would consume DC power but dissipate AC power. This is because the current decreases as the voltage increases, leading to


A tunnel diode is a semiconductor device that exhibits negative resistance due to a quantum mechanical effect called “tunneling”.

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