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Semiconductor From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity that is intermediate between that of an insulator and a conductor. The conductivity and other electrical properties of semiconductors are determined by the material's electronic band structure. Semiconductors' electrical properties may be modified by introducing impurities in a process known as doping. The ability to control conductivity in small and well-defined regions of semiconductor material has led to the development of a broad array of semiconductor devices, and these are combined with the simpler passive components to produce a variety of electronic devices.

A semiconductor behaves as an insulator at very low temperatures, but its electrical conductivity increases with temperature. Even at room temperature, a semiconductor's conductivity remains lower than that of a conductor. Semiconductors may be elemental materials, such as silicon, compound semiconductors such as gallium arsenide, or alloys, such as silicon germanium or aluminum gallium arsenide. Semiconductors and insulators have an electronic band structure with a band gap between the uppermost filled band (the valence band) and the next available band, the conduction band. This means that most of the valence electrons are not free to move through the material. This contrasts with metals and other conductors, which have a partially filled band, allowing the electrons to move freely through the material. The distinction between a semiconductor and an insulator is only that the band gap in a semiconductor is smaller than in an insulator, so that the thermal energy available at room temperature excites appreciable numbers of electrons into its conduction band. However, an insulator usually has a band gap which is too wide for there to be significant excitation of electrons into its conduction band at room temperature. Electrons transfer between the valence and conduction bands by carrier generation and recombination processes. The rate of these processes is governed by the law of mass action. Semiconductor electronic properties are modified by doping, which is the introduction of impurities into the material. The dopants are chosen either to be donors, likely to contribute additional conduction band electrons; or acceptors, likely to capture electrons from the valence band. The arrangement of these dopant atoms is what produces such semiconductor devices as diodes and bipolar junction transistors. The electronic properties can also be affected by applied electrical or magnetic fields from outside the semiconductor. This behavior is what makes possible devices such as insulated-gate field effect transistors (IGFETs or MOSFETs) and Hall Effect sensors.

Band structure
Like other solids, the electrons in semiconductors can have energies only within certain bands between the energy of the ground state, corresponding to electrons tightly bound to the atomic nuclei of the material, and the free electron energy, which is the energy required for an electron to escape entirely from the material. The energy bands each correspond to a large number of discrete quantum states of the electrons, and most of the states with low energy are full, up to a particular band called the valence band. Semiconductors and insulators are distinguished from conductors because the valence band in these materials is very nearly full under normal conditions.

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The ease with which electrons in a semiconductor can be excited from the valence band to the conduction band depends on the band gap between the bands, and it is the size of this energy bandgap that serves as an arbitrary dividing line between semiconductors and insulators. The electrons must move between states to conduct electric current, and so due to the Pauli exclusion principle full bands do not contribute to the electrical conductivity. However, as the temperature of a semiconductor rises above absolute zero, the states of the electrons are increasingly randomized, or smeared out, and some electrons are likely to be found in states of the conduction band, which is the band immediately above the valence band. The current-carrying electrons in the conduction band are known as "free electrons", although they are often simply called "electrons" if context allows this usage to be clear. Electrons excited to the conduction band also leave behind electron holes, or unoccupied states in the valence band. Both the conduction band electrons and the valence band holes contribute to electrical conductivity. The holes themselves don't actually move, but a neighbouring electron can move to fill the hole, leaving a hole at the place it has just come from, and in this way the holes appear to move, and the holes behave as if they were actual positively charged particles. This behavior may also be viewed in relation to chemical bonding. The electrons that have enough energy to be in the conduction band have broken free of the covalent bonds between neighboring atoms in the solid, and are free to move around, and hence conduct charge. It is an important distinction between conductors and semiconductors that, in semiconductors, movement of charge (current) is facilitated by both electrons and holes. Contrast this to a conductor where the Fermi level lies within the conduction band, such that the band is only half filled with electrons. In this case, only a small amount of energy is needed for the electrons to find other unoccupied states to move into, and hence for current to flow. The dependence of the electron energy distribution on temperature also explains why the conductivity of a semiconductor has a strong temperature dependency, as a semiconductor operating at lower temperatures will have fewer available free electrons and holes able to do the work.

