jfet strangness NEED HELP

I just got some npn jfet transistors in the mail and I'm having problems. My setup is a +5.5 volt, gnd, -5.5 volt powersupply. I hooked up the LED to a resistor and going through the drain and source to the +5.5 volt and gnd so the LED lights up. Whenever I apply the negative voltage to the gate the transistor should turn off, right? well whenever I do nothing happends. When I touch the gate with my finger the LED turns on (no current) so the LED turns off. Sometimes when I touch it again it turns off (LED on). sometimes it just turns off when I touch it. When I touch a grounded (real ground, for like anti static stuff) aligator clip it does the same as my body. When I touch the -5.5 volt with one hand and touch the gate with the other nothing happends. Sometimes by how far away my finger to the gate the LED goes up and down in brightness. My questions is how can I turn the transistor on (so that the LED turns off) when I apply a voltage to the gate?

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If you don't mind me asking, what is a jfet? (how's it different from mosfet?)
guyfrom7up (author)  T3h_Muffinator10 years ago
a jfet is a junction field effect transistor. A mosfet is a metal-oxide field effect transistor. They are almost exactly the same but I think mosfets are more prone to static shock. mosfets are actually better though if you ignore that static fact because they have larger gate impedence, 10 to the 14 power ohms compared to the 10 to the 9th power for jfets
westfw guyfrom7up10 years ago
a "Field effect transistor" uses the electric field from a signal on the gate to control a (bigger) signal from the source to drain. In a MOSFET, there's a layer of silicon dioxide (or other insulator) between the gate electrode and the reset of the device, so the gate behaves like a capacitor (and conducts zero "static" current), and you have a pretty "pure" electric field. In a JFET, the gate is essentially a reverse-biased semiconductor junction. A practical difference is that JFETs only operate in "depletion mode" - a higher voltage on the gate REDUCES the current through the source. A MOSFET can operate in either depletion mode, or "enhancement" mode, which a higher voltage results in a higher current. FETs are simpler than bipolar transistors from a solid state physics point of view, and they behave a lot like vacuum tubes, but bipolar transistors tend to be easier to actually use (and less fragile.) On the other hand, almost all the transistors in most modern integrated circuits are MOSFETs...
VIRON10 years ago
Suggestions: Connect a 10Kohm or more rheostat (pot) to +5, -5, and the slider to the gate. Make sure your GND is a center tap (0 volts) and not the same as -5.5V or worse not connected to anything at all. Try putting another LED on the negative side of the transistor. Try turning the pot to see if it will turn both the LEDs on and off at the same time as it should.
guyfrom7up (author)  VIRON10 years ago
are you suggesting i make a voltage divider?
VIRON guyfrom7up10 years ago
Technically the pot is a variable-voltage-divider, but I didn't think of it in those terms. 2 LEDs on either side of the transistor (one drain,one source) will have voltage drops. JFET's usually switch at a voltage outside of the voltages between drain and source, so the pot may help you find the voltage between JFET on and off, and it's Probably going to be within the voltage drop of either LED. I'm not sure which one. If it doesn't switch on/off at any pot position between + and - 5 volts with 2 LEDs then it's probably bad, BUT the "magic touch switch effect" means it's good.
guyfrom7up (author)  VIRON10 years ago
it works perectly now with 2 LEDs now, and I need no resistor since the transistor is one. thanks!
guyfrom7up (author) 10 years ago
all of a sudden it works normal now! How wierd, nothings different than before. Thanks everyone!
Goodhart10 years ago
Using an N-channel jfet as a current regulator: Current regulator link

As a Source follower much like Viron's suggestion, or This link to some info on use with an LED array (btw: I like Elelctronic Design News as a source of info)
westfw10 years ago
While I can't immediately say why you're having problems, you do realize that JFET style transistors aren't usually used in "switching" applications like this; they're aimed more at signal amplification and such... (it LOOKS like the specs are ok to handle an LED, so it OUGHT to work; it's just an uncommon situation.)
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