What are Semiconductors?

Semiconductors are materials which have a conductivity between conductors (generally metals) and nonconductors or insulators (such as most ceramics). Semiconductors can be pure elements, such as silicon or germanium, or compounds such as gallium arsenide or cadmium selenide. In a process called doping, small amounts of impurities are added to pure semiconductors causing large changes in the conductivity of the material.

Due to their role in the fabrication of electronic devices, semiconductors are an important part of our lives. Imagine life without electronic devices. There would be no radios, no TV's, no computers, no video games, and poor medical diagnostic equipment. Although many electronic devices could be made using vacuum tube technology, the developments in semiconductor technology during the past 50 years have made electronic devices smaller, faster, and more reliable. Think for a minute of all the encounters you have with electronic devices. How many of the following have you seen or used in the last twenty-four hours? Each has important components that have been manufactured with electronic materials.

microwave ovenelectronic balancevideo games
watchCD playerstereo
computerlightsair conditioner
calculatortelephonemusical greeting cards
diagnostic equipmentclockrefrigerator
carsecurity devicesstove

Advances in the field of electronics can continue to improve our lives. Learning about electronic materials can help you understand and be able to participate in the fields of communication, computers, medicine, the basic sciences and engineering. All of these fields use electronics extensively.

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