Almost everyone has heard of semiconductors as they are almost everywhere. However, few people know about them and their applications. A semiconductor refers to a physical material meant to manage and control current flow in electronic devices. It either allows freely flowing current or repels the electric current completely.
To gain a better understanding of semiconductors, we’ll look at some other terms used in electricity. A conductor is a material that can conduct electricity such as copper, aluminum, silver, gold, etc. An insulator is a physical material that does not allow an electric current to flow through, such as paper, plastic, rubber, and glass. A semiconductor is a substance whose properties fall between the properties of a conductor and an insulator.
Semiconductors are primarily used in manufacturing computing components, electronic chips, and devices. Under different conditions, a semiconductor can act as a pure conductor or pure insulator. It is created using materials like germanium, silicon, and other elements. Generally, a semiconductor is made by adding impurities to the element, and its conductance or inductance depends on the intensity or type of the added impurities.
Why semiconductors behave the way they behave
You may be wondering why semiconductors have properties that fall between the properties of a conductor and an insulator. Well, semiconductors usually fall in the fourth column of the periodic table; hence they have an equal number of electrons and holes in their valance shell that is 4. In their pure form, there is no hole or free-electron available to conduct electricity; hence it serves as an insulator.
Through a doping process, impurities are mixed into the pure semiconductor material to generate a free electron or hole; hence the material starts acting as a conductor. Two types of impurities are used, which are pentavalent and trivalent. Pentavalent forms the N-type semiconductors while the trivalent forms the P-type semiconductors. Increasing the temperature also provides enough energy to carriers which can break their covalent bonds and start conducting.
Types of semiconductors
There are two types of semiconductors. One is the N-type semiconductor used when the conductance is higher or when there are many free electrons. The other is a P-type semiconductor used when the inductance is higher; hence there are fewer free electrons.
Semiconductors have brought significant innovation in the field of electronics. Common devices manufactured using semiconductors include integrated circuits, computer memories, transistors, and diodes. Transistors are used for current amplification or fast switching. Diodes enable the flow of current in only one direction; hence they serve as one-way electronic valves.
The creation of diodes and transistors paved the way for nanotechnology, leading to new integrated chips known as microcontrollers. All the types of integrated chips you encounter have semiconductor materials embedded in them. Therefore semiconductors have enabled automatic control in electronic circuits, which is not possible with conductors.
Semiconductors are very valuable, and companies are always looking for new and better ways to make them. The most common elements used to create them ate silicone and germanium. Gallium arsenide is another commonly used semiconductor material in microwave frequency integrated circuits, solar cells, and laser diodes.
Angela is a senior editor at Dreniq News. She has written for many famous news agencies.