What are Semiconductors and Their Common Types?

While conductors exhibit low resistance and insulators feature high resistance, semiconductor materials are those that feature electrical conductivity values between the two. Semiconductors are produced from a number of compounds, common ones being gallium arsenide. They may also be produced with pure elements as well, such as germanium and silicon. With such materials, semiconductor devices may be produced and used for applications such as electronic circuit module fabrication, solar cells, laser diodes, and much more. As semiconductor devices and associated hardware serve as cornerstones of modern electronic manufacturing, having a general understanding of their functionality and types can be very beneficial.

In order for current to flow through semiconductors, such materials or devices rely on charge carriers known as holes and electrons. Holes, or valence electrons, are positively charged, while standard electrons are negatively charged. While polar opposites, holes and electrons exhibit equal magnitude. In regard to semiconductors, electrons will typically have much more mobility than holes, due to a difference in band structures and scattering mechanisms. While electrons traverse the conduction band, holes travel on the valence band. Once current is induced to the semiconductor devices, holes will become restricted.

Semiconductors are capable of conducting electricity under set circumstances, allowing them to exert more control on conductivity which is extremely beneficial. Typically, conductivity rises when thermal energy increases, resulting in the crossing of valence electrons on the energy gap. Entering the conduction band, an equal amount of unoccupied energy states is reached for conduction. Unlike standard conductors, semiconductors increase their charge carriers with a rise in temperature, and the growth of charge carriers is very rapid. The fractional change or temperature coefficient is also negative for such devices.

Alongside such properties, semiconductors are able to be doped, that of which is when impurities are introduced to semiconductor modules for creating differently doped regions in the same crystal. This results in the formation of a semiconductor junction, adjusting the operational characteristics of the device so that they can benefit switches, amplifiers, energy conversion, and other needs. Semiconductors are also quite lightweight and compact, and they exhibit low power losses. With the addition of other various attributes, semiconductor devices and associated hardware can be highly beneficial for numerous needs.

Depending on one’s requirements, there are a number of semiconductor types that can be used. Intrinsic semiconductors are those that are very chemically pure, constructed from a single element. Germanium and Silicon semiconductor materials are the most common intrinsic types, featuring four valence electrons. With such materials, numerous components such as transistors and diodes may be produced. Extrinsic semiconductors, meanwhile, are those with impurities added for doping. These semiconductor types can be N-type or P-type semiconductors, and they are often used for diodes, transistors, light emitters, detectors, and other various electronic parts. With the various types of semiconductor devices, technologies such as space vehicles, robots, trains, and other marvels are all made possible.


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