This chapter provides a brief account of the basic properties of materials that give them semiconducting properties, while setting these materials and their technology in the context of (a) other materials such as bronze and steel and (b) the information age to whose development they have made a major contribution. The quantum theory of solids and, in particular, band theory, developed in the 1930s provided an explanation of metallic, insulating, and semiconducting behaviour, demonstrating the importance of the band gap between valence and conduction bands. The chapter explains the origin of electron and hole conduction, defines intrinsic and extrinsic conductivity, and describes the doping of semiconductors to produce n-type and p-type conduction. It ends with a brief account of the range of semiconductor materials that have been used in practical applications and emphasises the importance of purity and structural perfection in influencing semiconductor behaviour.
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