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Paul F.

State University College
An Analogy for Elementary Band
Fredonia, New York 14063
Theory C0nceph in Solids

The concepts of solid state physics and to the conduction and valence bands of the band theory,
chemistry are foreign to most chemists and particularly shown in Figure 1.
to undergraduate students. The author has found the In the bottle correspondimg to the metal, water fills
following analogies to be valuable in the study of e l e thelower section, "valence band," and part of the upper
mentary solid state principles. section, "conduction band." The application of an
electric field is analogous to tipping the bottle. When
Insulators and Metals the bottle is tipped, the water in the "conduction band"
One of the major distinctions between metals and is free to flow to the low side of the bottle, correspond-
insulators is the ability to conduct an electric current. ing to the flow of electrons in a metal. The water
This is generally explained on the basis of the band contained in the L'valenceband" is not free to move and
theory of solids (a description of this theory as well as remains essentially in place, just as the valence band
all of the other principles described below can be found electrons are thought to do in real solids.
in the excellent monograph edited by N. B. Hannay1). The bottle corresponding to the insulator has only
The band theory assumes that isolated free atom energy the "valence band" filled with water, i.e., there are no
levels are broadened into a baud of allowed energy electrons in the conduction band. Now when the bottle
levels, separated by forbidden energy regions or gaps, is tipped, there is no water flow, corresponding to the
when the atom exists in a solid substance. A typical lack of electrical conductivity in an insulator.
picture of the band structure of a metal and an insulator The forbidden energy gap corresponds to the distance
is given in Figure 1. between the upper and lower sections of the bottle, i.e.,
Under the influence of an electric field, the electrons to the length of the capillary tubmg. The larger the
that ~artiallvfill the conduction band in the metal can energy gap, the longer the tube. In order to transport
move'. In the insulator, however, all of the electrons water to the "conduction band," the bottle must be
tipped or jostled vigorously, corresponding to the ex-
penditure of high energy. As the capillary tubing in-
creases in length, it becomes more diicult to get water
into the "conduction band," i.e., the energy gap has
increased with a subsequent increase in the electrical
resistance of the insulator.
VALENCE Semiconductors
Semiconductors can be divided into two broad
METAL INSULATOR categories, intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic semi-
conductivity is considered further in the following sec-
Figure 1. A representation of energy bands in solids The diagonal
lines indicate electron populations. The electrons in the valence bonds ore tion. For the case of an intrinsic semiconductor the
flxod while those in the metal condudion bond are mobile. band picture and correspondingwater bottle analogy for
an insulator in Figures 1 and 2 can be used. The only
difference between an intrinsic semiconductor and an
are used for bonding purposes, i.e., all of the energy insulator is in the size of the forbidden energy gap.
levels of the valence band are occupied, and there are Insulators have much larger band gaps, i.e., the capil-
essentially no electrons in the conduction band. In lary tube is much longer than in the semiconductor
order to move an electron through an insulator, suffi-
cient energy must be provided to promote the electron
from the valence band to the empty energy levels of
the conduction band. Energy gaps for typical insula
tors are five or more electron volts (1 ev = 23 kcal/ WATER
mole). Consequently, very few electrons are promoted \
under ordinary conditions.
A rather good analogy can be drawn between the
energy bands in metals and insulators and a sectioned
water bottle as shown in Figure 2. The large sections
of the bottle, connected by capillary tubing, correspond
Figure 2. A water bottle onology to the energy bands depicted in
Figure 1. The lower and upper sections correspond to the valence ond
' HANNAY,N. B., (Editor), "Semiconductors," Reinhold conduction bands, rerpoctively. The water is ondogour to electrons and
Publishing Cop., New York, 1959. the capillary tube to the forbidden energy gap.

