Semiconductors – you might have heard this term if you are dealing with numerous electronic devices. Semiconductors have been evolving continuously to suit advancing technologies to do wonders for your convenience. However, have you ever thought about what a semiconductor is and what the advantages of semiconductor devices are?
Semiconductors have been an integral part of any electronic system. From smartphones and airplanes to the circuit breakers in your home, semiconductors have become an essential component to power up almost everything in our daily lives. In this blog, let’s look into what semiconductors are, the types of semiconductors, and mainly the advantages of semiconductor devices.
What Are Semiconductors?
A semiconductor is a substance that has an electrical conductivity value falling between that of a conductor (generally metals) and a non-conductor or insulator (such as ceramics). That is why they have been aptly named semiconductors. Usually, these solid substances are often used in electrical circuits and components that can partially conduct electricity. The most popular are semiconductors made of silicon crystals and germanium.
A semiconductor device is any electronic device that uses semiconductors in its functioning. There are many types of semiconductor devices in use from power semiconductor devices used in power electronics to ordinary semiconductor devices. These are found in everyday equipment such as phones, computers, and every electronic device in use today.
What Are The Properties Of Semiconductors?
Semiconductors possess unique electrical properties. This is a solid substance that consists of properties somewhere between conductors and insulators. Before looking into the advantages of semiconductors, it is important to know the characteristics of semiconductors that make them useful to us.
One of the most prominent characteristics of semiconductors is their resistivity. The resistivity of semiconductors is higher than a conductor and lesser than an insulator. Semiconductors act like perfect insulators when they are exposed to temperatures near absolute zero kelvin. That is, at a low temperature, no electricity passes through semiconductors. It is because they act as insulators. On the other hand, when the temperature increases, electricity passes through these semiconductors easily. That is because, at high temperatures, they function as conductors.
Another property of semiconductors is that the conductivity of a semiconductor increases when impurities are added. When semiconductors contain no impurities, their conductivity is low and thus, they do not conduct electricity.
With all these properties in mind, the significance of semiconductors lies in their ability to conduct electricity in a much more controlled manner as required. That is, a semiconductor is a unique substance that can conduct electricity under desirable and adequate conditions and circumstances.
What Are The Types of Semiconductors?
An intrinsic semiconductor material conducts electricity in a very pure form as it is made up of only a single type of element. Pure Germanium (Ge) and pure Silicon (Si) can be identified as the most common type of intrinsic semiconductors. Intrinsic semiconductors act as insulators at the temperature of zero Kelvin and act as conductors when the temperature rises. However, when the temperature rises, few electrons are unbounded and move through the lattice creating a mobile electron flow. As a result, a hole in its original position is created. The free electrons and the hole contributes to conducting electricity in intrinsic semiconductors.
Extrinsic semiconductors are the type of doped semiconductor materials that are made by adding impurity atoms to a pure semiconductor. The process of adding impurity atoms to a pure semiconductor is known as ‘doping’. As a result of adding impurity atoms to a semiconductor, its conductivity can be improved massively. When considering the intrinsic semiconductor materials, their conduction properties are much poor and there will be instances where their properties are inadequate for electronic devices. In contrast, extrinsic semiconductors embody high conductivity properties as these are made by adding some impurities.
According to the type of doping, extrinsic semiconductors can be again classified into two types – ‘N-type Semiconductors’ and “P-type Semiconductors”.
An N-type semiconductor is an extrinsic semiconductor that is made by doping pure silicon or pure germanium intrinsic semiconductor with an element with five valence electrons such as phosphorus (P), Arsenic (As), or Antimony (Sb).
Silicon has only four electrons. When a silicon semiconductor is doped with an element with five electrons like phosphorus, the latter will create a covalent bond with each electron and there will be one left. This extra electron can be given to the silicon crystal lattice.
The significance of this is that the extra electrons can freely flow throughout the circuit, generating electricity.
A P-type semiconductor is made by doping pure silicon or pure germanium intrinsic semiconductor with an element with three valence electrons such as Boron (B), Aluminum (Al), or Gallium (Ga).
Similar to N-type semiconductors, P-type semiconductors follow the same procedure. As silicon has only four electrons and elements like Boron have three electrons, two electrons will be left out when a Boron creates a covalent bond with each electron. A hole is created in the crystal lattice due to this doping, and this hole is positively charged. The negatively charged electrons are attracted to this hole. And as the negative electrons move, another hole is created which will again be filled with another electron.
What Are the Advantages of Semiconductors?
One of the advantages of semiconductors is the absence of filaments. As semiconductors do not have filaments, they do not want to be heated to emit electrons. This is a huge advantage when compared to vacuum diodes.
Can Be Operated Immediately
Another advantage of semiconductors is their possibility to be operated immediately after switching on the circuit device. The main reason behind this capability is the fact that semiconductors do not require to be heated up.
Compact And Portable
If you have seen a semiconductor, one of the most evident characteristics of them is its size. Usually, semiconductors are small in size, and thus, the circuits with semiconductors are also compact and highly portable. The semiconductors being light in weight is also another advantage. Moreover, due to their compactness, semiconductors occupy only a small space and use less power.
Longer Lifespan And Less Expensive
When compared to vacuum diodes, semiconductors have a longer lifespan. Nonetheless, using semiconductors is more cost-effective as these are not very expensive.
No Unnecessary Sounds
Another advantage of semiconductors is that they do not produce any sort of humming sound while it is operating, unlike vacuum diodes.
Low Operating Voltage
When observing the advantages of semiconductors, we cannot forget the amount of voltage that should be provided for a semiconductor to function. Semiconductors do not consume a high voltage for them to operate. This is indeed a massive plus point!
High Sensitivity To Temperature
Another fact that makes semiconductors reliable and efficient is their quality of being highly sensitive to temperature and radiation. It is possible to mention that the reason behind the popular use of semiconductors is their ability to operate in different temperatures.
Keep Your Technology Up To Date With Semiconductors
Semiconductors have become an integral part of our everyday lives from LED lights to mobile phones. They have many uses as well as advantages. We hope you have a better understanding of the importance of semiconductors and why it is a trend in today’s electronic technology.
To learn more about semiconductors, the industry, and the market, please visit our blog.
A semiconductor is a solid substance that has an electrical conductivity value falling between that of a conductor and a non-conductor or insulator. These solid substances are often used in electrical circuits and components that can partially conduct electricity. The most popular semiconductors are made of silicon crystals and germanium.
The resistivity of semiconductors is higher than a conductor and less than an insulator. Moreover, semiconductors act like perfect insulators when they are exposed to temperatures near absolute zero kelvin. Here they act as insulators. In addition, when the temperature increases, temperatures pass through these semiconductors easily. That is because, at high temperatures, they function as conductors. Significantly, the conductivity of a semiconductor can be increased by adding impurities. The process of adding impurities to the semiconductor is known as “Doping”. With all these properties, the significance of semiconductors lies in their ability to conduct electricity in a much more controlled manner as required.