Carrier generation and recombination

When ionizing radiation strikes a semiconductor, it will often excite an electron out of its energy level and consequently leave a hole. This process is known as electron-hole pair generation. A useful concept is the exciton which describes the electron and hole being bound together into a quasiparticle. The details of the specific processes through which electron-hole pairs are created are not well known, however, it is known that the average energy needed to create an electron-hole pair at a given temperature is dependent on the type and the energy of the ionizing radiation. In silicon, this energy is equal to 3.62 eV at room temperature and 3.72 eV at 80 K.

Doping (semiconductor)
In semiconductor production, doping refers to the process of intentionally introducing impurities into an extremely pure (also referred to as intrinsic) semiconductor in order to change its electrical properties. The impurities are dependent upon the type of semiconductor. Lightly and moderately doped semiconductor is referred to as extrinsic. A semiconductor which is doped to such high levels that it acts more like a conductor than a semiconductor is called degenerate. Some dopants are generally added as the (usually silicon) boule is grown, giving each wafer an almost uniform initial doping. To define circuit elements, selected areas (typically controlled by photolithography) are further

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doped by such processes as diffusion and ion implantation, the latter method being more popular in large production runs due to its better controllability. The number of dopant atoms needed to create a difference in the ability of a semiconductor to conduct is very small. Where a comparatively small number of dopant atoms are added (of the order of 1 every 100,000,000 atoms) then the doping is said to be low, or light. Where many more are added (of the order of 1 in 10,000) then the doping is referred to as heavy, or high. This is often shown as n+ for n-type dopant or p+ for p-type doping.

Dopant elements
Group IV semiconductors
For the group IV semiconductors such as silicon, germanium, and silicon carbide, the most common dopants are group III or group V elements., arsenic, phosphorus and occasionally gallium are used to dope silicon. Boron is the p-type dopant of choice for silicon integrated circuit production, since it diffuses at a rate which makes junction depths easily controllable. Phosphorus is typically used for bulk doping of silicon wafers, while arsenic is used to diffuse junctions, since it diffuses more slowly than phosphorus and is thus more controllable. By doping pure silicon with group V elements such as phosphorus, extra valence electrons are added which become unbonded from individual atoms and allow the compound to be electrically conductive, n-type material. Doping with group III elements, such as boron, which are missing the fourth valence electron creates "broken bonds", or holes, in the silicon lattice that are free to move. This is electrically conductive, p-type material. In this context then, a group V element is said to behave as an electron donor, and a group III element as an acceptor.

Semiconductor materials
Semiconductor materials are insulators at absolute zero temperature that conduct electricity in a limited way at room temperature. The defining property of a semiconductor material is that it can be doped with impurities that alter its electronic properties in a controllable way. Because of their application in devices like transistors (and therefore computers) and lasers, the search for new semiconductor materials and the improvement of existing materials is an important field of study in materials science. The most commonly used semiconductor materials are crystalline inorganic solids. These materials can be classified according to the periodic table groups from which their constituent atoms come. The group III nitrides have high tolerance to ionizing radiation, making them suitable for radiation-hardened electronics.

List of semiconductor materials

Group IV elemental semiconductors o Diamond (C) o Silicon (Si) o Germanium (Ge) Group IV compound semiconductors o Silicon carbide (SiC) o Silicon germanide (SiGe) III-V semiconductors o Aluminium antimonide (AlSb) o Aluminium arsenide (AlAs) o Aluminium nitride (AlN) o Aluminium phosphide (AlP) o Boron nitride (BN) o Boron arsenide (BAs) o Gallium antimonide (GaSb)

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o o o o o o o

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) Gallium nitride (GaN) Gallium phosphide (GaP) Indium antimonide (InSb) Indium arsenide (InAs) Indium nitride (InN) Indium phosphide (InP)

