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Silicon, atomic number 14 on the periodic table, is a semiconducting material from which integrated circuits (computer chips of all types--processors, memory chips, etc.; CCDs; transistors; etc.) are created.

Silicon is one of the most common elements on Earth in the Earth's crust, it's second in mass only to oxygen and can be found in any quartz crystal. Beach sand is largely silicon. Silicon is also the semiconductor material out of which almost all modern transistors are made.

Semiconductor devices are made primarily of silicon ("Si"). Pure silicon forms rigid crystals because of its four valence (outermost) electron structure -- one Si  atom bonds to four other Si atoms forming a very regularly shaped diamond pattern. 

Pure silicon is not a conductor because there are no free electrons; all the electrons are tightly bound to neighboring atoms.

To make silicon conducting, producers combine or "dope" pure silicon with very small amounts of other elements like boron or phosphorus. Phosphorus has five outer valence electrons. When three silicon atoms and one phosphorus atom bind together in the basic silicon crystal cell of four atoms, there is an extra electron and a net negative charge.

Silicon
Silicon

Silicon Atom
Silicon Atom

This type of material is called n-type silicon. The extra electron in the crystal cell is not strongly attached and can be released by normal thermal energy to carry current; the conductivity depends on the amount of phosphorus added to the silicon.

 

Boron has only three valance electrons. When three silicon atoms and one boron atom bind with each other there is a "hole" where another electron would be if the boron atom were silicon. This gives the crystal cell a positive net charge (referred to as p-type silicon), and the ability to pick up an electron easily from a neighboring cell.

The resulting migration of electron vacancies or holes acts like a flow of positive charge through the crystal and can support a current. It is sometimes convenient to refer to this current as a flow of positive holes, but in fact the current is really the result of electrons moving in the opposite direction from vacancy to vacancy.

Learn More on Basics of Electronics:

Electronics Definitions: Electronics is the branch of science that deals with the study of flow and control of electrons (electricity) and the study of their behavior and effects in vacuums, gases, and semiconductors, and with devices using such electrons.

Rules of Electrical Circuits: * A voltage of 1V across a resistance of 1 Ohm will cause a current flow of 1 Amp, and the resistor will dissipate 1 Watt (all as heat).

What is an electronic circuit? A circuit is a structure that directs and controls electric currents, presumably to perform some useful function. The very name "circuit" implies that the structure is closed, something like a loop.

Current: Charge is mobile and can flow freely in certain materials, called conductors. Metals and a few other elements and compounds are conductors. Materials that charge cannot flow through are called insulators. Air, glass, most plastics, and rubber are insulators, for example. And then there are some materials called semiconductors, that seemed to be good conductors sometimes but much less so other times. Silicon and germanium are two such materials. The flow of charge is called electrical current. Current is measured in amperes (a), amps for short (named after another French scientist who worked mostly with magnetic effects).

Wiring Symbols: There are many different representations for basic wiring symbols, and these are the most common.  The conventions I use for wires crossing and joining are marked with a star (*) - the others are a small sample of those in common use, but are fairly representative.  Many can be worked out from their position in the circuit diagram (schematic).

Voltage: Voltage is something is a type of "pressure" that drives electrical charges through a circuit.
Bodies with
opposite charges attract, they exert a force on each other pulling them together. The magnitude of the force is proportional to the product of the charge on each mass.

What is charge?  Charge may be defined as the quantity of unbalanced electricity in a body (either positive or negative) and construed as an excess or deficiency of electrons. Charge comes in two forms, positive (+) , and  negative charge ( - ) .

Batteries: Charges can be separated by several means to produce a voltage. A battery uses a chemical reaction to produce energy and separate opposite sign charges onto its two terminals. As the charge is drawn off by an external circuit, doing work and finally returning to the opposite terminal, more chemicals in the battery react to restore the charge difference and the voltage. The particular type of chemical reaction used determines the voltage of the battery, but for most commercial batteries the voltage is about 1.5 V per chemical section or cell.

Resistors: A Resistor is an electrical device that resists the flow of electrical current. It is a passive device used to control, or impede the flow of, electric current in an electric circuit by providing resistance, thereby developing a drop in voltage across the device. The value of a resistor is measured in ohms and represented by the Greek letter capital omega. Resistors usually have a brown cylindrical body with a wire lead on each end, and colored bands that indicate the value of the resistor.

Ohm’s Law: Ohm's law describes the relationship between voltage, V , which is trying to force charge to flow, resistance, R , which is resisting that flow, and the actual resulting current I .

Power: Power is the Electric energy produced per unit time.

Capacitors: In simple words, we can say that a capacitor is a device used to store and release electricity, usually as the result of a chemical action. Also referred to as a storage cell, a secondary cell, a condenser or an accumulator. A Leyden Jar was an early example of a capacitor.

Inductors: An inductor is an electrical device (typically a conducting coil) that introduces inductance into a circuit. An inductor is a passive electrical component designed to provide inductance in a circuit. It is basically a coil of wire wrapped around an iron core. simplest form an inductor is made up of a coil of wire. The inductance measured in henrys, is proportional to the number of turns of wire, the wire loop diameter and the material or core the wire is wound around.

Semiconductor devices: A conductor made with semiconducting material. Semiconductors are made up of a substance with electrical properties intermediate between a good conductor and a good insulator. A semiconductor device conducts electricity poorly at room temperature, but has increasing conductivity at higher temperatures. Metalloids are usually good semiconductors.

Diodes: A Diode is an electronic device that allows current to flow in one direction only. It is a semiconductor that consists of a p-n junction. They are used most commonly to convert AC to DC, because they pass the positive part of the wave, and block the negative part of the AC signal, or, if they are reversed, they pass only the negative part and not the positive part.

Electronic Component name abbreviations: Here is a list of Electronic Component name abbreviations widely used in the electronics industry.

Surface Mount Device (SMD) or Surface Mount Electronic Components

Circuit Symbol / Circuit Schematic Symbols of Electronic Components

What is Energy Star?

Home Electrical Wiring Types and Rules

All about Semiconductor

Ball Grid Array (BGA) Package

SMD Surface Mount Electronic Components for SMT

How Semiconductor Works

Top 50 Semiconductor Manufacturing Companies in the World

Top Silicon Wafer Manufacturing Companies in the World

Solar Energy Companies in India – List of Solar Power Companies

Cleanroom Basics in Manufacturing or Scientific Research

Printed Circuit Board: Design, Diagram and Assembly

Active and Passive Electronic Components

Electronic Components, Parts and Their Function

How Electronic / Electrical Circuit Works

How to Generate Electricity – How is Electricity Generated
 

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