Which is Semiconductor Material?

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 25th, 2023

Semiconductor Material plays a vital role in the field of electronics. We use semiconductor materials in electronic devices like diodes & transistors (BJT, JFET, MOSFET) and even IC technology. So, every student of the electronics branch should know about these materials, among which the most commonly used semiconductor material is also.  

We can classify the materials into three categories based on the conductivity/energy bandgap. These are Conductors, Semiconductors, and Insulators. In this article, get an overview of Semiconductor material. In addition, you will know the types of semiconductor materials available and the examples for each type.

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Which is the Semiconductor Material?

A semiconductor is a material having conductivity between conductors and insulators. The most commonly used semiconductor material is Si(Silicon). It is also the most widely used semiconductor material in electronic devices.

Semiconductor Material Definition

A material is said to be a semiconductor material if its conductivity is greater than that of an insulator and less than that of a conductor. That means the conductivity of the semiconductor lies between that of the insulator and the conductor.

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Semiconductor Material Example

A few examples of semiconductor materials that are widely used are: Si(silicon), Ge(germanium), Sn(tin), selenium(Se), tellurium (Te), and gallium arsenide(GaAs)

We can define the semiconductor material based on the energy band gap also. The energy band gap is the difference between the conduction band’s lowest level and the valence band’s highest level. A material is said to be a semiconductor material if its energy bandgap is greater than a conductor’s and less than an insulator’s. That means the energy band gap of semiconductors lies between the conductor and the insulator. A fermi level exists in the energy band and distinguishes between the levels occupied by the electron and the unoccupied levels. You can easily understand this one from the following diagram.


Types of Semiconductor Material

We can classify the semiconductors mainly into two types of semiconductors based on the level of purity.

  • Intrinsic Semiconductor
  • Extrinsic Semiconductor

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Applications of Semiconductor Material

In most electronic devices and Integrated Circuits, we use semiconductor materials. Among these, the most commonly used semiconductor material is silicon (Si). We use semiconductors like Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) and related compounds for optical and very high-speed devices.

It is known as a semiconductor device if we use semiconductor material in an electronic device. Examples of semiconductor devices are Diodes (p-n junction diode, breakdown diode, Tunnel, Varactor, LED, Laser & photodiodes), Transistors (BJT, JFET & MOSFET), and Integrated Circuits (Analog ICs & Digital ICs).

Defining Properties of Semiconductor Material

Semiconductors, by nature, behave with some properties utilized for their applications. These properties make them in demand for numerous applications.

  • Excitable State of Electrons: A difference in electric potential would cause a semiconductor material to leave thermal equilibrium and enter a non-equilibrium state. In the process, electrons and holes are introduced to the system, where they interact via diffusion. Whenever a semiconductor material’s thermal equilibrium is disturbed, it changes the number of holes and electrons.
  • Light Emission: Some semiconductors allow the excited electrons to return to a relaxed state by emitting light instead of producing heat. These semiconductors can be used to make LED (light-emitting diodes).
  • Thermal Conductivity and Energy Conversion: A semiconductor’s high thermoelectric power factor makes it useful for thermoelectric generators and thermoelectric coolers.
  • Variable Electrical Conductivity: Natural semiconductors are poor since a current requires electron flow, which is prevented due to filled valence bands. Few techniques like doping and gating allow them to act like conducting materials.

Recent Advancements in Semiconductor Material

Although silicon has been the main material semiconductor industry for some time, it is reaching the end of its usefulness. Since silicon’s efficiency is now nearly at the limit of Moore’s Law, industry experts fear it may soon surpass it. Research in the industry has had some promising advancements:

  • High-power gallium nitride- A high critical energy field means the material could be used in electrical grids to convert power more efficiently and faster.
  • Graphene- A new generation of semiconductor material is emerging from graphene. However, there is still some time before we can see them for commercial use.
  • Pyrite- Pyrite could replace cadmium telluride in solar cells, a rare earth element with limited supply, where Pyrite is abundantly available and inexpensive.

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