Germanium is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Ge and atomic number 32. This is a lustrous, hard, silver-white metalloid that is chemically similar to tin. Germanium forms a large number of organometallic compounds and is an important semiconductor material used in transistors Unlike most semiconductors, germanium has a small band gap, allowing it to efficiently respond to infrared light. It is therefore used in infrared spectroscopes and other optical equipment which require extremely sensitive infrared detectors. Its oxide's index of refraction and dispersion properties make germanium useful in wide-angle camera lenses and in microscope objective lenses. The alloy Silicon germanide (commonly referred to as "silicon-germanium", or SiGe) is rapidly becoming an important semiconductor material, for use in high speed integrated circuits. Circuits utilizing the properties of SiSiGe junctions can be much faster than those using silicon alone.

Silicon (Latin: silicium) is the chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, silicon is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon. It is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust, making up 25.7% of it by mass. It does not occur free in nature. Pure silicon is also used to produce ultrapure silicon for electronic and photovoltaic applications : Semiconductor - Ultrapure silicon can be doped with other elements to adjust its electrical response by controlling the number and charge (positive or negative) of current carriers. Such control is necessary for transistors, solar cells, semiconductor detectors and other semiconductor devices which are used in electronics and other high-tech applications. Photonics - Silicon can be used as a continuous wave raman laser to produce coherent light with a wavelength of 1,698 nm. LCDs and solar cells - Hydrogenated amorphous silicon is widely used in the production of low-cost, large-area electronics in applications such as LCDs. It has also shown promise for large-area, low-cost solar cells. Silicon (Latin silex, silicis, meaning flint) was first identified by Antoine Lavoisier in 1787, and was later mistaken by Humphry Davy, in 1800, for a compound. In 1811 Gay-Lussac and Thnard probably prepared impure amorphous silicon through the heating of potassium with silicon tetrafluoride. In 1824 Berzelius prepared amorphous silicon using approximately the same method as Lussac. Berzelius also purified the product by repeatedly washing it. Because silicon is an important element in semiconductor and high-tech devices, the high-tech region of Silicon Valley, California, is named after this element.

Silicon-Germanium, SiGe
SiGe, or silicon-germanium, is the alloy of silicon and germanium. This semiconductor material is commonly used in the integrated circuit manufacturing industry, where it is employed for producing heterojunction bipolar transistors or as a strain-inducing layer for CMOS transistors. This relatively new technology offers interesting opportunities in mixed-signal circuit and analog circuit IC design and manufacture. Some of the key points of SiGe include:

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SiGe is manufactured on conventional silicon wafers and leverages conventional silicon processing toolsets. By leveraging established silicon process equipment, SiGe processes achieve costs that are similar to silicon CMOS manufacturing versus other more expensive heterojunction technologies such as gallium arsenide. SiGe allows state-of-the-art CMOS logic to be highly integrated with ultra high performance heterojunction bipolar transistors, making it optimal for mixed-signal circuits. Heterojunction bipolar transistors have significantly higher forward gain and lower reverse gain which translates into better low current and high frequency performance than typically available from homojunction or traditional bipolar transistors Being a heterojunction technology, the opportunity for band gap tuning exists which has normally been available only to compound semiconductors.

The major players in SiGe foundry services are IBM, STMicroelectronics, TSMC, Freescale (originally Motorola Semiconductor), Sony, Atmel, Chartered Semiconductor, Micrel and Jazz Semiconductor (originally Conexant).