Volume 44, Number 7, July 1967 / 391

case. With the relatively short capillary tube, water CONDUCTION A-
(electrons) can be "excited" into the "conduction
hand" with much less vigorous tipping. This allows
for a greater electron concentration in the conduction r r r r ,ACCEPTORS
hand of the semiconductor and, hence, for a material VALENCE
with lower electrical resistance. BAND
It is interesting to note what happens when a drop
of water is transferred from the lower bottle section to Figure 3. Donor ond acceptor lsvelr, occupied b y electrons and holes,
respectively, of on extrinsic tamiconductor reprarontod b y a typical bond
the upper section-a hubhle is simultaneously formed picture and a water bottle analogy.
in the lower section. This bubble exhibits two interest-
ing properties. First, it floats at the top of the "va-
lence band." It has a tendency to escape up (the Figure 3. In this same figure is the correspondingwater
capillary tube) into the upper bottle section. This is bottle analogy. Donor and acceptor levels are simu-
exactly the opposite behavior displayed by the water lated by drilling small "wells" in the "conduction band"
droplet. The lower section of the bottle is the preferred section and erecting small "water storage tanks" on
level, and energy must be expended to transfer the the "valence baud" section. The "wells" are partly
water to the upper section. Second, note what happens filled with water, i.e., they are occupied by electrons.
to the water droplet in the "conduction band" and the The "storage tanks" are empty, i.e., they are occupied
hubhle in the "valence hand" when the bottle is tipped. by holes.
The water runs to the low side of the bottle while the I t is now relatively easy to transport water droplets
bubble floats to the high side, still in the "valence from the "wells" into the "conduction band," producing
band.'' electron charge carriers, or water into the "storage
This is an excellent analogy to what happens in a tanks" from the "valence band," producing bubbles
semiconductor. When an electron (the water droplet) (holes). Tipping the bottle only slightly, corresponding
is excited from the valence hand into the conduction to a small applied voltage, can produce charge carriers
hand (lower to upper bottle section), an electron d o (contrasted with the vigorous tipping necessary to
ficiency (the bubble) is produced in the valence hand. transport water from the "valence" to the "conduction
This deficiency is called a hole. Electron and hole hand").
behavior in solids is similar to that of the water droplet In semiconducting materials there is a variation in
and bubble. Electrons prefer low-energy levels while donor or acceptor level position, depending on the type
holes tend to "float," i.e., prefer high-energy levels. of defect present. This is easily shown with the water
Electrons move in one direction in an applied electric bottle by having "wells" of various depths or "storage
field while holes move in exactly the opposite direction. tanks" with various heights. I t takes more energy to
If it is imagined that the water droplet carries a nega- transport a water droplet from a deep "well'' than from
tive charge and the bubble a positive charge, then the a shallow "well." A deep donor level in a semiconductor
electrical charge transport properties of electrons and is one with a high energy of activation, i.e., it lies farther
holes are illustrated. If the electrons dominate in the in energy below the conduction baud edge than does
charge transport process, the semiconductor is n-type a shallow donor. A corresponding analogy exists for
(negative charge carriers). If the holes are dominant, the "storage tanks" and hole activation energies.
the semiconductor is p-type (positive charge carriers). The production of charge carriers, say electrons, in
The dominance of one charge carrier type in intrinsic semiconductors by heat energy can also be shown by
semiconductors is caused by the relative ease of move- the water bottle analogy. The most easily visualized
ment of one of the carriers over the other. Generally, case is with an n-type, extrinsic semiconductor with a
electrons are more mobile than holes. This is not shown shallow donor level. When the bottle is heated slightly,
by the water bottle analogy. water contained in the donor level expands, flows up
the short connecting tube and into the "conduction
band." This is analogous to the production of free
Extrinsic Semiconductors conduction electrons in the semiconductor. No water
(electron) is transferred from the "valence" to the
Electrical charge carriers, electrons or holes, can be "conduction" bauds since the capillary tube (energy
produced in semiconducting materials in ways that gap) is too long.
require much less energy than in the case of an intrinsic
semiconductor. Defects in the semiconductor crystal The p-n Junction
lattice can serve as electron or hole sources. These
lattice defects are generally lattice vacancies, i.e., the The technological importance of p-n junctions is
absence of a host cation or anion, or impurity ions dis- very great. One of the most useful characteristics of
solved in t,he semiconductor host. These defects give such a junction is rectification, i.e., allowing a current
rise to energy levels within the forbidden energy gap of to flow in one direction through the junction but not
the semiconductor. Generally, levels introduced near in the other direction. This property can he visualized
the conduction band edge are called donor levels, i.e., by using the water bottle analogy as shown in Figure 4.
an electron can be easily excited from the level into the One section of the bottle has been made p-type by
conduction baud, and levels occurring near the valence transferring water droplets (electrons) into the "storage
band edge are called acceptor levels, i.e., they will tanks" (acceptor levels), leaving bubbles (holes) in the
readily accept an electron from the valence hand, there "valence hand." The second section of the bottle has
by producing a hole in the valence baud. Donor and been made n-type by transferring water from the
acceptor levels are shown in a typical band picture in "wells" (donor levels) into the "conduction band."
392 / Journal of Chemical Edumfion
These two sections of the bottle me separated from one Now note what happens when the bottle is tipped,
another by an energy barrier, the p-n junction which i.e., an electric field is applied to the p-n junction.
is simulated by the jog between the water bottles, If the n-type side is elevated (corresponding to the
high enough to keep the water and bubbles in their application of a negative charge to the n-type region,
respective sections. This jog between the bottles often called a positive bias), water will run over the
corresponds to the real energy barriers found in solids barrier into the empty "conduction hand" of the p-
when junctions are formed. type region while bubbles will flow from the p-type
region, over their barrier (actually down) and up into
the n-type "valence band." Again, imagining that
the water droplets are negatively charged and the
bubbles positively charged shows that there is charge
transfer or current flow across the p-n junction.
If the bottle is tipped so that the p-type side is
higher than the n-type side (applying a positive charge
to the n-type region, often called negative bias), no
water flows from the n-type region and no buhbles
from the p-type region. Hence, no charge transfer
and no current flow across the junction. Alternate
p -TYPE n-TYPE application of negative and positive charge to the n-type
Figure 4. A water b o n k analogy for o p-n junction. The junction region will result in current flow only during the nega-
occurs at the iog between the n- and p-type regions. Electron and hole tive charge (forward bias) part of the cycle. Hence,
charge carriers, onologour to the woter in the upper section and
bubbler in the lower 3ection. orire from the simulated donor and
the change of alternating to direct current.
occeptor Isvelr

Volume 44, Number 7,July 7 967 / 393