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fundamental semiconductor physics

fundamental semiconductor physics

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Published by: karan007_m on Nov 14, 2008
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05/28/2013

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Fundamental semiconductor physics
Material Classification: Conductors, Insulators, and Semi-Conductors

This material can be classified as either a conductor, an insulator, or a semi-conductor. These
three distinct classes of material arise from a difference in the structure of the allowed electron
energy levels. In particular, every material possesses both a valence and a conduction band for
electrons, and the energy difference between these two bands will determine how easily an
electric current will pass through the material.

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As the name implies, the valence band contains the valence electrons of a substance. At absolute zero, all of the electrons in a substance would be contained in the valence band. However, if the substance is at a higher temperature, thermal energy can excite electrons out of the valence level and into an excited energy level. The conduction band is composed of the excited energy states of a substance, and it contains electrons that have been thermally or otherwise excited from the valence band. The electrons in the conduction band are able to freely move about the substance and conduct electricity if an external electric field is applied.

Due to the lattice spacing of the atoms and other relevant factors, there is an energy gap between
the highest- energy electron valence level and the lowest-energy conduction level. The width of
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this gap is dependent on the temperature and the pressure of the material and determines whether
a material will be a conductor, insulator or semi- conductor. For reference, an energy level
diagram for each type of material is shown in figure.

In conductors, the valence band and the conduction band overlap. Consequently, there is no
energy gap to cross in order to reach the conduction band, and any energy that is added to the
electron is sufficient to propel it into the conduction band. There are many electrons that are free

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