COMPARISON of Silicon and Germanium

Solid state electronics arises from the unique properties of silicon and germanium, each of which has four valence electrons and which form crystal lattices in which substituted atoms (dopants) can dramatically change the electrical properties.

In solid state electronics, either pure silicon or germanium may be used as the intrinsic semiconductorwhich forms the starting point for fabrication. Each has four valence electrons, but germanium will at a given temperature have more free electrons and a higher conductivity. Silicon is by far the more widely used semiconductor for electronics, partly because it can be used at much higher temperatures than germanium. Silicon (Latin: silicium) is the most common metalloid. It is a chemical element, which has the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, silicon is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon. It is the eighth most common element in the universe by mass, but silicon very rarely occurs as the pure free element in nature. Silicon is more widely distributed in dusts, planetoids and planets as various forms of silicon dioxide (silica) or silicates. In Earth's crust, silicon is the second most abundant element after oxygen, making up 25.7% of the crust by [4] mass. Silicon has many industrial uses. It is the principal component of most semiconductor devices, most importantly integrated circuits or microchips. Silicon is widely used in semiconductors because it remains a semiconductor at higher temperatures than the semiconductorgermanium and because its native oxide is easily grown in a furnace and forms a better semiconductor/dielectric interface than any other material. In the form of silica and silicates, silicon forms useful glasses, cements, and ceramics. It is also a constituent of silicones, a class-name for various synthetic plastic substances made of silicon, oxygen, carbon and hydrogen, often confused with silicon itself. Silicon is an essential element in biology, although only tiny traces of it appear to be required by animals.[5] It is much more important to the metabolism of plants, particularly many grasses, and silicic acid (a type of silica) forms the basis of the striking array of protective shells of the microscopic diatoms.

Silicon Crystal Structure

after Kittel

The above illustration shows the arrangement of the siliconatoms in a unit cell, with the numbers indicating the height of the atom above the base of the cube as a fraction of the cell dimension.

Silicon crystallizes in the same pattern as diamond, in a structure which Ashcroft and Mermin call "two interpenetrating face-centered cubic" primitive lattices. The lines between silicon atoms in the lattice illustration indicate nearest-neighbor bonds. The cube side for silicon is 0.543 nm. Germanium has the same diamond structure with a cell dimension of .566 nm.

In solid state electronics, either pure silicon or germanium may be used as the intrinsic semiconductor which forms the starting point for fabrication. Each has four valence electrons, but germanium will at a given temperature have more free electrons and a higher conductivity. Silicon is by far the more widely used semiconductor for electronics, partly because it can be used at much higher temperatures than germanium. Germanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ge and atomic number 32. It is a lustrous, hard, grayish-white metalloid in the carbon group, chemically similar to its group neighbors tin and silicon. Germanium has five naturally occurring isotopes ranging in atomicmass number from 70 to 76. It forms a large number of organometallic compounds, includingtetraethylgermane and isobutylgermane. Germanium was discovered comparatively late because very few minerals contain it in high concentration. Germanium ranks near fiftieth in relative abundance of the elements in the Earth's crust. In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev predicted its existence and some of its properties based on its position on his periodic table and called the element eka-silicon. Nearly two decades later, in 1886, Clemens Winkler found it in the mineral argyrodite. Winkler found that experimental observations agreed with Mendeleev's predictions and named the element after his country, Germany. Germanium is an important semiconductor material used in transistors and various other electronic devices. Its major end uses are fiber-optic systems and infrared optics, but it is also used for polymerization catalysts, and in electronics and solar cell applications. It is finding a new use in nanowires. Germanium is mined primarily from sphalerite, though it is also recovered from silver, lead, andcopper ores. Some germanium compounds, such as germanium chloride and germane, canirritate the eyes, skin, lungs, and throat.

Silicon Lattice
Silicon atoms form covalent bonds and can crystallize into a regular lattice. The illustration below is a simplified sketch; the actual crystal structure of silicon is a diamond lattice. This crystal is called an intrinsic semiconductor and can conduct a small amount of current.

The main point here is that a silicon atom has four electrons which it can share in covalent bonds with its neighbors. These simplified diagrams do not do justice to the nature of that sharing since any one silicon atom will be influenced by more than four other silicon atoms, as may be appreciated by looking at the silicon unit cell.

Why would you use silicon diodes instead of germanium diodes? Though germanium diodes were the first ones fabricated, several factors make silicon the choice vs. germanium diodes. Silicon diodes have a greater ease of processing, lower cost, greater power handling, less leakage and more stable temperature characteristics than germanium diodes. Germanium diodes'

lower forward drop (.2V to .3V versus .7V to 1.0V) make them better at small signal detection and rectification. Why silicon type of transistors are used instead of germanium for the most of the applications? Mostly because of their cost but also because silicon transistor have faster switching properties and are far more resistant to damage by heat. Silicon transistor also have a much wider operating band. What are the advantages of silicon over germanium? Silicon diodes have a greater ease of processing, lower cost, greater power handling, less leakage and more stable temperature characteris diode is a semiconductor device which allows current to flow through it in only one direction. Although a transistor is also a semiconductor device, it does not operate the way a diode does. A diode is specifically made to allow current to flow through it in only one direction. Some ways in which the diode can be used are listed here. A diode can be used as a rectifier that converts AC (Alternating Current) to DC (Direct Current) for a power supply device. Diodes can be used to separate the signal from radio frequencies. Diodes can be used as an on/off switch that controls current. This symbol is used to indicate a diode in a circuit diagram.

