What Is a Semiconductor? Know The Basics
The term "semiconductor" has been used for decades by people who may not even know what it means, other than it's the basis of modern electronics. Some of the world's most well-known semiconductor manufacturers include Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Samsung and Broadcom. Here are key facts about semiconductors, which are useful for making computer chips.
Electrical Properties A semiconductor is categorized neither as a conductor nor insulator of electricity, but shares properties with both. Silicon is one of the most widely used materials for manufacturing semiconductors. Other semiconductor materials include germanium and gallium arsenide. In its pure form, silicon behaves as an insulator. Its outer ring has four electrons, allowing them to form a crystal lattice when reacting with other atoms, which creates a strong insulator.
For silicon or any other semiconductor to act partially as a conductor, a manufacturer must sprinkle an impurity into the material. This addition gives a semiconductor a fifth electron in its outer shell, allowing it to move freely around the crystal lattice, generating a current when potential is applied.
N-Type vs P-Type When material has a surplus of electrons in the crystal lattice, it's called an N-type semiconductor. Adding impurities such as phosphorous or arsenic to silicon can produce an N-type semiconductor. When an impurity such as aluminum which has three electrons in its outer shell reacts with silicon, it creates a hole or missing electron and is now called a P-type semiconductor. Holes can behave like electrons by carrying an electric charge. As holes move in one direction, electrons move in the opposite direction, allowing for current flow. Both types are known as charge carriers.Electronic Components Containing Semiconductors
- integrated circuits
- optoelectronic devices
- light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
Conclusion: Semiconductors Basics, Electronic Components A semiconductor is a material like silicon that can be considered either or both a conductor and an insulator. By adding an impurity, the semiconductor can generate current within a crystal lattice. Understanding the nature of semiconductors comes down to chemistry basics such as how valence electrons, which exist in the outer shell of an atom, form chemical bonds with other atoms.