Facebook Instagram Youtube Twitter

Silicon as Semiconductor – Properties

silicon strip detector - semiconductors
Silicin Strip Detector Source: micronsemiconductor.co.uk

In general, semiconductors are inorganic or organic materials that can control their conduction depending on chemical structure, temperature, illumination, and the presence of dopants. The name semiconductor comes from the fact that these materials have electrical conductivity between a metal, like copper, gold, etc., and an insulator, like glass. They have an energy gap of less than 4eV (about 1eV). In solid-state physics, this energy gap or band gap is an energy range between the valence band and conduction band where electron states are forbidden. In contrast to conductors, semiconductors’ electrons must obtain energy (e.g., from ionizing radiation) to cross the band gap and reach the conduction band. Properties of semiconductors are determined by the energy gap between valence and conduction bands.

Silicon as Semiconductor

silicon - semiconducting material
Purified silicon. Source: wikipedia.org License: Public Domain

Silicon is a chemical element with the atomic number 14, meaning there are 14 protons and 14 electrons in the atomic structure. The chemical symbol for Silicon is Si. Silicon is a hard and brittle crystalline solid with a blue-grey metallic luster, and it is a tetravalent metalloid and semiconductor. Silicon is mainly used for charged particle detectors (especially for tracking charged particles) and soft X-ray detectors. The large band-gap energy (Egap= 1.12 eV) allows us to operate the detector at room temperature, but cooling is preferred to reduce noise. Silicon-based detectors are very important in high-energy physics. Since silicon-based detectors are very good for tracking charged particles, they constitute a substantial part of the detection system at the LHC in CERN.

Silicon-based Semiconductor Detectors

Silicon-based semiconductor detectors are mainly used for charged particle detectors (especially for tracking charged particles) and soft X-ray detectors, while germanium is widely used for gamma-ray spectroscopy. A large, clean, and almost perfect semiconductor is ideal as a counter to radioactivity. However, it isn’t easy to make large crystals with sufficient purity. The semiconductor detectors have low efficiency but give a very precise measure of energy. Detectors based on silicon have sufficiently low noise even at room temperature. This is caused by the large band gap of silicon (Egap= 1.12 eV), which allows us to operate the detector at room temperature, but cooling is preferred to reduce noise. The drawback is that silicon detectors are much more expensive than cloud or wire chambers and require sophisticated cooling to reduce leakage currents (noise). They also suffer degradation over time from radiation. However, this can be greatly reduced thanks to the Lazarus effect.

See also: Germanium Detectors, MIRION Technologies. <available from: https://www.mirion.com/products/germanium-detectors>.


Radiation Protection:

  1. Knoll, Glenn F., Radiation Detection and Measurement 4th Edition, Wiley, 8/2010. ISBN-13: 978-0470131480.
  2. Stabin, Michael G., Radiation Protection, and Dosimetry: An Introduction to Health Physics, Springer, 10/2010. ISBN-13: 978-1441923912.
  3. Martin, James E., Physics for Radiation Protection 3rd Edition, Wiley-VCH, 4/2013. ISBN-13: 978-3527411764.
  5. U.S. Department of Energy, Instrumentation, and Control. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 2 of 2. June 1992.

Nuclear and Reactor Physics:

  1. J. R. Lamarsh, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA (1983).
  2. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.
  3. W. M. Stacey, Nuclear Reactor Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 2001, ISBN: 0- 471-39127-1.
  4. Glasstone, Sesonske. Nuclear Reactor Engineering: Reactor Systems Engineering, Springer; 4th edition, 1994, ISBN: 978-0412985317
  5. W.S.C. Williams. Nuclear and Particle Physics. Clarendon Press; 1 edition, 1991, ISBN: 978-0198520467
  6. G.R.Keepin. Physics of Nuclear Kinetics. Addison-Wesley Pub. Co; 1st edition, 1965
  7. Robert Reed Burn, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Operation, 1988.
  8. U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Physics and Reactor Theory. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.
  9. Paul Reuss, Neutron Physics. EDP Sciences, 2008. ISBN: 978-2759800414.

See above:

Types of Semiconductors