A semiconductor has electrical conductivity intermediate to that of a conductor and an insulator. Semiconductors differ from metals in their characteristic property of decreasing electrical resistivity with increasing temperature. Semiconductor materials are useful because their behavior can be manipulated by the addition of impurities, known as doping. The comprehensive theory of semiconductors relies on the principles of quantum physics to explain the motions of electrons through a lattice of atoms. Current conduction in a semiconductor occurs via mobile or "free" electrons and holes, collectively known as charge carriers. Doping a semiconductor with a small amount of impurity atoms greatly increases the number of charge carriers within it. When a doped semiconductor contains excess holes it is called "p-type", and when it contains excess free electrons it is known as "n-type". The semiconductor material used in devices is doped under highly controlled conditions to precisely control the location and concentration of p- and n-type dopants. Semiconductors are the foundation of modern electronics, including radio, computers, and telephones. Semiconductor-based electronic components include transistors, solar cells, many kinds of diodes including the light-emitting diode (LED), the silicon controlled rectifier, photo-diodes, and digital and analog integrated circuits. Semiconductor devices are electronic components that exploit the electronic properties of semiconductor materials, principally silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide, as well as organic semiconductors. Semiconductor devices have replaced thermionic devices (vacuum tubes) in most applications. They use electronic conduction in the solid state as opposed to the gaseous state or thermionic emission in a high vacuum. Semiconductor devices are manufactured both as single discrete devices and as integrated circuits (ICs), which consist of a number—from a few (as low as two) to billions—of devices manufactured and interconnected on a single semiconductor substrate, or wafer. Semiconductor materials are so useful because their behavior can be easily manipulated by the addition of impurities, known as doping. Semiconductor conductivity can be controlled by introduction of an electric or magnetic field, by exposure to light or heat, or by mechanical deformation of a doped monocrystalline grid; thus, semiconductors can make excellent sensors. Current conduction in a semiconductor occurs via mobile or "free" electrons and holes, collectively known as charge carriers. Doping a semiconductor such as silicon with a small amount of impurity atoms, such as phosphorus or boron, greatly increases the number of free electrons or holes within the semiconductor. When a doped semiconductor contains excess holes it is called "p-type", and when it contains excess free electrons it is known as "n-type", where p (positive for holes) or n (negative for electrons) is the sign of the charge of the majority mobile charge carriers. The semiconductor material used in devices is doped under highly controlled conditions in a fabrication facility, or fab, to precisely control the location and concentration of p- and n-type dopants. The junctions which form where n-type and p-type semiconductors join together are called p-n junctions. Main article: Diode
The diode is a device made from a single p-n junction. At the junction of a p-type and an n-type semiconductor there forms a region called the depletion zone which blocks current conduction from the n-type region to the p-type region, but allows current to conduct from the p-type region to the n-type region. Thus, when the device is forward biased, with the p-side at higher electric potential, the diode conducts current easily; but the current is very small when the diode is reverse biased. Exposing a semiconductor to light can generate electron–hole pairs, which increases the number of free carriers and its conductivity. Diodes optimized to...
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