Charge carrier

In physics, a charge carrier is a particle free to move, carrying an electric charge, especially the particles that carry electric charges in electrical conductors. Examples are electrons, ions and holes. In a conducting medium, an electric field can exert force on these free particles, causing a net motion of the particles through the medium; this is what constitutes an electric current. In different conducting media, different particles serve to carry charge:

It can be seen that in some conductors, such as ionic solutions and plasmas, there are both positive and negative charge carriers, so an electric current in them consists of the two polarities of carrier moving in opposite directions. In other conductors, such as metals, there are only charge carriers of one polarity, so an electric current in them just consists of charge carriers moving in one direction.

There are two recognized types of charge carriers in semiconductors. One is electrons, which carry a negative electric charge. In addition, it is convenient to treat the traveling vacancies in the valence band electron population (holes) as the second type of charge carrier, which carry a positive charge equal in magnitude to that of an electron.

When an electron meets with a hole, they recombine and these free carriers effectively vanish. The energy released can be either thermal, heating up the semiconductor (thermal recombination, one of the sources of waste heat in semiconductors), or released as photons (optical recombination, used in LEDs and semiconductor lasers). The recombination means an electron which has been excited from the valence band to the conduction band falls back to the empty state in the valence band, known as the holes. The holes are the empty state created in the valence band when an electron gets excited after getting some energy to overpass the energy gap.

The more abundant charge carriers are called majority carriers, which are primarily responsible for current transport in a piece of semiconductor. In n-type semiconductors they are electrons, while in p-type semiconductors they are holes. The less abundant charge carriers are called minority carriers; in n-type semiconductors they are holes, while in p-type semiconductors they are electrons.

In an intrinsic semiconductor, which does not contain any impurity, the concentrations of both types of carriers are ideally equal. If an intrinsic semiconductor is doped with a donor impurity then the majority carriers are electrons; if the semiconductor is doped with an acceptor impurity then the majority carriers are holes.

This page was last edited on 16 January 2018, at 14:45.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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