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 useful because their behavior can be easily manipulated by the addition of impurities, known as doping. Semiconductor conductivity can be controlled by the introduction of an electric or magnetic field, by exposure to light or heat, or by the 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 proportion of an atomic impurity, 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.
Semiconductor devices made per year have been growing by 9.1% on average since 1978 and shipments in 2018 are predicted for the first time to exceed 1 trillion, meaning well over 7 trillion has been made to date, in just in the decade prior.
List of common semiconductor devices
Diode (rectifier diode)
Light-emitting diode (LED)
Hall effect sensor (magnetic field sensor)