The meaning of the symbol is (Anode)(Cathode). Current flows from the anode side to the cathode side.

Although all diodes operate with the same general principle, there are different types suited to different applications. For example, the following devices are best used for the applications noted. Voltage regulation diode(Zener Diode) The circuit symbol is . It is used to regulate voltage, by taking advantage of the fact that Zener diodes tend to stabilize at a certain voltage when that voltage is applied in the opposite direction. Light emitting diode The circuit symbol is . This type of diode emits light when current flows through it in the forward direction. (Forward biased.) Variable capacitance diode The circuit symbol is . The current does not flow when applying the voltage of the opposite direction to the diode. In this condition, the diode has a capacitance like the capacitor. It is a very small capacitance. The capacitance of the diode changes when changing voltage. With the change of this capacitance, the frequency of the oscillator can be changed. The graph on the right shows the electrical characteristics of a typical diode. When a small voltage is applied to the diode in the forward direction, current flows easily. Because the diode has a certain amount of resistance, the voltage will drop slightly as current flows through the diode. A typical diode causes a voltage drop of about 0.6 - 1V (VF) (In the case of silicon diode, almost 0.6V) This voltage drop needs to be taken into consideration in a circuit which uses many diodes in series. Also, the amount of current passing through the diodes must be considered. When voltage is applied in the reverse direction through a diode, the diode will have a great resistance to current flow. Different diodes have different characteristics when reverse-biased. A given diode should be selected depending on how it will be used in the circuit. The current that will flow through a diode biased in the reverse direction will vary from several mA to just µA, which is very small. The limiting voltages and currents permissible must be considered on a case by case basis. For example, when using diodes for rectification, part of the time they will be required to withstand a reverse voltage. If the diodes are not chosen carefully, they will break down. tics than germanium diodes Germanium Germanium is very important as a semiconductor. Transistors and integrated circuits provide the greatest use of the element; they are often made from germanium to which small amounts of arsenic, gallium, or other metals have been added. Numerous alloys containing germanium have been prepared. Germanium forms many compounds. Germanium oxide is added to glass to increase the index of refraction; such glass is used in wide-angle lenses. Since the oxide is transparent to infrared radiation, it has found use in optical instruments. Germanium tetrachloride is a liquid that boils at 84°C; it is an intermediate in the production of pure germanium. Other halides are known. Germane (germanium

tetrahydride) is a gas that decomposes at about 300°C to hydrogen and germanium; it is sometimes used in the production of semiconductor devices. A sulfide and numerous organo-germanium compounds are known. Germanium occurs in a few minerals, e.g., argyrodite (with silver and sulfur), zinc blende (with zinc and sulfur), and tantalite (with iron, manganese, and columbium). The chief ore of germanium is germanite, which contains copper, sulfur, about 7% germanium, and 20 other elements. Germanium is produced as a byproduct of the refining of other metals; there is considerable recovery from flue dusts and from ashes of certain coals with high germanium content. The element was called ekasilicon by D. I. Mendeleev , who predicted its properties with striking accuracy from its position in his periodic table. It was first isolated from argyrodite in 1886 by Clemens Winkler, a German chemist, who gave it the name germanium. Uses of germanium diode? Germanium Diodes have a lower forward drop voltage (of 0.3V) compared to more common Silicon Diodes (forward voltage of 0.7V). Germanium diodes are not very common these days and are hard to find but are still used in hobby AM radio receivers as detectors and also in battery circuits connected to Solar panels. Very common in guitar pedals. Comparison of Advantages Most diodes are made of silicon because of its ease of processing and stability, however they have one disadvantage: a silicon diode has a forward voltage drop of around 0.7 volts. This means that if you had a 7.0 Volt rated solar panel charging a battery via a silicon diode, only 7 - 0.7 = 6.3 Volts would be seen by the battery - the remainder is lost as heat in the diode. A Germanium Diode (such as the 1N34 pictured above) will typically have a forward voltage drop of just 0.3 volts which means they are much more efficient. Older germanium diodes had a larger leakage of current at a reverse voltage, but now American Microsemiconductor and others supply a range of improved low current leakage germanium diodes. Diodes such as the most common 1N34A can cost as little as 5 pence each. It is not always easy to find germanium diodes as they are not a very popular item. While silicon diodes are resistant to the heat from soldering, germanium diodes can very easilty be damaged. Therefore a crocodile clip or other suitable heat sink should be clipped onto the lead between the diode body and the joint to be soldered.

There are two types of electric current: direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). The electrons in direct current flow in one direction. The current produced by a battery is direct current. The electrons in alternating current flow in one direction, then in the opposite direction²over and over again. In the United States, the current flow alternates 120 times per second. (In Europe it alternates 100 times per second.) The current supplied to your home by the local utility is alternating current.

AC Sources: y y Power Plant (Mains Supply) Generators (e.g. Backup and Emergency Generators at Commercial Buildings)

DC Sources: y y y y y Dry Cells Secondary Cells (e.g. Car Battery) Photovoltaic Cells (Solar Cells) DC Generators AC to DC adapters

Direct Current Direct Current is unidirectional. The magnitude may vary but the direction is always fixed. Alternating Current (sinusoidal waveform.) Alternating Current is current in which the direction changes with time.

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