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CLASSIFICATION OF CONDUCTORS, SEMICONDUCTORS AND INSULATORS Basis Resistivity () Conductivity () Energy Bands Conductors
Low 10 108 m High 2 10 108 S m1

Intermediate 105 106 m Intermediate 105 106 S m1

High 10 1019 m Low 11 10 1019 S m1

Conduction and valance Finite but small band Large band gap (Eg > 3 eV) bands overlap. gap (Eg < 3 eV) exists. exists. Due to overlap electrons At room temperature There are no electrons in from valence band can some electrons from the conduction band, and easily move into the valence band can therefore no electrical conduction band. acquire enough energy conduction is possible. This situation makes a to cross the energy gap Electrons cannot be large number of electrons and enter the excited from the valence available for electrical conduction band. band to the conduction conduction. band by thermal excitation.

(On the basis of chemical composition)

Semiconductors Elemental Si,Si Ge Ge Compound CdS, GaAs, CdSe, InP

(On the basis of the source and nature of the charge carriers)

Types of Semiconductors

Intrinsic Semiconductors
Semiconductor material in its extremely pure form. examples: pure germanium or pure silicon. Forbidden energy gaps: For Ge, Eg=0.72 eV and For Si, Eg=1.1 eV Electric conduction is due to the thermally-generated electron hole pairs. I = Ie + Ih Number of conduction electrons is equal to the number of holes. ne = nh = ni, where ni=intrinsic carrier concentration The electron and hole concentration in a semiconductor in thermal equilibrium is given by nenh= ni2 Problems in intrinsic semiconductors The conductivity of an intrinsic semiconductor depends on its temperature. At room temperature its conductivity is very low. Hence there is a necessity of improving their conductivity. This can be done by making use of impurities.

Extrinsic Semiconductors
To be useful in electronic devices, the pure semiconductor must be altered so as to significantly increase its conducting properties. This is achieved by adding a small amount of suitable impurity to a semiconductor. It is then called impurity or extrinsic semiconductor. The deliberate addition of a desirable impurity is called doping and the impurity atoms are called dopants. Such a material is also called a doped semiconductor. The purpose of adding impurity is to increase either the number of free electrons or holes in the semiconductor crystal. Generally, for 108 atoms of semiconductor, one impurity atom is added.

n-type Semiconductor

p-type Semiconductor

Pentavalent impurity (P, As, Sb) Donor impurities because they donate or provide free electrons to the semiconductor crystal. ne >> nh majority charge carriers: electrons minority charge carriers: holes

Trivalent impurity (Al, Ga, In) Acceptor impurities because the holes created can accept the electrons. nh >> ne majority charge carriers: holes minority charge carriers: electrons

p-n Junction
When a p-type semiconductor is suitably joined to n-type semiconductor, the contact surface is called p-n junction. Two important processes occur during the formation of a p-n junction: diffusion and drift. Diffusion Current: due to the concentration gradient of charge carriers across p and n sides, holes diffuse from p-side to n-side (p n) electrons diffuse from n-side to p-side (n p) This motion of charge carries gives rise to diffusion current across the junction. Depletion Region: The region on either side of the junction together is known as depletion region as the electrons and holes taking part in the initial movement across the junction depleted the region of its free charges. The thickness of depletion region is of the order of 10-6 m (m). Diffusion Current: Due to the positive space-charge region on n-side of the junction and negative space charge region on p-side of the junction, an electric field directed from positive charge towards negative charge develops. Due to this field, an electron on p-side of the junction moves to n-side and a hole on n side of the junction moves to p-side. The motion of charge carriers due to the electric field is called drift. Thus a drift current, which is opposite in direction to the diffusion current starts.

SEMICONDUCTOR DIODE A semiconductor diode is basically a p-n junction with metallic contacts provided at the ends for the application of an external voltage. It is a two terminal device. The direction of arrow indicates the conventional direction of current (when the diode is under forward bias).

Forward bias

Reverse bias

The potential barrier is reduced and at some forward voltage (0.1 to 0.3 V), it is eliminated altogether. The junction offers low resistance (called forward resistance, Rf) to current flow. It acts as a conductor. The magnitude of forward current (usually in mA) depends upon the applied forward voltage.

The potential barrier is increased.

The junction offers very high resistance (called reverse resistance, Rr) to current flow. It acts as an insulator. The magnitude of reverse current (usually in A) is essentially voltage independent.