Basic Semiconductor Topics

In this module we list some basic semiconductor properties and the corresponding lingo in alphabetical order. Some, but not all !
It is assumed that you are familiar with these subjects at the level insinuated here.
Some, but not all topics are explained in some detail in the backbone modules. In this case direct links are provided.
Doping defects that introduce an energy state in the band gap close to the valence band.
At medium temperatures - generally meaning room temperature - electrons from the valence band will completely fill these states leading to a concentration of holes in the valence band that is about equal to the concentration of the acceptor states.
Conductivity s
A specific propery of any material, defined as the relation between electrical field E and current density j
j  =  s · E
Generally, the specific conductivity s is a tensor of second order and may depend on other parameters including the firld strength E.
As long as the current-field relationship is linear (demanding s ¹ s(E), the material exhibits ohmic behavior.
s can always be expressed in terms of the concentration n of carriers reponsible for conduction, their charge q, and their mobiltiy µ, via
s  =  q · n · m
Diffusion length
The diffusion length L always refers to minority carriers. It is the average distance a minority carrier moves away from its point of origin, given by
L  =  æ
D · t ö
With D = diffusion coefficient and t = time for the movement (= life time for a minority carrier).
The diffusion length is a prime material parameter that comes up in many formula, it can be rather large (up to mm) in indirect semiconductors and it is very sensitive to certain lattice defects.
Doping defects that introduce an energy state in the band gap close to the conduction band that is occupied by an electron at low temperatures.
At medium temperatures these electrons will move to the copnduction band leading to a concentration of electrons in the conduction band that is about equal to the concentration of the donor states.
Controlled introduction of lattice defects that introduce energy states for electrons in the band gap
Often done with substitutional atoms that are to the left or right of the element they replace in the periodic table
But all defects - e.g. dislocation sand grain boundaries - may have energy levels in the band gap, too, and thus may introduce doping.
Electrons in semiconductors
Practically always refers to free electrons in the conduction band.
Holes in semiconductors
States in the valence band not occupied by electrons. Behave for all practical purposes like positively charged electrons.
Intrinsic semiconductors
Undoped "perfect" semiconductors with properties exclusively governed by the crystal. The Fermi energy is in the middle of the band gap; electron and hole concentrations are equal ( = ni).
Life time
Usually the average time t a minority carrier, after it was generated by thermal fluctuations or other energy expenditures, "lives" before it disappears again by recombination. Refers to thermal equilibrium in this case.
In more complicated circumstances - e.g. in space charge regions or in non-equilibrium conditions- life times must be considered more carefully; a distinction between generation and recombination life time, e.g., might be necessary.
Majority carriers
The kind of carrier - electrons or holes - that are present in the larger concentration.
Majority carriers are electrons in the case of doping with donors, and holes in the case of doping with acceptors.
Mass action law
Traditional, albeit somewhat misleading name for the relation between the concentration of electrons, ne and holes, nh in doped semiconductors and the intrinsic concentration, ni:.
nh · ne  =  ni2
Directly obtainable from considering charge neutrality
Minority carriers
The kind of carrier - electrons or holes - that is present in the smaller concentration.
Majority carriers are holes in the case of doping with donors, and electrons in the case of doping with acceptors.
Perfect semiconductors
Ideally, a perfect crystal contains only those crystal defects necessary for device function - i.e. doping atoms and perfect interfaces. What makes an interface perfect is hard to define - in case of doubt the absence of interface states in the band gap.
Si crystals are closer to being perfect then anything else (in the unanimated world, that is) . Their dislocation density is zero (which has not been possible to achieve for practically all other (large) crystals), the level of unwanted point defects is in the (1 - 10) ppm region for O and C, respectively, and in the low ppb if not ppt region for everything else.
There are, however, unavoidable remnants of the intrinsic point defects (vacancies and self interstitals) that were present in thermal equilibrium at high temperatures. They may occur in any forms of microclusters, not yet fully understood.
A transition from p-type to n-type within one piece of material. Electrically, a pn-junction is a diode.
The "ideal" pn-junction is a paradigm of semiconductor science. It is usually highly idealized and considered to be
  • An abrupt junction, i.e. the doping changes from p-type to n-type abruptly,
  • with constant doping levels on both sides of the junction, being
  • one-dimensional, and being
  • "large", i.e. the p and n areas are much longer than the diffusion length of the carriers.
Real pn-junctions, especially in integrated circuits, do not even come close to these assumptions. Nevertheless, the results of the ideal pn-junction contain almost everything needed to tackle the real junctions and thus should be well understood.
n-type semiconductor; n-doped, n-doping
Semiconductors with the majority carriers being electrons. Doping thus was done with donors.
p-type semiconductor; p-doped, p-doping
Semiconductors with the majority carrierers being holes. Doping thus was done with acceptors.
Do not mix up p-doped with P-doped (Phosphorous doped) in Silicon! P is a Donor in Si; P-doped Si is a n-tpype semiconductor

With frame With frame as PDF

go to 2.2.1 Intrinsic Properties in Equilibrium

go to 2.2.3 Life Time and Diffusion Length

© H. Föll (Semiconductor - Script)