Silicon carbide
Silicon carbide (SiC) is a ceramic compound of silicon and carbon. The word moissanite is a trade name given to silicon carbide for use in the gem business. Pure -SiC is an intrinsic semiconductor with band gaps of 3.28 eV (4H) and 3.03 eV (6H) eV respectively. Silicon carbide is used for blue LEDs, ultra fast Schottky diodes, MESFETs and high temperature IGBTs and thyristors for high power switching. Due to its high thermal conductivity, SiC is also used as substrate for other semiconductor materials such as gallium nitride[1]. Due to its wide band gap, SiC-based parts are capable of operating at high temperature (over 350 C), which together with good thermal conductivity of SiC reduces problems with cooling of power parts. They also possess increased tolerance to radiation damage, making it a material desired for defense and aerospace applications. Its main competitor is gallium nitride. Although diamond has an even higher band gap, SiC-based devices are easier to manufacture due to the fact that it is more convenient to grow an insulating layer of silicon dioxide on the surface of a silicon carbide wafer than it is with diamond Pure SiC is a bad electrical conductor. Addition of suitable dopants significantly enhances its conductivity. Typically, such material has a negative temperature coefficient between room temperature and about 900 C, and positive temperature coefficient at higher temperatures, making it suitable material for high temperature heating elements.

Gallium(III) arsenide
Molar mass = 144.645 g/mol Melting point = 1238C (1511 K) Band gap at 300 K = 1.424 eV Electron effective mass = 0.067 me Electron mobility at 300 K = 9200 cm/(Vs) Hole mobility at 300 K = 400 cm/(Vs) Gallium arsenide is the chemical compound GaAs. It is an important semiconductor and is used to make devices such as microwave frequency integrated circuits (ie, MMICs), infrared light-emitting diodes, laser diodes and solar cells.

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GaAs advantages
GaAs has some electronic properties which are superior to silicon's. It has a higher saturated electron velocity and higher electron mobility, allowing it to function at frequencies in excess of 250 GHz. Also, GaAs devices generate less noise than silicon devices when operated at high frequencies. They can also be operated at higher power levels than the equivalent silicon device because they have higher breakdown voltages. These properties recommend GaAs circuitry in mobile phones, satellite communications, microwave point-to-point links, and some radar systems. Another advantage of GaAs is that it has a direct bandgap, which means that it can be used to emit light. Silicon has an indirect bandgap and so is very poor at emitting light. (Nonetheless, recent advances may make silicon LEDs and lasers possible). Because of its high switching speed, GaAs would seem to be ideal for computer applications, and for some time in the 1980's many thought that microelectronics market would switch from silicon to GaAs. The first attempted changes were implemented by the supercomputer vendors Cray Computer Corporation, Convex, and Alliant in an attempt to stay ahead of the ever-improving CMOS microprocessor. Cray eventually built one GaAs-based machine in the early 1990s, the Cray-3, but the effort was so costly that the venture failed, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1995.

Silicon's advantages
Silicon has three major advantages over GaAs. First, silicon is abundant and cheap to process. Silicon's greater physical strength enables larger wafers (maximum of ~300 mm compared to ~150 mm diameter for GaAs). Si is highly abundant in the Earth's crust, in the form of silicate minerals. The economy of scale available to the silicon industry has also reduced the adoption of GaAs. The second major advantage of Si is the existence of silicon dioxideone of the best insulators. Silicon dioxide can easily be incorporated onto silicon circuits, and such layers are adherant to the underlying Si. GaAs does not form a stable adherant insulating layer. The third, and perhaps most important, advantage of silicon is that it possesses a much higher hole mobility. This high mobility allows the fabrication of higher-speed P-channel field effect transistors, which are required for CMOS logic. Because they lack a fast CMOS structure, GaAs logic circuits have much higher power consumption, which has made them unable to compete with silicon logic circuits.

Gallium(III) nitride
Melting point >2500C Gallium nitride (GaN) is a semiconductor material with wide (3.4 eV) band gap, used in optoelectronic, highpower and high-frequency devices. It is a binary group III/group V direct bandgap semiconductor. Its sensitivity to ionizing radiation is low (like other group III nitrides), making it a suitable material for solar cell arrays for satellites. Until 1993, the only blue light-emitting devices commercially available were based on silicon carbide, which has an indirect bandgap, and so is not capable of sufficient brightness to be of wide interest. The development of the first high-brightness GaN light-emitting diode (LED) by Shuji Nakamura, working for the Nichia company in Japan, completed the range of primary colors, and made possible applications such as daylight visible full-color LED displays, white LEDs and blue laser devices. GaN-based blue laser diodes are used in the Blu-ray disc technology, used in devices such as the Sony PlayStation 3.

