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Notes on calculating the Fermi level

M.P. Vaughan
April 18, 2014
1 Calculating the Fermi level
1.1 Free carrier concentration
1.1.1 Non-degenerate semiconductor
The free electron concentration n can be given by an integration over energy
n = 2

f()D() d, (1)
where f() is the occupation probability and D() is the density of single-spin
states. The factor of two incorporates electron spin. For a non-degenerate
semiconductor we can use Boltzmann statistics, so that, relative to =
C
f() = exp

C

k
B
T

, (2)
where k
B
T is Boltzmanns constant and T is the temperature. Assuming a
spherical, parabolic conduction band, the density of states is
D() =
(2m

e
)
3/2
4
2
h
3
(
C
)
1/2
(3)
for
C
and zero otherwise, where m

e
is the electron eective mass and

C
is the energy at the conduction band edge. Hence,
n =
(2m

e
)
3/2
2
2
h
3

C
exp

C

k
B
T

(
C
)
1/2
d. (4)
Putting
1
x =

C
k
B
T
(5)
and using


0
x
1/2
e
x
dx =

2
, (6)
we have
n = 2

e
2 h
2
k
B
T

N
C
, (7)
where N
C
is known as the eective density of states. A similar result can be
derived for holes
p = 2

h
2 h
2
k
B
T

N
V
, (8)
where m

h
is the hole eective mass.
1.1.2 Degenerate semiconductor
For a degenerate semiconductor, we must use Fermi-Dirac statistics. The
occupation probability is then given by the Fermi factor
f() =
1
1 + exp ([
F
] /k
B
T)
, (9)
where
F
is the Fermi energy. Putting
=

F

C
k
B
T
, (10)
we can write
n =
(2m

e
)
3/2
2
2
h
3


0
x
1/2
1 + e
x
dx,
= N
C
2


0
x
1/2
1 + e
x
dx,
= N
C
F
1/2
(), (11)
2
where
F
1/2
() =
1
(j + 1)


0
x
j
1 + e
x
dx (12)
is the Fermi-Dirac integral and is the gamma function. A similar relation
holds for holes.
F
j
() does not have an exact analytical solution. However, we may use
the approximation
F
j
()
1
e

+ C
j
()
(13)
where, for j = 1/2
C
1/2
() =
3(/2)
1/2

+ 2.13 +

| 2.13|
12/5
+ 9.6

5/12

3/2
. (14)
1.1.3 Non-parabolic energy bands
When the dispersion relations are non-parabolic, the density of states for
spherical energy surfaces is
D() =
(2m

e
)
3/2
4
2
h
3

1/2
()
d()
d
(15)
where () is dened by
() =
h
2
k
2
2m

e
(16)
In this case, the integral Eq. (??) must usually be solved numerically.
1.2 Donors and acceptors
The free carrier concentration is greatly aected by doping with donors
and/or acceptors. If N
D
and N
A
are the doping concentrations of donors
and acceptors respectively, then the ionised concentrations are given by
N
+
D
= N
D

1
1
1 + (1/2) exp ([
D
F] /k
B
T)

3
and
N

A
=
N
A
1 + 4 exp ([
A
F] /k
B
T)
(17)
where
D
and
A
are the respective ionisation energies. For an n-type semi-
conductor, we usually have
F

A
, and we can take N

A
N
A
.
D
is found
from the hydrogenic model

D
=
m

e
h
2

e
2
4

(18)
where is the permittivity of the material.
1.3 Calculating the Fermi energy
The Fermi level is calculated by imposing the condition of charge neutrality
n + N

A
p N
+
D
= 0 (19)
For an n-type semiconductor, we can take p 0 and N

A
N
A
, as described
previously. Equation (??) must then be solved for
F
numerically. However,
we may draw a few qualitative conclusions before doing so. With the as-
sumptions above, we have n N
+
D
, so we require these two quantities to
vary at the same rate with both
F
and T.
Clearly n will increase with both
F
and T, since increases in both will
increase the occupation probability at higher electron energies. Inspecting
Eq. (??), we see that an increase in
F
will always be accompanied by a
decrease in N
+
D
. The dependency with T depends on the value of
F
relative
to
D
.
Case (1) :
F
<
D
In this case, N
+
D
decreases with T, tending towards a limiting value of
N
D
/3. If
F
were to increase with T, then N
+
D
must necessarily decrease
whilst n must necessarily increase. This cannot be the case and hence

F
must decrease with T.
Case (2) :
F
=
D
Here, N
+
D
is xed at N
D
/3, independent of T. Since n will increase
with T,
F
must change. Now any increase in N
+
D
means that we have
4
N
+
D
> N
D
/3 but this can only be the case for
F
<
D
. Therefore
F
must decrease.
Case (3) :
F
>
D
This case is not quite so straightforward, since N
+
D
increases monotoni-
cally with T. Therefore an increase of N
+
D
with T might reasonably be
accompanied by either an increase or decrease in
F
especially where
dN
+
D
/dT was large. However, as T , N
+
D
N
D
/3, for xed
F
.
If
F
was to always increase with T, N
+
D
could never exceed this value.
At the same time, n would increase inexorably. So, for large T at least,

F
must decrease with temperature.
In conclusion, we can say that most of the time, at least,
F
decreases
with temperature. Exceptions may arise when
F
>
D
(in which case the
semiconductor is likely to be degenerate). However, at high temperatures,
d
F
/dT should always be negative.
For the numerical solution of Eq. (??) we use a bisection method, in
which two values of
F
are
1
and
2
are chosen so that the net charge is
negative (or positive) for
1
and positive (or negative) for
2
. The average

M
= (
1
+
2
)/2 is then found for which the net charge is calculated. In
the next iteration,
M
is then substituted for either
1
or
2
depending on
the sign of the calculated charge. In this way, the interval [
1
,
2
] becomes
progressively smaller until the routine exits when |
1

2
| < , for a chosen
tolerance .
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