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Semiconductors

Texts are available that can give you the quantum mechanical principles on which
a semiconductor works. However, in this context I think the better thing to do is
to give you a basic intuitive understanding of semiconductor components.
First, what is a semiconductor? Conductor in this case refers to the conduction of
electricity. Think of a semiconductor as a material that partially conducts
electricity or a material that is only semi-good at conducting electricity. It is
similar
to the resistor3 that we just learned about; its a component that will conduct
electricity but not easily. In fact, the more you push through it, the hotter it
gets
as it resists this flow of electricity.
1 It even predates the idea of soldering on a PCB; the first Apple computers were
built using a technique
called wire wrap to connect components.
2 In working on the third edition I found that this book is getting used quite a
bit as a primer for
those who havent experienced electronics at all so I figured a few pictures to
help recognize parts couldnt
hurt!
3 Though the ubiquitous resistor originally was just really thin wires (you can
still find that type in power
resistors), these days in terms of sheer quantities most resistors are based on a
semiconductor.
Electrical Engineering 101, Third Edition. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-386001-9.00003-9
2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
67Before we move on, there is one other point to make. The world of semiconductor
devices can be grouped into two categories: current driven and voltage
driven.4 Current-driven parts require current flow to get them to act.
Voltagedriven devices respond to a change in voltage at the input. How much current
or voltage is needed depends on the device you are dealing with.