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so the notation for excess carriers is different from what we are using now. What we are calling ∆n and ∆p is here indicated as δn and δp.

Basic Ideas When we shine light on a semiconductor (photoconductor, solar cell) or drive a current through it, the concentration of electrons and holes changes from its equilibrium value, and the semiconductor is no longer in equilibrium. There may be more carriers than at equilibrium, or fewer. The difference from equilibrium is called the “excess”, which can be positive or negative (fewer carriers than at equilibrium). We define the total carrier concentrations as n ( x , t ) = n o + δn ( x, t ) p ( x, t ) = p o + δp ( x , t )

Terminology: A carrier (or “charge carrier”) is an electron or a hole. At equilibrium, the generation rate g and recombination rate r for electrons and holes are equal, so there are no net carriers generated, on average. When there is more than the equilibrium value of electrons or holes, the probability of recombination (i.e., the recombination rate) increases; when there are fewer, the generation rate (the probability of generation) increases. In either case, the number of carriers tends to return to the equilibrium value. Excess carriers, and in particular excess minority carriers, are crucial to the operation of both optical and electronic devices. Therefore, we need to know something about their properties and about the equations that govern them. This is the subject of Chapter 4. Carrier Lifetime If we have an excess of carriers, say electrons, in a semiconductor, we can ask how their number decreases with time due to increased recombination. This problem was set up for the simple case of an excess electron density generated by a flash of light on a semiconductor. When the light goes off, the excess electron density decreases exponentially in time. Under the assumption that δn = δp, and that δn and δp are small compared to the majority carrier density, we have dδn = −α r p o δn(t ) dt The solution to this equation is

δn(t ) = ∆ne −t / τ n

The result for net recombination rate R is the same. n. The approximation δn.where αr is a proportionality constant. are the diffusivities of electrons and holes. δp << po (i. δn. and τn = (αrpo)-1 is the minority carrier lifetime. where carriers are trapped at a defect site before recombining. Ideas: . the excess carrier density is much less than the majority carrier density) is an important special case. except that the minority carrier lifetime is different. we have R= Ideas: • • • We are interested in examining minority carriers. the lifetime for holes and electrons may be different from each other.e. This gives rise to the diffusion current: J nDIFF = qDn dn( x) dx DIFF Jp = −qD p dp ( x) dx The quantities Dn. δn(t) is the excess electron density as a function of time. Also. ε may be a function of distance x. so we set up the equation for excess electrons. δn τn Diffusion Current Electrons and holes will diffuse if there is a concentration gradient (more in one place than in another). and stipulated that the material was p-type (po >> no). A more complicated recombination mechanism is indirect recombination. p.. ∆n is the excess electron density at t = 0 (we would have to know this or have some way to calculate it separately). in this case. Combining diffusion and drift currents. and defining the net recombination rate R = r – g. Looking at these equations. Dp. It is known as the low-level injection approximation. we have the total current in a semiconductor: J total = J n + J p J n = qµ n nε + qDn dn dx J p = qµ p pε − qD p dp dx where it is understood that each of the quantities J. We can look these up in a table or chart (see the Einstein Relation below).

and is used to indicate an initial value (e.• • Figure 4-14 shows electron/hole motion and the associated current components in an electric field (drift) and in a concentration gradient (diffusion). As it turns out. This figure explains why the signs in front of the electron and hole drift currents are the same. While this would no doubt be fun. recombining. ∂δn( x.g. but we assume it is true in general. and we are interested in the time dependence: ∂ n(x.. in time and space.. and easier to solve. which give complicated equations for the carrier densities as a function of time and space. δ is an indication of an excess carrier density. as in δn or δp. of excess minority carriers. they are related by the Einstein relation: D kT = µ q Continuity Equation The operation of both optical devices and electronic devices depends on the behavior. ∂δp ( x.g. t ) 1 ∂J p δp =− − ∂t q ∂x τ p Ideas: • • • The second term on the right in each equation is the net recombination rate R we arrived at above. The continuity equation describes what is happening to a pulse of excess carriers that is diffusing. as in the Haynes-Schockley experiment of Fig 4-20.g. t ) 1 ∂J n δn = − ∂t q ∂x τ n There are several different kinds of “d” here: d/dx or d/dt is a differential. appropriate when the quantity being differentiated is a function of more than one variable (e. . ∆ is also an indication of an excess carrier density. We derived it for a special case. but the signs in front of the electron and hole diffusion currents are different.. and drifting in a semiconductor. appropriate when the quantity being differentiated is a function of only one variable (e. electron concentration that is varying in space AND changing in time. δn at t = 0 or δn at x = 0). uniform electron concentration decaying in time: dn(t)/dt). The time and space dependence of excess minority carriers is described by the continuity equation. The diffusivities and mobilities both describe the motion of electrons and holes in a semiconductor. ∂ / ∂ x or ∂ / ∂ t is a partial differential. We can plug our expressions for Jp and Jn into these equations. we will make some simplifications that will be useful.t)/ ∂ t).

then only the diffusion current is left. which are diffusing and recombining as they move in the positive x-direction. Eventually. because δp(x) becomes 0 for large x. then we have steady state conditions. If we plug the result into the continuity equation. the total number of holes reaches po. or running a device at a constant voltage). 4-17 is a graph of the total hole density p(x) = po + δp(x). In that case. ∂δp ∂δp δp = Dp 2 − ∂t τp ∂x Ideas: This equation describes mathematically what is going on in Fig.Diffusion Equation If we set the electric field in the expressions for Jp and Jn equal to 0. 4-12. we get the diffusion equations. Because they are recombining. The hole diffusion current density Jp can be determined if we know the excess carrier density: J p ( x) = −qD p Dp dδp ( x) =q δp ( x ) dx Lp . we can simplify the diffusion equations further to read Dp ∂ 2 δp δp = ∂x 2 τ p Dn ∂ 2 δn δn = ∂x 2 τ n ∂δn ∂ 2 δn δn = Dn − ∂t ∂x 2 τ n The solution to the equation for holes is δp( x) = ∆pe − x / Lp where L p = D pτ p is the diffusion length. Ideas: Fig. Steady State If we provide a constant supply of carriers (say. Excess carriers are diffusing and recombining. in which the time derivatives are 0. which is the average distance a carrier will travel in the semiconductor before recombining. we assume a steady supply (called “injection” in the text) of holes. where δp(x) is given by the solution to the steady state diffusion equation above. At x = 0. but there is no applied electric field. by shining a light continuously. their number is dwindling with increasing x.

a situation described by the diffusion equation. we will derive the diode current density. This is an important result. . excess carriers will diffuse and recombine. In addition. Where are we going to use this??? In the pn junction diode. In this region. under dc conditions. the supply of minority carriers from the other side of the diode is constant.In other words. we will assume there is no electric field in the region of the diode far from the junction. the hole diffusion current density is proportional to the excess carrier density. as described by the equation above. which is the subject of the next chapter. From this analysis. which we will use in Chapter 5.

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