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Semiconductor device

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Title: Semiconductor device  
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Subject: History of the transistor, Transistor, Integrated circuit, MOSFET, Diode
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Semiconductor device

Semiconductor devices are 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 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 control precisely 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.

Diode

A semiconductor diode is a device typically made from a single p–n junction. At the junction of a p-type and an n-type semiconductor there forms a depletion region where current conduction is inhibited by the lack of mobile charge carriers. When the device is forward biased (connected with the p-side at higher electric potential than the n-side), this depletion region is diminished, allowing for significant conduction, while only very small current can be achieved when the diode is reverse biased and thus the depletion region expanded.

Exposing a semiconductor to light can generate electron–hole pairs, which increases the number of free carriers and thereby the conductivity. Diodes optimized to take advantage of this phenomenon are known as photodiodes. Compound semiconductor diodes can also be used to generate light, as in light-emitting diodes and laser diodes.

Transistor

An n–p–n bipolar junction transistor structure

Bipolar junction transistors are formed from two p–n junctions, in either n–p–n or p–n–p configuration. The middle, or base, region between the junctions is typically very narrow. The other regions, and their associated terminals, are known as the emitter and the collector. A small current injected through the junction between the base and the emitter changes the properties of the base-collector junction so that it can conduct current even though it is reverse biased. This creates a much larger current between the collector and emitter, controlled by the base-emitter current.

Another type of transistor, the field-effect transistor, operates on the principle that semiconductor conductivity can be increased or decreased by the presence of an electric field. An electric field can increase the number of free electrons and holes in a semiconductor, thereby changing its conductivity. The field may be applied by a reverse-biased p–n junction, forming a junction field-effect transistor (JFET) or by an electrode insulated from the bulk material by an oxide layer, forming a metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET).

The MOSFET, a solid-state device, is the most used semiconductor device today. The gate electrode is charged to produce an electric field that controls the conductivity of a "channel" between two terminals, called the source and drain. Depending on the type of carrier in the channel, the device may be an n-channel (for electrons) or a p-channel (for holes) MOSFET. Although the MOSFET is named in part for its "metal" gate, in modern devices polysilicon is typically used instead.

Semiconductor device materials

By far, silicon (Si) is the most widely used material in semiconductor devices. Its combination of low raw material cost, relatively simple processing, and a useful temperature range makes it currently the best compromise among the various competing materials. Silicon used in semiconductor device manufacturing is currently fabricated into boules that are large enough in diameter to allow the production of 300 mm (12 in.) wafers.

Germanium (Ge) was a widely used early semiconductor material but its thermal sensitivity makes it less useful than silicon. Today, germanium is often alloyed with silicon for use in very-high-speed SiGe devices; IBM is a major producer of such devices.

Gallium arsenide (GaAs) is also widely used in high-speed devices but so far, it has been difficult to form large-diameter boules of this material, limiting the wafer diameter to sizes significantly smaller than silicon wafers

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