# Carrier Action From a device point of view nothing interesting happens under equilibrium conditions (i.e.

we can’t get any net current flow). Only when a semiconductor is perturbed, giving rise to carrier action can currents flow within and external to the semiconductor. Under normal operating conditions the 3 primary types of carrier action that occur within a semiconductor are drift, diffusion and recombination-generation (R-G). We will look at each of these individually.

Drift Drift is charged particle motion in response to an applied electric field. When an electric field is applied across a semiconductor as shown below

the resulting force on the charge carriers accelerates the positively charged holes IN THE SAME DIRECTION AS THE electric field and e- in the opposite direction (as long as there are available energy states in the CB or VB). Because of frequent collisions of these particles with lattice atoms and ionized impurity atoms, this carrier acceleration is constantly interrupted (called scattering events). Result is carrier motion in the general direction with / against the electric field but not in a straight, direct path/

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The drift motion of each particle is complicated but we can simplify things by only considering macroscopic quantities reflecting the average motion of the carriers. If we average the motion of all the e- or h+ at any given time, we find that the resultant motion of each carrier type can be described in terms of a constant drift velocity (vd). Now we simplify things by assuming that all the carriers move in the appropriate direction with respect to the electric field at a CONSTANT velocity. Remember that this drift velocity is IN ADDITION to the random thermal motion of the carriers which has no net directional flow. The thermally related random carrier velocity at room temperature is about 1 / 1000 speed of light, but since they have no net directional motion, this motion can be ignored when calculating device current transport.

Now we develop the drift current equations; first define current as the charge per unit time crossing any given plane oriented normal to the direction of current flow as shown above. Here we show a hole moving in the direction of the electric field. We then define (vd * t) which has units of distance and say that all holes this far from our plane of observation will cross the plane in time t. If we multiply this by the area of the plane we end up with all the holes in this volume that will cross the plane in time t. Add how much charge

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crosses this plane by further multiplying by qp and dividing by time to yield charge crossing the plane per unit time; Eq. 3.1 I p|drift = qpv d A

which is the hole drift current. Since current is usually considered a scalar quantity we introduce a related parameter called the current density (J) which is the drift current divided by the area of the plane A and we end up with

Mobility is an important device parameter because it plays a crucial role in carrier transport. It has strange units cm2 / V-sec and its value is dependent on several parameters, especially the amount of doping present.

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Note that un > up in almost all of the major semiconductors. Mobility is a measure of the ease of carrier motion within a crystal. If we increase the number of collisions a carrier undergoes within the lattice, the mobility decreases. In technical terms, carrier mobility varies inversely with the amount of scattering taking place within the semiconductor.

Diffusion The second type of carrier motion is diffusion. Diffusion is a process where particles tend to redistribute themselves as a result of their random thermal motion, migrating over time from regions of high concentration to regions of low concentrations. If we wait long enough we will end up with a uniformly distributed system (think of opening a perfume bottle in a closed room). Figure 3.11 p. 95

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Remember the diffusing particle does NOT have to be charged as was the case for drift, but charged particles do have to be present in order to get a diffusion current in a semiconductor. Now we quantify diffusion, remember for it to occur we need a nonzero concentration gradient. Begin with Fick’s law

η Eq. 3.16 ℑ= −D∇
where ℑis the flux or particles / cm2 crossing a plane perpendicular to the direction of flow, η is the concentration gradient and D is the proportionality constant known as the diffusion coefficient in units of cm2 / sec (always a positive quantity). We can then determine the current density due to diffusion of charged particle as follows
 J p|diff = −qD p ∇ or p Eq. 3.17a, b  J n|diff = qD n ∇ n

where Dn and Dp and are called the e- and h+ diffusion coefficients. Be careful about the direction of J for each particle. The total or net carrier current density in a semiconductor arises from the combination of drift and diffusion, resulting in

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Recombination-Generation The third important type of carrier motion is recombination-generation (R-G). When a semiconductor is perturbed from its equilibrium state, an excess or deficit in the carrier concentration (relative to their equilibrium concentration) is created inside the semiconductor. R-G is nature’s way of restoring the balance. Since most devices operate under non-equilibrium conditions – R-G is important in the operation of all semiconductor devices. Examples include a sudden increase in the temperature of a semiconductor or when light is shone on a semiconductor. Each of these events perturb the equilibrium values of carriers and the R-G processes kick into gear in order to restore the carriers to equilibrium values. Recombination is a process whereby e- and h+ are destroyed due to an excess number of them with respect to equilibrium levels. Generation is a process whereby e- and h+ are created due to a deficit number of them with respect to equilibrium levels. R-G refers to a whole group of similar processes since e- and h+ can be created and destroyed by a number of different mechanisms.

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The simplest form of recombination is band-to-band recombination. This is where a conduction band e- and a valence band h+ come into close proximity to each other and are annihilated (ie. they form a Si-Si bond). The energy released in this recombination event (1.12eV) usually results in the emission of a photon of equivalent energy.

Recombination can also be accomplished through an intermediary or R-G center (or trap). These are lattice defects or special impurity atoms (eg. Au with its deep impurity level near the center of the band gap). Note that the R-G center concentration is usually very low in device grade material. What a R-G center does is to introduce allowed states into the band gap generally near its center. We usually show these on band diagram as ET where T=trap. These near-center states distinguish a R-G center from the shallow donors and acceptor states.

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Recombination at a R-G center (trap) is a 2-step process. First one type of carrier (say the e-) strays into the vicinity of the R-G center and is caught in the potential well associated with the center, loses energy and is trapped. Next a h+ comes along, is attracted to the trapped e-, loses energy and recombines with the e- and the trap is again empty and we have just recombined an ehp into a Si-Si bond. Another way to think of this in terms of just the e-, is that the e- is first trapped in an intermediary energy state (ET) then it loses energy again and falls into the valence band where if forms a Si-Si bond. This type of recombination is called indirect recombination and typically releases thermal energy (phonons) instead of photons. A third type of R-G is called Auger recombination and is pictured above. Here we have a collision between two e- in the conduction band, where one e- loses energy and falls down into the valence band, while the other gains energy and is pushed into a higher state. It then thermalizes (loses energy in small steps thru phonon emissions). Each of these 3 recombination processes can be described in the reverse process where we generate carriers. All of these R-G processes are continuously occurring even during equilibrium. Equilibrium does NOT mean nothing is happening, it just means that everything that IS happening inside the lattice is balanced (i.e. recombination events equal generation events) so that there is not net current produced (no net electric field).

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