Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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The Theme of Semiconductors in The Periodic Table

The What, Whys, and Hows of Semiconductors

We've already learned about metalloids and how they're also known as semiconductors, but what is a semiconductor? Inquisitive minds want to know.

Metals are good conductors. This means heat and electricity can flow through them easily. Non-metals are not good conductors. What about the elements that are neither metal nor non-metal? The metalloids, as they are called, can sometimes act as a conductor while other times it cannot. This ability to "turn on" or "turn off" conductivity is the basis of being a semiconductor.

Check out a semiconductor chip here.

A semiconductor is a material that has mild conductivity compared to a metal. Don't let that stop them from doing their thing. Because their conductivity is lower than that of metals, the semiconductor wizards have found that their conductivity can be turned on and off. This special conductivity behavior allows us to manipulate how, where, and when electrons flow. We (along with our iPhones) are the masters of electron.

See another semiconductor chip here.

Being able to control electron flow is the foundation of modern electronics. We would be sad if semiconductors did not exist. No TV. No radio. No computer. No iPad. No fun. Want to learn more about the physics of semiconductors? Check out this website.

Currently most semiconductor devices are composed of silicon (Si). Have you ever wondered where or what Silicon Valley is? No, it's not some mythical stash of elemental silicon tucked in between two mountains. It's actually a place near San Francisco where a lot of technology companies were founded. These companies have revolutionized the world of electronics thanks to silicon and other semiconductors.

See the Silicon Valley and some of the companies that are located there here.

The pioneers of semiconductor research were William Bradford Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Houser Braittain. They won a Nobel Prize in 1956 (Physics)"for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect."16 Check out more about their award winning work here.

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