nanoHUB-U: Primer on Semiconductor Fundamentals

From smartphones to satellites, semiconductors are everywhere. Tying together physics, chemistry, and electrical engineering, this easy-to-follow introduction provides the background needed to understand devices such as transistors and solar cells.

  1. band structure
  2. carrier transport
  3. energy band diagrams
  4. energy bands
  5. nanoelectronics
  6. nanoHUB-U
  7. NCN Group - Nanoelectronics
  8. PURDUE ECE Breath at the Edges initiative
  9. semiconductor physics
  10. semiconductors


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This course provides the essential foundations required to understand the operation of semiconductor devices such as transistors, diodes, solar cells, light-emitting devices, and more.

The material will primarily appeal to electrical engineering students whose interests are in applications of semiconductor devices in circuits and systems. However, any learner seeking an understanding of semiconductors from an electrical engineering perspective will benefit.

The intuitive, largely descriptive treatment provides a framework for understanding the operation of almost any semiconductor device, as well as a starting point on semiconductor physics for those who wish to dive deeper.

Among other important learning objectives, the course will guide learners through the process of drawing and interpreting energy band diagrams. Energy band diagrams are a powerful, conceptual way to qualitatively understand the operation of semiconductor devices. In a concise way, they encapsulate most of the device-relevant specifics of semiconductor physics. Drawing and interpreting an energy band diagram is the first step in understanding the operation of a device. This course material is typically covered in the first few weeks of an introductory semiconductor device course, but this class provides a fresh perspective informed by new understanding of electronics at the nanoscale. 

This course is part of a Purdue University initiative that aims to complement the expertise that students develop with the breadth at the edges needed  to work effectively in today's multidisciplinary environment. These serious, short courses require few prerequisites and provide a general framework that can be filled in with self-study when needed.

What you'll learn

Students will learn about the following specific topics:

·         bandgaps
·         band structures
·         effective masses
·         electrons and holes
·         the Fermi function
·         intrinsic carrier density
·         doping and carrier concentrations
·         carrier transport
·         generation-recombination
·         quasi-Fermi levels
·         the semiconductor equations
·         energy band diagrams

Learning how to draw and interpret energy band diagrams is the most important learning objective, because they encapsulate in a concise way most of the device-relevant specifics of semiconductor physics. Drawing and interpreting an energy band diagram is the first step in understanding operation of a device.