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How do semiconductors and semiconductor components work

Updated on March 3, 2013
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A simple explanation on how semiconductors work and its types


Semiconductors are materials that have conductivity between that of a conductor and a resistor. Thus, it can either act as a conductor or an insulator depending on the set-up. The first commonly used semiconductor is Germanium. However because of its sensitivity to temperature it became undependable because in electronics temperature changes are common due to the generation and dissipation of heat. Just observe how your phone heats up when you talk on the phone for a long time.

Silicon was then used because of its abundance and low sensitivity to temperature. Among the most commonly used semiconductors are Silicon, Germanium, Gallium Arsenide and Cadmium Phosphate.

There are two kinds of Semiconductors: Intrinsic and Extrinsic. Intrinsic semiconductors are those that are made of very pure material – there are little or no impurities in them. Ideally, these should be perfectly pure but because of manufacturing limitations we can only attain a lever of purity. Impurities in semiconductors, even in a very small amount, can cause changes in the characteristics of the material. Even a part in a million can greatly affect the electrical characteristics of a semiconductor. Extrinsic semiconductors are the opposite of intrinsic semiconductors. Impurities are intentionally incorporated in the material so that a certain electrical characteristic can be attained. The process of adding impurities is called doping.

There are two types of extrinsic semiconductors: the N-type and the P-type. These materials are either Silicon or Germanium with added impurities. The impurities give these materials some characteristics like increased conductivity. Silicon and Germanium have four valence electrons – the electrons in the outermost electron shell. When packed together they form a strong crystalline structure because of covalent bonding.

N-type materials are those where a pentavalent element (elements with five valence electrons) is added to the crystalline lattice. An example is Arsenic. These are called donor atoms because they add one free electron per atom into the crystalline structure. These free electrons can move about which is why these materials are conductors.

P-type materials are those where a trivalent element (elements with three valence electrons) is added into the crystalline lattice. An example is Boron. These are called acceptor atoms because each atom forms a hole in the crystalline lattice. The hole can “move” when other electrons try to fill up the space when an external force is applied. Electrons are the ones that move. It just looks like that the hole is moving. The movement of electrons again forms the electric current.

The simplest semiconductor device is the diode. It is formed by joining two types of semiconductors – the N-type and the P-type. The Diode also acts like a switch because it allows current to flow in only one direction. Diodes play a very important part in electronics and so does Semiconductors.

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      dkmayo 4 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your Hub and really liked your explanation of intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors.

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      leakeem 4 years ago from Earth

      Thanks! That's great to know!

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      Raz 2 years ago

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      Hamza 2 years ago

      Has been following this dioucssisn for a while . There has been hundreds of non-profit foundations started by entrepreneurs with atleast zero or least experience claiming to help startups connect with VCs or partners which they claim to be building an ecosystem. But have any one thought of the real motive behind these intiatives ?Is it purely about building a successful startup ecosystem ( like silicon valley) or is it all about creating a PR which will benefit the founders later .How many startups have really benefited from this so called startup platforms and so-called startup breakfasts or dinner ?Now I understand a platform for connecting startups is great idea for networking , the sheer motive behind the people running the same had diverted the focus and attention of the same to be a platform which is for money ( Yes pay us 10k and we will showcase your startup on the next edition) .Anyways i feel there is an opportunity in this space Startup cheating .1) Start a foundation ( non profit ) for startups . Initially bring in some boot strapped startups to the scene, invite few VCs and then let the medianama and pluggd.in blog about the same , which will be taken up by the economic times and other news outlets who need some content to fill their columns.2)After getting some branding create some thing called Startup Breakfast ( bcoz rest are all taken) or Startup Thursday and continue for next 6 months. 3) Now comes the real opportunity ( break even for all your nonprofit initiatives) the first edition of your foundation name it Starto or Headpro . Get sponsors ( Microsoft startup accelerator , Sun Startup essential easy to get , bring on some one from yahoo to speak ( yes yahoo is now a sponsor) charge 15 lakhs to 50 lakhs based on the category of sponsors.- Invite those poor startups to demo in the event ( you can charge 10k for each and then later put an exibition outside your venue of all startups charge them 25 k. so 10 demo startups ( 1 lakh + 25k x another 20 = 6 lakhs) . Invite VCs , successful entreprenuers ( They will defnitely come becuase they love the passion thought they dont know the real intentions of the founders.4. Now you can ideally do 2 editions an year ( to be more innovative you can even think of an edition every quarter ) more money . All this while you can use the sponsorhip money for your expenses , enjoyment and refreshments .5. The Big moment : Now you know startups, you know VCs, you know media and you know angels and they know you too. Start your VC firm- identify startups on one end , Tell HNIs i have startups with products you wanna invest- Identifty HNIs on one end, Tell startups i Have investors do want to get on board .when you start your VC firm , make sure you also put some of your or even your friends existing startup names as portfolio companies ( this will really helpful for catching up the bootstrappies who may not do much back ground reseach .Any one game for it ? .To startups :- if you have great product and great idea, you dont need any one ( ofcourse fail, start again -experience will give you the strength) .Investors will come to you, clients will come to you.- But how do you connect with a VC ( Linkedin , twitter , mail a VC )- But i need mentors ( For what if you think a 20+ experienced IIM-IIT-ISB-HARWARD Ex-google,ex-yahoo can turn around your idea- its bullshit please for godsake dont fall for all these fake mentors and consultants who help you raise your first 10 million$ within a fortnight -But please feel free to take advice from your peers, entrperniers or people you connect on linkedin and dont give them stakes ( ofcourse you can gratify them when you succeed , yes no one is here for a free lunch) .To all Ass holes who wanna ride on milking the startups and entreprenuers please do understand Entreprenuership is all about money, it's about solving simple painpoints through innovation or an idea and an entreprenuer is here to enjoy the satisfaction when 100 people use their your product ,ofcourse money will follow.Final Advice :1.Bootstrap ( work prallely, get the proto and first client)2) Be choosy about the founders, mentors and most importantly investors3) Dont fear about failures each failure will add up to your success .Read more about startup ecosystem , the market, the consumer ( your milkman or driver) rather than getting over exicited about the idea.Wish you all the best .

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