Semiconductor Materials

Overview

  1. Semiconductor materials come from different groups in the periodic table, yet share certain similarities.
  2. The properties of the semiconductor material are related to their atomic characteristics, and change from group to group.
  3. Researchers and designers take advantage of these differences to improve design and choose the optimal material for a PV application.

The atoms in a semiconductor are materials from either group IV of the periodic table, or from a combination of group III and group V (called III-V semiconductors), or of combinations from group II and group VI (called II-VI semiconductors). Because different semiconductors are made up of elements from different groups in the periodic table,  properties vary between semiconductors. Silicon, which is a group IV, is the most commonly used semiconductor material as it forms the basis for integrated circuit (IC) chips and is the most mature technology and most solar cells are also silicon based. A full periodic table is given in the page Periodic Table. Several of the material properties of silicon are given in the page Silicon Material Parameters

Section from the periodic table. More common semiconductor materials are shown in blue. A semiconductor can be either of a single element, such as Si or Ge, a compound, such as GaAs, InP or CdTe, or an alloy, such as SixGe(1-x) or AlxGa(1-x)As, where x is the fraction of the particular element and ranges from 0 to 1.