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Potential markets for high-power/high-frequency devices based on GaN include microwave radio-frequency power amplifiers (such as used in high-speed wireless data transmission) and high-voltage switching devices for power grids. A potential mass-market application for GaN-based RF transistors is as the microwave source for microwave ovens, replacing the magnetrons currently used. The large band gap means that the performance of GaN transistors is maintained up to higher temperatures than silicon transistors. GaN nanotubes have also been produced, with proposed applications in nanoscale electronics, optoelectronics and biochemical-sensing applications

Gallium(III) phosphide
A phosphide of gallium, is a compound semiconductor material with an indirect band gap of 2.26 eV. It is a solid crystallic material with melting point of 1480C. It is an intrinsic semiconductor of n-type. Its lattice constant is 0.545 nm. Its electron mobility is 110 cm/V-s and its hole mobility is 75 cm/V-s. Its CAS number is [12063-98-8]. It has the appearance of pale orange pieces. It is odorless and insoluble in water. Gallium phosphide is also an optical material. Its refractive index is 3.37. Gallium phosphide is used for manufacture of low and standard brightness red, orange, and green lightemitting diodes (LED). It is a low-cost material. GaP has been used as an LED material since the 1960s. It has a relatively short life at higher current and its lifetime is sensitive to temperature. It is used standalone or together with gallium arsenide phosphide. Pure GaP LEDs are green and emit on 555 nm. Nitrogen-doped GaP emits at yellow-green (565 nm), zinc oxide doped GaP emits red (700 nm). Gallium phosphide is transparent for yellow and red light, therefore GaAsP-on-GaP LEDs are more efficient than GaAsP-on-GaAs.

Indium gallium nitride

Indium gallium nitride (InGaN, InxGa1-xN) is a semiconductor material made of a mix of gallium nitride (GaN) and indium nitride (InN). It is a ternary group III/group V direct bandgap semiconductor. Its band gap can be tuned by varying the amount of indium in the alloy. The ratio of In/Ga is usually between 0.02/0.98 and 0.3/0.7. Indium gallium nitride is the light-emitting layer in modern blue and green LEDs and often grown on a GaN buffer on a transparent substrate as, e.g. sapphire or silicon carbide. It has a high heat capacity and its sensitivity to ionizing radiation is low (like other group III nitrides), making it also a potentially suitable material for solar cell arrays for satellites.

Solar cell
A solar cell (or photovoltaic cell) is a semiconductor device that converts photons into electricity. Often, despite the term, solar cells can convert not only light from the sun but also light from artificial sources (such as light bulbs). Fundamentally, the device needs to fulfill only two functions: photogeneration of charge carriers (electrons and holes) in a light-absorbing material, and separation of the charge carriers to a conductive contact that will transmit the electricity. This conversion is called the photovoltaic effect, and the field of research related to solar cells is known as photovoltaics. The photovoltaic effect was first recognised in 1839 by French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel. However it was not until 1883 that the first solar cell was built, by Charles Fritts, who coated the semiconductor selenium with an extremely thin layer of gold to form the junctions. The device was only around

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1% efficient. Russell Ohl patented the modern solar cell in 1946 (US2402662, "Light sensitive device"). Sven Ason Berglund had a prior patent concerning methods of increasing the capacity of photosensitive cells. The modern age of solar power technology arrived in 1954 when Bell Laboratories experimentation with semiconductors accidentally found that silicon doped with certain impurities was very sensitive to light.

Simple explanation
Photons in sunlight hit the solar panel and are absorbed by semiconducting materials, such as silicon. Electrons (negatively charged) are knocked loose from their atoms, allowing them to flow through the material to produce electricity. The complementary positive charges that are also created (like bubbles) are called holes and flow in the direction opposite of the electrons in a silicon solar panel. An array of solar panels converts solar energy into a usable amount of direct current (DC) electricity.

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