In general, semiconductors are inorganic or organic materials that can control their conduction depending on chemical structure, temperature, illumination, and the presence of dopants. The name semiconductor comes from the fact that these materials have electrical conductivity between a metal, like copper, gold, etc., and an insulator, like glass. They have an energy gap of less than 4eV (about 1eV). In solid-state physics, this energy gap or band gap is an energy range between the valence band and conduction band where electron states are forbidden. In contrast to conductors, semiconductors’ electrons must obtain energy (e.g., from ionizing radiation) to cross the band gap and reach the conduction band. The properties of semiconductors are determined by the energy gap between valence and conduction bands.
Gallium nitride (GaN) is a wide-bandgap semiconductor material that has gained increasing attention in recent years due to its unique electronic properties. GaN has a wide bandgap of 3.4 electron volts (eV), which is larger than that of conventional semiconductors such as silicon (1.1 eV) and gallium arsenide (1.4 eV). This makes GaN an excellent candidate for use in high-power and high-frequency electronic devices.
One of the main advantages of GaN is its high electron mobility, which is up to 20 times higher than that of silicon. This allows for higher electron velocities and faster switching speeds, making GaN ideal for use in power electronic devices such as power supplies and inverters.
GaN is also highly resistant to high temperatures, making it well-suited for use in high-temperature environments, such as in automotive and aerospace applications. Additionally, GaN has excellent thermal conductivity, which helps to dissipate heat generated during operation.
Another important application for GaN is in the field of optoelectronics, such as in the development of high-brightness LEDs and laser diodes. GaN-based LEDs are highly efficient and have a wide range of applications, from general lighting to automotive headlights and backlighting for LCD displays.
However, one of the main challenges associated with GaN is its relatively high cost compared to other semiconductors, such as silicon and gallium arsenide. Nevertheless, ongoing research is focused on finding ways to reduce the cost of GaN production and increase its scalability for use in larger-scale applications.
Overall, GaN is a promising semiconductor material with a wide range of potential applications in power electronics, optoelectronics, and other areas where high performance is required.
Types of Semiconductors
Semiconductors can be classified into two basic types based on their electronic properties:
- Intrinsic Semiconductors: These are pure semiconductors that are made up of a single element (e.g., Silicon, Germanium) and have no intentional doping with impurities. Intrinsic semiconductors have a specific number of electrons in their valence band and conduction band. They conduct electricity when they are heated, and some electrons gain sufficient energy to break free from their bonds and become free electrons in the conduction band.
- Extrinsic Semiconductors: These are impure semiconductors that are intentionally doped with impurities to change their electronic properties. Extrinsic semiconductors can be further classified into two types:
- p-type semiconductors: In p-type semiconductors, impurity atoms such as boron are introduced into the semiconductor material. These impurities have fewer valence electrons than the semiconductor material, which results in “holes” (absence of electrons) being created in the valence band. These holes can conduct current like positive charge carriers, which gives the material its p-type designation.
- n-type semiconductors: In n-type semiconductors, impurity atoms such as phosphorus are introduced into the semiconductor material. These impurities have more valence electrons than the semiconductor material, which creates excess electrons in the conduction band. These excess electrons can conduct current like negative charge carriers, which gives the material its n-type designation.
Here is a table with 3 intrinsic semiconductors and 2 p-type and n-type semiconductors, along with 4 key properties:
|Band Gap (eV)
|Electron Mobility (cm²/Vs)
|Hole Mobility (cm²/Vs)
|Thermal Conductivity (W/mK)
|Gallium Arsenide (GaAs)
|Boron-doped Silicon (p-Si)
|Phosphorus-doped Silicon (n-Si)
|Aluminum-doped Gallium Arsenide (p-GaAs)
|Silicon-doped Gallium Arsenide (n-GaAs)