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# Section 5: The relationship between current

## and voltage in a resistor

Aims of this section

## To show how electrical conductivity is related to carrier

mobility and mobile carrier densities, to introduce the
microscopic and macroscopic forms of Ohm’s law, and to
derive the I-V characteristic of a simple semiconductor resistor.

## Objectives of this section

After completing this section, you should
• understand what is meant by current density J
• be able to express J in terms of the electric field E and the
density and velocity of the charge carriers
• be able to find the conductivity σ = J / E
• be able to derive resistor I-V characteristics
Semiconductors & EM Theory 1 Lecture 5
5.1 Flow
Electric current is the flow of charge, e.g. traffic flow analogy

## The flow rate is determined by four parameters:

• The velocity of the vehicles
• The number of motorway lanes
• The number of people in each vehicle
• The distance between vehicles
Semiconductors & EM Theory 2 Lecture 5
5.2 Flow of charge - electric current

The amount of charge that crosses this line per second is the
electric current I. This current is determined by four
parameters:

## • The velocity of the charged particles v

• The cross-sectional area of the piece of conductor A
• The amount of charge carried by each mobile charge q
• The density of mobile charges n
Semiconductors & EM Theory 3 Lecture 5
The electrical current is:
Q
I = = nq v ⋅ A (5.1)
t
Note that electrons and holes move in opposite directions in an
applied E field

## Semiconductors & EM Theory 4 Lecture 5

5.3 Non-uniform current flow and current density J

## The total current in each case is the same

Semiconductors & EM Theory 5 Lecture 5
Define current density
J = nq v (5.2)

## • For a uniform current density of magnitude J threading a

cross sectional area A, the total current through the cross
section is I = JA .

## • For a non-uniform J (one which varies from point to point on

a cross section), the total current is found by performing the
integral of J over the cross sectional area of the conductor

I = ∫ J dA

## Semiconductors & EM Theory 6 Lecture 5

5.4 Sign conventions

Remember that:

## • E is in the direction of motion of a positive charge

• I and J are always in the direction of motion of a positive
charge (conventional current flow)

## Semiconductors & EM Theory 7 Lecture 5

5.5 Drift current density

## The total current density is therefore

( )
J = J n + J p = neμ n + peμ p E (5.5)

## from which we see that J is parallel to E, as we expect for

conventional current flow.

## Semiconductors & EM Theory 8 Lecture 5

5.6 The microscopic form of Ohm’s law and conductivity

## Definition of the electrical conductivity σ

( )
J = neμ n + peμ p E = σ E (5.6)

## This is the microscopic form of Ohm’s law; remember it as

J = σ E , with
σ = neμ n + peμ p (5.7)

1
ρ=
σ

## • The SI units of σ are Ω −1 m −1

• The SI units of ρ are Ω m (Ohm metres).
Semiconductors & EM Theory 9 Lecture 5
5.7 Intrinsic conductivity of a pure semiconductor

## For intrinsic conduction n = p = ni ; hence

σ = neμ n + peμ p = ni e(μ n + μ p ) (5.9)

## For an n-type semiconductor, n ≈ N D and p ≈ ni2 / N D , i.e.

σ ≈ N D eμ n (5.10)
Similarly, for a p-type semiconductor
σ ≈ N A eμ p (5.11)
Semiconductors & EM Theory 10 Lecture 5
Worked Example
Find the conductivity at 300 K of a piece of n-type Si doped
with 7 ×1017 cm−3 of As atoms. Find also the ratio of the
electron and hole current densities.
n ≈ N D = 7 ×1017 cm −3
p ≈ n / N D ≈ (1.5 × 10
2
i )
10 2
/ 7 × 1017 cm −3 = 320 cm −3
σ = neμn + peμp ≈ N D eμn
. × 10−19 × 014
≈ 7 × 1023 × 16 . S / m ≈ 16
. × 104 S / m

## J n neμ n E nμ n N D μ n 7 × 1017 1400

= ≡ ≈ ≈ ≈ 6.1 × 1015

## J p peμp E pμp pμp 3.2 ×102 500

Almost all of the current is due to the majority carriers, in this
case electrons since the doping is n-type.

## Semiconductors & EM Theory 11 Lecture 5

5.9 The macroscopic form of Ohm’s law

## Uniform doping = same conductivity at all points

V
E=
L
V
J = σE = σ
L
Semiconductors & EM Theory 12 Lecture 5
The current I in the device flows through an area WH, so that
J = I / WH and hence
V I
J =σ =
L WH
We define the resistance R of the device as the ratio V/I

V 1 L L
R= = ≡ρ (5.12)
I σ WH WH

## • The relationship between I and V for a device is known as its

I-V characteristic
• If R is a constant, the device has a linear I-V characteristic
• If R varies with V, the device has a non-linear I-V
characteristic
• The SI unit of R is the Ohm ( Ω )
Semiconductors & EM Theory 13 Lecture 5
5.10 Summary

## You should now know the meaning of the following terms:

• Current
• Current Density
• Drift current
• Conductivity
• Resistivity

## • calculate the current and current density in a conductor in

response to an electric field created by an applied voltage
• derive the I-V characteristic of a simple resistor

## Semiconductors & EM Theory 14 Lecture 5

Semiconductors & EM Theory 15 Lecture 5