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Semiconductor Materials

and the PN Junction


Objective: Develop an intuitive understanding of:
The conductivity of solids
The electronic properties of intrinsic (pure) and
extrinsic (doped) semiconductors.
What happens at the boundary between P and N
doped semiconductors.
Why a PN junction acts like a diode.

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Conductivity of Solids

Conductivity is the ability of a material to


carry an electrical current. (How can we
measure conductivity?)
Basically, there are 3 ranges of conductivity:
Good conductor: very low resistance (metals)
Poor conductor (or insulator): very high resistance
(ceramics, oxides)
Semiconductor: somewhere in between (silicon,
geranium, gallium arsnide)
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Why Are There Differences in
Conductivity?
The ultimate explanation comes from the band theory of
solids, which is derived from solid state quantum physics.
The basic idea from quantum physics is:
Current is the movement of electrons; the more electrons available
to move, the higher the possible current and the lower the resistivity.
However, if allowed, electrons will be tightly bound to atoms (i.e.,
they won’t move).
In metals and under certain conditions in semiconductors, electrons
can be in “unbound” states and thus can move freely.

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Energy Band Representation of
Conductivity

Un-bound Energy
States (Conduction
Band)
No Gap
Un-bound Energy
Large Gap States (Conduction
Un-bound Energy Band)
(Forbidden States) States (Conduction
Band) Small Gap

Energy Band of
Bound States Bound States Bound States
(Valence Band) (Valence Band) (Valence Band)

Insulators Metals Semiconductors


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Important Facts About Pure
(Intrinsic) Semiconductors

The highest energy bound states are not completely


filled which weakens the electron binding.
Thermal agitation provides enough energy to cause
some electrons to “jump” the band gap to the
conduction band.
Therefore, semiconductors show a negative
coefficient of resistivity, unlike normal resistors. At
absolute zero, they are insulators.
The band structure (and thus the conductivity) of
semiconductors is highly sensitive to impurities.
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The Periodic Table
What is it?

A Graphical Table of the Elements


Arranged According to the Electron
Shell Structure of the Element Atoms

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Atomic Outer Electron Shells

Silicon Boron Phosphorus


Tetravalent Trivalent Pentavalent
“Acceptor” “Donor”

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Impurities Put Allowed Levels in
the Band Gap of Silicon
“P Type” “N Type”
Many ELECTRONS!
Conduction Band
Conduction Band

Donor Level
Acceptor Level = where
thermal
electrons
can easily
Many HOLES! go
Valence Band Valence Band

Boron Doped Phosphorous Doped


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“Majority Carrier” and Current
Flow in P Silicon

+ P Type Silicon -
Hole Flow

Current Flow

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“Majority Carrier” and Current
Flow in N Silicon

+ N Type Silicon -
Electron Flow

Current Flow

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The PN Junction

P N 0 Volts

Hole Diffusion

Electron Diffusion

Holes and Electrons


“Recombine” at the
Junction

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A Depletion Zone (D) and a Barrier
Field Forms at the PN Junction

Barrier Field

P -- D ++ N
0 Volts
Acceptor Ions Donor Ions

Hole (+) Diffusion

Electron (-) Diffusion


The Barrier Field
Opposes Further
Diffusion
(Equilibrium Condition)
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“Forward Bias” of a PN
Junction
P - + N
+ Volts - Volts
Current
• Applied voltage reduces the barrier field
Holes and electrons are “pushed” toward

the junction and the depletion zone


shrinks in size
Carriers are swept across the junction

and the depletion zone


There is a net carrier flow in both the P

and N sides = current flow!

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“Reverse Bias” of a PN
Junction
P --- D +++ N
- Volts + Volts
Current
Applied voltage adds to the barrier field

Holes and electrons are “pulled” toward the


terminals, increasing the size of the


depletion zone.
•The depletion zone becomes, in effect, an
insulator for majority carriers.
Only a very small current can flow, due to a

small number of minority carriers randomly


crossing D (= reverse saturation current)

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The Semiconductor Diode

P - + N
+ Volts - Volts
Current

Diode Symbol

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